Fans of Danny Elfman, Tim Burton, and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” were treated to something pretty special this past weekend at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. The venue hosted a live musical performance by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra as the film played, while the original artists reprised their singing roles as the iconic characters live on stage. Danny Elfman, the composer and singing voice of Jack Skellington, was the headliner for the evening with numerous guest stars from the film joining him throughout the night. It ran for two nights over Halloween weekend to sold-out crowds and die-hard fans of all ages.
I have been a Danny Elfman fan since music and percussion lessons in high school. His soundtracks, scores, and haunting melodies resonate with you long after you have finished listening to them. Seeing him live on stage, with the entirety of one of his best compositions playing live by an orchestra behind him, was surreal. The orchestra was perfect, Elfman sang with passion, and the film felt as alive as ever, especially with 18,000 of your closest friends in fandom surrounding you. Listening to Jack sing live made the character feel more real, and his experiences more personal. Catherine O’Hara, the voice of Sally, brought the gentle kindness of Sally to life during “Sally’s Song.” Ken Page appeared for “Oogie Boogie’s Song,” a particular treat to watch him perform live. At the end of the film, when the orchestra completed playing the finale, Elfman came back out on stage for an encore with Catherine O’Hara and Paul Reubens to perform “Kidnap the Sandy Claws.” This was phenomenal; the life and giddiness the three voice actors put into their characters was joyful (even though the song is quite dark if you pay attention to the lyrics!). Elfman then treated everyone to his own rendition of “Oogie Boogie’s Song,” along with a classic Elfman-type dance that made him as quirky and charming as ever.
An additional and extremely unexpected surprise at the end of the first encore was a second encore that felt like Christmas for all Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo fans: Elfman came out with his guitar and sang “Dead Man’s Party” for the first time in exactly 20 years. Steve Bartek, an original member of Oingo Boingo and a now-colleague of Elfman’s, along with a group of percussionists joined Elfman on stage to perform the song. I stood and listened in complete disbelief that this was happening live in front of me; it felt like I was watching Elvis come back from the dead. To multiple standing ovations, Elfman and the musicians gracefully took their final bows and left the stage.
I have seen several Disney-themed concerts throughout my life, and I can easily say that this was the best experience and recreation of the films and scores I have experienced. I will be reliving the evening in my mind and when catching a few notes of Elman’s masterpieces playing in the background at the Resort.