By Kathy Flynn
The Nightmare Before Christmas Live-to-Film Concert at the Hollywood Bowl
The Nightmare Before Christmas was released 25 years ago to little fanfare. In fact, Disney was so nervous about alienating parents with a film too terrifying for young ones, that the film was moved to Touchstone, Disney's "mature" distribution arm, so as not to taint the Disney name with something dark and unwholesome.
Twenty-five years later, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a celebrated holiday tradition, with annual re-releases of the film, now proudly displaying the Disney name, and its own holiday overlay at Disneyland. The film and its iconic score have become inescapable around Halloweentime.
But nowhere is there a screening as celebratory and lavish as at the Hollywood Bowl. Beloved film composer Danny Elfman, who not only composed the score to The Nightmare Before Christmas, but sings the key role of Jack Skellington, first performed the score live-to-film at the Bowl in 2015.
This year, the bar was raised even higher with the addition of proscenium projections on to the Bowl itself. The projections are not static, but constantly evolving, reflecting and complementing the action in the film, and they are absolutely stunning. It adds a whole other dimension to the film, and the large scale of the projections makes the vastness of the Bowl feel a bit more intimate.
As with previous years, the evening started off with a costume contest, with the best costumes being paraded onstage for the audience to vote for their favorites. I am pretty sure that this year's winners came in third place back in 2015. Persistence pays off.
Paul Reubens, Catherine O'Hara, and Danny Elfman perform as
Lock, Shock, and Barrel at The Nightmare Before Christmas Live-to-Film Concert
at the Hollywood Bowl
The screening began with a series of Tim Burton's original artwork projected during the overture, led by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra's conductor John Mauceri. Danny Elfman took the stage to thunderous applause for "Jack's Lament", dressed sharply in Jack Skellingtonesque pin-stripped suit. He was in fine voice, with the songs sounding as good as the day they were recorded, and watching Elfman's theatrical performance is always a treat. When the performances began, the film was shown on the two side screens, with the largest, center screen dedicated to the action on stage, giving everyone in the sold out crown a perfect view of the proceedings. Elfman sang all of the Jack Skellington numbers, and was joined later in the show by Catherine O'Hara and Paul Reubens, the original voices of Lock, Shock, and Barrel, to perform "Kidnap Mr. Sandy Claws." Catherine O'Hara also reprised her performance as Sally for "Sally's Song," and dueted with Elfman for the lovely, heart-wrenching "Finale/Reprise". Original Oogie Boogie actor Ken Page showed up for a spectacular performance of "Oogie Boogie's Song."
There was a brief intermission after "Kidnap Mr. Sandy Claws" and the second act began with a flamboyent performance from violinist Sandy Cameron, who also performed at the Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton symphony concert a few years back. It was those concerts that fueled Elfman's return to the stage, as he had retired from performing with his band Oingo Boingo in 1995 due to hearing damage.
Once the film ended, Elfman returned to the stage, first to sing his own version of the Cab Calloway-inspired "Oogie Boogie's song." While Ken Page's rendition was a show-stopper, Elfman managed to top even that, bringing down the house with both his moves and his incredible vocals. Then it was time for the piece de resistance, as Elfman reunited with former Oingo Boingo band member Steve Bartek, to perform the hit Boingo tune/Halloween classic, "Dead Man's Party." This was the first time since 1995 that the song was perfomed with a full band, as No Doubt's Tony Kanal and The Pretender's Martin Chambers were brought on stage to round out the sound. The proscenium projections took on a brightly colored Dia de los Muertos scene, and it was an absolutely magical end to a fabulous night. The joy on Elfman's face at the close of the show replicated the smiles on the face of the audience members, after witnessing a piece of rock and roll history. This is the 'can't miss' event of the year for fan's of the film and of Elfman, and it has managed to top itself once again.