As soon as one walks through the doors into the Auditorium Theatre this Halloween, any worries about the festivity of the audience are promptly dashed. Several women and girls populate the lobby dressed in patchwork dresses, skin painted white, with red yarn hair and stitch marks encircling their elbows. Other patrons have enormous spherical skull heads and are striding in black pinstripe suits, or have dilapidated burlap sacks thrown over them, with a crawling bug or two creeping out the sides. One particular trio bears Halloween masks, and waddles between the aisles in a makeshift bathtub. As the orchestra warms up inside the theatre, you may see a Beetlejuice bassist, a violinist in a banana suit, or if you’re particularly observant, a red and white striped shirted individual in the percussion section. As the lights go dim, the passionate crowd of avid fans cheer for an honoring of a film near and dear to their hearts.
Wouldn’t You Like To Hear Something Strange?
If you don’t recognise any of these characters in the introduction from their description, you probably haven’t seen Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, which has reached its 25th anniversary. The movie follow Jack Skellington, a Halloween spirit disillusioned with the same routine his holiday has become. That is, until he stumbles upon Christmastown, and is inspired to steal the yuletide spirit to experiment and create his own spooky version. The Auditorium Theatre hosted Disney in Concert this year, which brought a particularly special showing of Burton’s classic stop-motion film. The screening had all of the music cut-out, leaving only the voice acting, sound effects, and singing. Filling in Danny Elfman’s whimsical score was the Chicago Philharmonic, costumed for the occasion and playing every note beautifully live.
Auditorium Theatre and the Chicago Philharmonic Uncover Gems
The effect of this arrangement with the film and the Philharmonic is that every note in the score is given center stage. Dr. Finkelstein, a Frankenstein-esque scientist that created the ragdoll Sally, is even more sinister with bassoon drones underneath his growling voice. You may hear a jazzy and sultry sax riff when Sally sprays Frog’s Breath in the soup she’s preparing to cover the scent. The interludes and reprises in between the songs are also highlighted wonderfully as the movie moves from scene to scene, and every string trill is chilling. It goes to show that Danny Elfman’s score still contains hidden secrets to this day, and stands the test of time with its subtle complexity. Along with this, it was quite touching to see children in the audience, perhaps seeing the film for the first time, and being just as enraptured by it as this reviewer was.
Bookmark the Chicago Philharmonic website to keep track of upcoming performances.
Bookmark the Auditorium Theatre website for more information on music, dance and other entertainment at this historic Chicago venue.
Photos Kelly A. Swift