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BWW Reviews: The DOCTOR WHO SYMPHONIC SPECTACULAR Is A Feast For The Senses Delighting Fans Of All Ages

Saturday 7th February 2015, Qantas Credit Union Arena, Sydney

The DOCTOR WHO SYMPHONIC SPECTACULAR is just that, Spectacular. This new exploration of the music that has coloured the suspense and mystery of the popular TV drama is the latest live entertainment offering from the Doctor Who creators.

Whilst the world celebrated 50 years since Doctor Who premiered in the United Kingdom in 2013, 2015 marks 50 years since this enduring favourite first graced Australian TV screens so it is appropriate to celebrate with a look back at the Doctors, Companions and Monsters, all set to the soundscape composed by Murray Gold, and orchestrated and conducted by Ben Foster. For the Sydney performance, the music was bought to life by The Metropolitan Orchestra, Sydney, the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and solos from soprano Antoinette Halloran who is touring with the performance.

Whilst the show is dominated by the last 4 Doctors, portrayed by Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi, there is footage and reference to the earlier Doctors. The fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, plays host for the night with the ease of chatting to old friends, adding in local references, throwing in allusions to a rivalry with the sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, enjoying light banter with Foster and challenging Daleks with a cup of tea.

The music is set to the montages projected on to the large screens above the stage with occasional appearances of fan favourite monsters on stage and in the roaming the audience. Some pieces focus on a single Doctor, companion or monster, such as the Twelfth Doctor's A Good Man?, the Dalek's Theme To Darkness and The Impossible Girl in reference to the most recent companion Clara Oswald. Others pieces such as The Companions and All the Strange Strange Creatures look at groups of characters. There are also pieces that focus on single episodes including Last Christmas Suite, 66 Seconds (Mummy on the Orient Express), The Pandorica Suite. Fifty- This is Gallifrey (The Day of the Doctor) and Death in Heaven Suite.

Whilst the music may be more of a tool and not the primary focus in the TV series, bringing it to the central focus shows how detailed and emotive it is. Paired with the footage the music highlights the changes in moods from dark and ominous double bass and timpani heavy beats to fast light comedic tempo and quieter reflective passages and also provides a soundscape for the action such as the rumbling beat of the train in 66 Seconds and the light snowfall in Last Christmas Suite. The orchestra is complemented by the floating vocals from the Choirs and Halloran that add an ethereal nature to the music. Most of the footage is silent, allowing the orchestra and vocals to tell the story but there occasional monologues including Clara's "Fear is a Super Power" speech to the young boy in the barn who would go on to become The Doctor.

Themes also become evident with a upbeat humorous melody for Donna Noble, a brightness and whimsy for Amy Pond in the Companion Suite and a light lifting bright hopefulness for Clara Oswald in The Impossible Girl. Unlike the medley for the Companions, Clara's The Impossible Girl remains romantic with bells reminiscent of a music box with an undertone of depth from cello and double bass, maintaining a beautiful understated simplicity, whilst being complex. The Companion Suite touches on sweet, romantic positive moments but fluctuates into darker ominous tones as they meet challenges in their storylines, all squeezed into a single piece.

In addition to the footage, monsters do make an appearance, tied in to the stories being depicted above. During Wherever, Whenever (anywhere in Time and Space?) The Teller in orange straight jacket is led out onto the stage whilst footage from "Time Heist" is shown. The Egyptian Mummy terrorises the audience before appearing on stage to reinact his final scene, being played out on screen, from "The Mummy on the Orient Express" during 66 Seconds and Cybermen in the audience echo the image of the Cybermen in the cemetery in "Death in Heaven" during the Death in Heaven Suite. In addition to monsters connected to the screened montages, more roamed the audience, predominantly in the flat centre stalls but the occasional monster did make it to the raised balconies. The only wish would be for more spot lights panning past the monsters as they mingled so that the audience in the surrounding balconies could spot them better.

This is a wonderful performance and it is refreshing to see that work from popular culture and television can bring out people of all ages to see a classical symphony. The music, from its original theme written by Australian composer Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1963 in all its electronic fabulousness, to the modern day, still retains otherworldliness with its use of electronic techniques but is grounded in classical styles. The draw of the story and the music delighted fans ranging from those that would have been around to see the First Doctor (William Hartnell) first take to the screen, to young children climbing into parents laps when the Monsters ventured too close. People that would probably not usually go to a classical music performance revelled in the immersive feast and many were dressed up for the occasion from simple striped scarves, Fez hats, and TARDIS themed accessories to complete preppy outfits honouring the Eleventh Doctor and dresses covered in half spheres to pay tribute to the Daleks.

Whilst this show has closed in Sydney, it does move on to Auckland next. If the BBC and the Doctor Who creators bring another concert performance to Australian shores, it would be well worth attending for diehard "Whovians" and even those that have had little exposure to the series. The performance is presented in a way that even without knowing every plotline, the audience can follow along and be mesmerised by the incredible music and detailed cinematic stories.


Adelaide - Season Ended

Perth - Season Ended

Sydney - Season Ended


Vector Arena Auckland NZ

15 February 2015

Photos: Sophie Castello Pantomime Photography

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