What’s this? “The Nightmare Before Christmas” at The Met? Live music? Costumes? Yes!
The Philly POPS brings Halloweentown to The Met Philadelphia
The Philly POPS bring good scares and the joy of Christmas to North Broad this week with a live-to-film concert featuring Tim Burton’s iconic animated masterpiece. Danny Elfman’s innovative score plays an essential role in creating the magical world in which holidays are created by towns of magical workers. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” became an instant classic after its release in 1993 and has a cult following that continues today. The story follows the adored Jack Skellington as he abandons his position of Pumpkin King in Halloweentown after discovering the spirit of Christmas and deciding that he would rather be Santa Claus. But he can’t reinvent Christmas alone. He enlists the help of the entire town, including Sally the rag doll and a trio of not-so-helpful henchmen. The Philly POPS celebrates this iconic Disney film by bringing Elfman’s score to life while the film plays on the big screen at The Met Philadelphia this Thursday and Friday evening.
The score for this film is known for its rapidly paced numbers including “What’s This?” and the powerfully spooky “This Is Halloween”. The score also takes on a completely different energy with the swing style of “Oogie Boogie’s Song” or Sally’s soft ballads. A live performance is ambitious due to the mix of styles, but there are a couple of other challenges that will allow the orchestra and guest conductor Stuart Chafetz to really shine.
“Interestingly, [‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’] is the first score I learned to conduct alongside a movie… so it was really hard,” says Chafetz. “For this performance, you have to be so precise to accompany the singers and characters on screen. It’s invigorating when it all works. It’s actually the greatest compliment to hear the audience say they forgot there was an orchestra at all because it lines up so well.”
Chafetz confessed that getting to know the score and discovering all of Elfman’s musical Easter eggs made him fall in love with the film. The score both moves the storyline along and enhaces the precise details in the animation.
“It was like cracking a code,” he laughs. “It takes time to go through it and figure it out. I love all the licks in ‘What’s This?’. It almost sounds like The Simpsons with all the fast runs. There’s a real sparkle when you hear it and watch how Jack discovers Christmastown.”
Clarinetist Joe Smith has played with the Philly POPS since the very beginning. As a musician with the orchestra for 40 years, Smith has seen the evolution of the performances. Expanding to The Met for the second time provides new opportunities for the POPS as well as this show being the venue’s first full orchestral presentation.
“The Met provides a bigger space and we’re really looking forward to performing in the 3,500 seat auditorium,” says Smith. “It’s a theater that was used for orchestras and recording in its old days, so it’s a mix of history and taking a giant step forward.”
This isn’t just a concert. It’s also a giant costume party to pay tribute to all of Tim Burton’s iconic characters. The POPS encourage attendees to dress as their favorite character from one of Burton’s films or wear another Halloween costume. As for whether Chafetz or any of the musicians end up wearing costumes at some point during the performances, you’ll have to wait and see.
The Philly POPS presentation of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” runs for two performances on Oct. 24 and 25 at The Met Philadelphia. Tickets start at $29.95. Visit phillypops.org for more information and to purchase tickets.