Review: Disney In Concert: Alice in Wonderland

Disney AliceFeaturing the music of Danny Elfman – Royal Albert Hall, 12 December 2015

In the same week that Blur front man Damon Albarn’s new musical wonder.land was being savaged by London critics, a more traditional Disney version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was playing in the same city to standing ovations and to greater effect.

The greatest compliment a composer can be given is that his soundtrack to a movie is so well-embedded that you don’t notice it. Not that it’s so inconsequential that it barely registers, or that it’s so overbearing that it drowns out what’s happening on screen. Instead, the best soundtracks are perfectly integrated with the on-screen action, lifting the drama where necessary, and that’s exactly what happened when the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, Maida Vale Singers and the Cardinal Vaughan School Schola Cantorum performed Danny Elfman’s score from Alice in Wonderland live to picture.

There wasn’t a single bum note or flub to pull you out of the experience, so beautifully executed were the notes and words that supported Tim Burton’s 2010 fantasy movie under the expert baton of John Mauceri, the founding director of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Of course, Mr Mauceri has form with Tim Burton’s composer of choice, having previously conducted Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton at the same venue, and Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas at the Hollywood Bowl this Halloween.

And if it wasn’t enough that Elfman’s lush full-blooded score was being given the full treatment, the composer wrote a new ending for the film to be played over the end credits where Avril Lavigne’s Alice previously cut in (no, we didn’t miss that pop song either!) Getting its world premiere in the Royal Albert Hall, this was a beautiful rendering of themes already established through the movie led by a bravura young soloist.

Perhaps Mr Elfman is back in the ‘Alice zone’ what with the sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass (which he has thankfully scored too) due for release next May and judging by his wonderful work in the extended credits he’s still inspired by the subject matter. When he took a bow to rapturous applause it was clear that all had been enchanted by this most delightful of scores – part Batman, part Edward Scissorhands, part Sleepy Hollow – but all Danny Elfman. For those children who’d been brought along to the matinee as a Christmas treat in deference to a pantomime, their parents certainly made the right choice. Now what about that Nightmare Before Christmas concert for London?     10/10

Nick Joy

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