TVD Live Shots: Danny Elfman with Symphony San Jose at the Frost Amphitheatre, 9/16

PALO ALTO, CA | Back in 2013 Danny Elfman took the stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London to perform for the first time in 18 years. The occasion? What would prove to be a legendary performance by the BBC Concert Orchestra of Danny Elfman’s scores from Tim Burton movies. According to conductor John Mauceri, both Elfman and Burton reacted enthusiastically when he initially approached with the concept. Fast forward to 2022 and the San Francisco Bay Area was treated to this incredible performance backed by Symphony San Jose and the Symphony San Jose Chorale.

Hosted by the Frost Amphitheatre on the Stanford University campus on a perfect Friday evening, the eclectic crowd arrived early and settled in as the orchestra kicked things off at about 6:45 pm. Families with their kids and picnics settled in on the lawn while the uber-Burton fans dressed as their favorite movie characters made their presence known as they obliged pictures with other members of the audience.

Danny Elfman has scored over 100 movies in his career, but this evening was all about his long-standing partnership with Tim Burton dating back to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure in 1985. What that meant for the evening’s performance was over two hours of legendary music from 15 different films including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow, Mars Attacks, Big Fish, Batman, Planet of the Apes, Corpse Bride, Dark Shadows, Frankenweenie, Edward Scissorhands and Alice in Wonderland. Tim Burton got in on the fun too, creating the content that was shown on the big screen behind the orchestra which featured not only scenes from the movies but also amazing concept art for many of the projects.

The clear highlight for the audience was when Elfman himself joined the orchestra on stage. He could be seen pacing side stage as the orchestra launched into music from The Nightmare Before Christmas, clearly excited to join in on the action. Appropriately donning a black and white pinstriped suit, Elfman went full-on Jack Skellington with “What’s This?” Even when not singing Danny took a seat on a stool with his eyes closed, clearly soaking in the experience; it’s hard to imagine that anyone was having a better time than him in his front row seat.

With a rousing round of applause and some mutual appreciation between Elfman and Mauceri, Elfman proclaimed, “how about some Alice in Wonderland!” at which young vocal soloist Rishaan Naryawala looking a tad nervous stepped to the front of the stage to wow the crowd.

Special thanks to John Mauceri for not only bringing this vision to life, but also inspiring Danny Elfman to perform publicly once again.

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