BWW Review: OC's Segerstrom Center Presents HARRY POTTER - IN CONCERT
If you frequent live theater as much as I do, you will certainly notice a heightened uptick on a very interesting trend: seeing a popular feature film's soundtrack performed live by a huge orchestra.
Though, of course, this sort of presentation isn't exactly new---particularly if you look closely at the season programming of your local symphony orchestra---they have certainly reached a new pinnacle of popularity. This season alone already included live orchestra-backed screenings in Southern California of The Little Mermaid, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even Star Trek. Later, Orange County audiences will even get the chance to see The Godfather receive the same treatment among many others.
The influx of such events are so popular now that over one weekend, a mere few yards across from each other in the same theatrical campus of Orange County's Segerstrom Center of the Arts in Costa Mesa, two separate feature films were being presented with live orchestral accompaniment at the same time (and, in a remarkable coincidence, both films being shown were not only both directed by Chris Columbus, they were both also scored by one of Hollywood's most prolific film composers, Oscar winner John Williams).
Pacific Symphony's Home Alone in Concert played at the Concert Hall (November 11-12), while in the main Segerstrom Hall, CineConcert's HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE™ - IN CONCERT began a four-show engagement there through November 13. I was in attendance at the Opening Night performance of the HARRY POTTER Concert Series' stop at the Segerstrom Center, and, boy, what an incredible thrill it was to hear that now-iconic musical soundtrack reverberate live in full force while synced up perfectly to the film screened in HD above the orchestra on a 40-foot screen.
Under the fervent baton of Huntington Beach's Justin Freer (who is also one of the series' producers and co-founders), the massive 84-person Hollywood Chamber Orchestra meticulously performed John Williams' score with such palpable verve that the audience was more than a little awed by the whole simple but ultimately ingenious concept of stripping the film of its recorded music and have that music be played live on stage by a full symphony orchestra. To give the hardworking musicians a small respite (they practically play music throughout almost all of the film's running time), the concert is presented with a brief intermission, thankfully. These guys definitely deserved it.
The concert was certainly a treat for the Potter fans in attendance---and, as expected, many took advantage of the event and dressed up in Harry Potter-esque garb; and those who weren't in costume or sported the scarf of their favorite Hogwarts house had the opportunity to purchase merch of all kinds in the lobby so they can join the fun. But as the lights dimmed and the first chapter of the film franchise started, you could feel the joy in the room. After the stressful week this country has been put through, the shared laughs and cheers in that room felt like a warm embrace.
In a smaller triumph, the concert was also a great way to introduce kids to the artistry and lush sounds of a live symphony orchestra, and for them to see these talented musicians play their instruments in such mesmerizing unity and concentration. These film-and-live-orchestra concert pairings certainly allow for a much more wide-ranging audience which include many that are, perhaps, not normally patrons of symphony orchestra concerts. This way, there are visuals to accompany the music, which, admittedly, can be a more enticing way to experience such concerts. From hushed tones to big walls of sound, these musicians did a wonderful job throughout the concert.
As for the film itself, the entire thing---the first installment in the 8-film movie franchise---still holds up pretty well and is still a wondrous cinematic introduction to Hogwarts. While, sure, the film (released in 2001) isn't the best in comparison with the other installments that followed, Sorcerer's Stone has the endearing distinction of introducing the world to the very young Daniel Radcliffe who played the title role throughout all the film adaptations of JK Rowling's phenomenally successful books. It was a nice nostalgic trip seeing him as a young actor, knowing what a nice dude he grew up to be.
Let's not forget that Sorcerer's Stone also introduced the world to Rupert Grint (as Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (as Harmione Granger), Harry's Wizarding BFFs. And, of course, an all-star British cast that included Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, John Hurt, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Fiona Shaw, Richard Griffiths, and John Cleese rounded out the cast.
But, truly, in this presentation, the music is, naturally, the biggest star of all. And once the film ended and the audience stayed to watch the orchestra perform the end credits music, it was absolute symphonic heaven. I highly recommend seeking out this concert series if it ends up in your city next.
Photos from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone™, courtesy of Warner Bros. and SCFTA. HARRY POTTER, characters, names and related indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR. (s16)
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HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE™ IN CONCERT continues through November 13, 2016 and on tour worldwide. Check harrypotterinconcert.com for other cities. For more information on other Segerstrom Center shows or to purchase tickets or subscriptions, visit www.SCFTA.org.