‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ Live at the Hollywood Bowl Review

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Believe it or not, kiddies, there was a time when the name Danny Elfman wasn’t listed as the composer of every third movie in wide release. He wasn’t a master composer with a stunning variety of soundtracks to his credit. He wasn’t a revered musician with awards, accolades and retrospectives attached to his name.

He was that weird scary guy with a skeleton grin that scored Tim Burton movies and was in a LA band with a cult following called Oingo Boingo.

All that changed with Batman and The Simpsons, then his career hit escape velocity with The Nightmare Before Christmas. A quirky animated movie musical that was so (to Disney execs at the time) “neither fish nor fowl” that there was serious consideration about even theatrically releasing the movie.

Holy crap, can you imagine a world without Nightmare Before Christmas in it? It’s a good thing that some marketing resources were taken off that year’s iteration of Three Musketeers and put on Nightmare Before Christmas. To this day you can find tons of merch related to Jack, Sally and Zero and none featuring Oliver Platt. But Nightmare before Christmas transcends mere merchandising into lovemark territory; there is a lot about a person you can tell instantly if they have a Jack T-shirt, toys or vinyl car sticker. Fandom for Nightmare Before Christmas might seem niche-y to the uninitiated but those who get it are legion.

There is probably a disproportionate amount of people who “get it” here in LA. Which makes the city the perfect location and Halloween the perfect time to celebrate this eternally charming film that resonates so strongly with those who feel a little bit… odd. And since you can have an orchestra there, the Hollywood Bowl is the perfect venue.

Decorated like a real life Halloween Town the bowl was dripping with atmosphere. The sold out crowd was so in sync with the vibe that the décor just further enhanced the experience. Sunday’s show had an earlier start time than the night before but, with the time adjustment, twilight was a perfect setting. The overture started and the opening poem kicked off the night. Danny and Co. killed, finishing the first set with the demented and hysterical “Kidnap the Sandy Claws”. The second set picked up, chronologically, where Lock, Shock, and Barrel’s barn (or is that chimney) burner left off; “Making Christmas”. Shortly thereafter the guests started showing up. Ken Page who was the singing and speaking voice of “Oogie Boogie” came on stage and performed “Oogie Boogie’s song” with all the snark and menace of the film performance. Catherine O’Hara, who played and sang Sally, came out next and did the mournful dirge of “Sally’s song”.

After the main set was done the first encore was Elfman, Catherine O’Hara, and none other than Paul Rubens himself performing “Kidnap the Sandy Claws”. The second encore was the biggest treat of the Halloween season; Elfman’s former bandmate, Steve Bartek, came out on stage where he and Danny performed “Deadman’s Party”. It was the first time in twenty years that song has been performed live by the original artists, and it was glorious.  I’m not a native Angelino but I’ve known plenty and Oingo Boingo live on Halloween was the coolest experience you could have. “Deadman’s Party” was probably the closest I’ll ever get to that eternally hip event.

Being a fan of Nightmare Before Christmas. Halloween, and Boingo, this event was a beauty to behold. My daughter, who has had a crush on Jack Skellington for four of her seven years now, has no idea how lucky she is to have experienced this night (but believe me, I will remind her when she’s older). To her Nightmare before Christmas is an essential part of the season. I think being a fan and part of this community will inform her tastes in life for a long time.

Thanks Danny.

Anytime Costumes

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