Nightmare Before Christmas @ Chicago Philharmonic 

3.5 out of 4 stars

Halloween took over the Auditorium Theatre this past week with Disney In Concert, as the Chicago Philharmonic honored the 25th anniversary of Tim Burton’s classic stop-motion film with a live accompaniment screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Attendees were encouraged to dress up and compete in costume contests, decorate pumpkins and even trick-or-treat activities in the historic 129-year-old lobby. From characters in the film to Edward Scissor hands to Aladdin and Jasmine, the costumes were definitely the highlight of this event! The orchestra dressed in costume as well for this special event, complete with swan violinist, a where’s waldo percussionist, and skeleton cellist. The Chicago Philharmonic Society is a collaboration of over 200 of the highest-level classical musicians performing in the Chicago metropolitan area. In 2018, the Illinois Council of Orchestras awarded the Chicago Philharmonic “Orchestra of the Year.” 

The Nightmare Before Christmas was released in October 1993 and follows the earnest-but-misguided adventures of Jack Skellington, the beloved Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, as he attempts to take over Christmas. Against the advice of Sally, a lonely rag doll in love with him, Jack’s grand plans for the cheerful holiday overthrow does not go exactly as planned when three mischievous trick-or-treaters kidnap Santa Claus. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and Elfman’s score was nominated for a Golden Globe. 

These talented musicians truly brought to life the spooky magic of legendary Danny Elfman’s music. In addition to composing the score, Danny Elfman wrote 10 original songs for the film, including favorites like “This is Halloween” and “What’s This?”. Violinist Jennifer Cappelli (Concert Master) and Florentina Ramniceanu (Principle Second) were mesmerizing in their performances. The bellowing bassoons (John Gaudette and Matthew Hogan) and other deep toned instruments were incredible in bringing Elfman’s ominous melodies to life. In addition to composing the score, Danny Elfman wrote 10 original songs for the film, including favorites like “This is Halloween” and “What’s This?”. The conductor had the movie playing in front of his stand with beats and signals playing to keep the orchestra on time. It was incredible to watch these musicians perform alongside the film harkening back to the era of silent film. From the mid-1890s to the late 1920’s, a pianist, theater organist, or even a small orchestra would often play music to accompany silent films. It was truly a special event for lovers of Tim Burton, as well as live musical performance. 

Tim Burton’s original story not only delightfully focuses on a holiday often overlooked in comparison to Christmas, it celebrates love and accepting of who you are. With a well-intended message like that on top of the technical achievements for the time, it is no wonder this movie experienced so much success. Some fun facts about the film include: the animators created more than 400 different heads for Jack, each convey different facial expressions or movements and for every week of work, the creative team behind the film produced just 70 seconds of the final movie. Overall the movie took 3 years to make!! Disney In Concert was such a special event and really highlights the magic of movies and music coming together.

Wednesday, October 31 | 7:30pm
Thursday, November 1 | 7:30pm

To learn more about upcoming productions and events at the Auditorium Theatre, please visit auditoriumtheatre.org.

Mary Crylen is a photographer and writer based in Chicago. She is an alum of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale with dual degrees in English and Photography. She possesses a sincere passion for the arts and believes zeal shows through work. Follow her on Twitter!