Scoop Review: Bugs Bunny on Broadway with the Auckland Philharmonia
By Felix Ryan
The Civic, Auckland -- Classical music buffs and cartoon fans alike flocked to Auckland’s Civic theatre last Friday evening, for the opening night of ‘Bugs Bunny on Broadway’, which, depending on where your allegiances lie, could either be described as a wonderfully orchestrated, reinterpreted selection of classical music masterpieces played live by New Zealand’s own Auckland philharmonia, accompanied by cartoons, or a big-screen presentation of a selection of classic Warner Bros cartoon masterpieces, accompanied, in surround-sound, by a bunch of musicians.
I myself, admittedly an avid enthusiast of neither classical music nor cartoons, would simply describe it as an intensely amusing two hours spent within a melting-pot audience of the youthfully delightful and the eruditely meditative.
The conductor himself, George Daugherty, masterminded this simple yet brilliant concept 16 years ago - since then over a million people worldwide have attended this creation. He has performed to sellout crowds in a vast array of venues, such as the Hollywood Bowl, London’s Royal Festive Hall, and Moscow’s Kremlin palace.
Bugs Bunny on Broadway featured not only the show’s ‘wascally wabbit’ namesake, but also several of his more familiar compadres, most notably: Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig and Wile E. Coyote, appearing in several short cartoons including; The Rabbit of Seville, Long Haired Hare, and What’s Opera, Doc?… These original satirical escapades, combined with the celebrated Warner Bros. Composers Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn’s takes on the well known works of Strauss, Rossini, Von Suppe, Tchaikovsky and Wagner, make for a very powerful experience indeed.
Daugherty makes a point of illustrating this. “The music was extraordinary. This music is the real deal. It is challenging and rewarding for the musicians and it is music of an unbelievably high quality. It all comes from a very fertile period of film music composition when highly respected classical composers were working in Hollywood [Refering to the 1930s and years of WWII at which point many artists were fleeing Europe]”.
The Auckland Philharmonia performed spectacularly: perfectly synchronized, as promised, despite a grand total of just three rehersals. One of the defining moments of the evening came after the brief but enjoyable introductory number, when they began to play the instantly recognizable Warner Bros theme song, to which the audience responded with a sheer emotive roar at the charismatic and unconventional piece.
But the live orchestral accompaniment was definitely not the only aspect worth noting. Viewing the larger than life projected animations in amongst a crowd of a good few hundred others also introduces a surprisingly powerful new dimension. “The way they were meant to be seen!” as Daugherty passionately put it. On the big screen every element seemed magnified and intensified - not only the images themselves, but also their humour, their power, which seemed to infect the entire auditorium. The whole environment was rather intoxicating. Even the ever-present wriggling squealing children further enhanced the atmosphere, and were more tolerable than in a more conventional concert.
All in all, Bugs Bunny on Broadway is a thoroughly entertaining and obviously original idea, produced and performed with the graceful precision that one might expect from an accomplished composer with 25 years experience behind him. I couldn’t think of a better start to the Auckland fringe festival. Hopefully this is an indication of the standard of the other internationally acclaimed acts to follow over the next couple of weeks.
Bugs Bunny On Broadway was at: The Civic, THE EDGE, Auckland on Friday 25 February at 8pm, and Saturday 26 February at 3pm and 8pm.