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REVIEW: Sioux City Symphony pulls back the curtain on 'Nightmare Before Christmas'
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REVIEW: Sioux City Symphony pulls back the curtain on 'Nightmare Before Christmas'


The Sioux City Symphony Orchestra moved almost as quickly as Shelby Houlihan Saturday night.

Providing the score for “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas,” the musicians (and conductor Ryan Haskins) raced to keep up with Danny Elfman’s complex, driving music.

The good news: They finished in record time, bringing peace to both Halloween Town and Christmas Town.

For fans of the stop-motion animation film, it was a great opportunity to appreciate just how complex a film score can be. While the theatrical release probably wasn’t as loud as this special edition, it did show how some films rarely unfold without music.

To follow along, subtitles helped the Orpheum Theatre audience understand who was saying what.

In short, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, got a peek at Christmas Town, became enamored with its spirit and wanted folks in Halloween Town to follow suit. While good intentions didn’t exactly carry the day, the adventure let typical Halloween characters channel a different vibe.

Released in 1993, the film was a visual treat for those used to the tricks of traditional animation. Because stop-motion involves a lot of painstaking work (the figures have to be manipulated for every gesture and word), it offered new possibilities and, definitely, new looks for the genre.

Burton, a director who’s always swimming upstream, wrote a poem that formed the basis for the film. Henry Selick directed the labor of love and Elfman gave it a score that touched on a number of genres.

For percussionist Darin Wadley, it was a real timpani workout. Providing a beat for just about every stop-action move, he served as the orchestra’s heartbeat, pulsing each of those quixotic songs.

A strong supporting team helped him create all the stray sounds that gave Halloween Town its creaks and surprises.

While “Nightmare” might not have been a popular choice for those unfamiliar with Burton’s dark ways, it was a real teen and pre-teen crowd pleaser.

As a tip of the hat to the spindly Skellington, Haskins started the second half with a pair of Jack gloves, then admitted they might be too hard for the musicians to follow.

For “Nightmare” fans, Saturday’s subtitles allowed them to sing along, discern the words and view Sandy Claws in another light.

Thanks to this production, even “Jingle Bells” might have new meaning for them the next time they hear it.

Considering this was the symphony’s Halloween show, it might be fun to speculate what they could do with the scores for “The Exorcist” or “Psycho.”

Just like the place where holidays come from, the possibilities are endless.


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