Friday, January 4, 2013

Dr Who Symphonic Spectacular


Dr Who Symphonic Spectacular. 

The Metropolitan Orchestra. Conducted by Ben Foster. The Sydney Opera House. December 2012


You might want to ask ‘Why?’ But there’s actually been a trickle of Dr Who based theatrical outings over the years including the odd play in London and a devastatingly enjoyable evening a few years ago in Canberra that involved an onstage TARDIS, two doctors (Sylvester McCoy and Colin Baker) and companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) with Tim Ferguson as referee and a bemused Coralie Wood doing the publicity.

The Dr Who Symphonic Spectacular was not as cosy as plunking the above irrepressibles into the Canberra Theatre and letting them ramble anecdotally. The series is now large scale, trendy, and fans in America go nuts about it. So the theatrical and musical response is to hire the Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall, pack in a large local orchestra and choir to do the music, put a screen upstage to run the clips and have two of the actors fly in to do narration.

Since these were Alex Kingston (River Song) and Mark Williams (Rory’s dad Brian) this was no hardship; they were funny and capable and clearly enjoying the phenomenon.

The emphasis was on Murray Gold’s heart-on-sleeve music for the Matt Smith era with a nod in the direction of the past history of a show that will turn 50 this year. Sydney’s Metropolitan Orchestra conducted by Ben Foster looked youthful and played with gusto. Australian Ron Grainer’s original theme arranged by Delia Derbyshire and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop got due recognition although recent arrangements seem to be burying the melody in a lot of thumping.

Interesting that a science fiction show which first attracted me because of the unearthly quality of the music is now going for big orchestras and choirs that go ‘Ahhh…’ and ‘Ooooh…’. Shades of MGM and the great Biblical epics of the 1950s. Dr Who goes Hollywood.

Of course it was that big screen upstage with the film clips that drew the eye repeatedly, but the live action included some Vampires of Venice, the Ood, the Silence, a Judoon, a couple of  Silurians and of course a set of Daleks, even if they were the modern hunchbacked variety. I must have blinked and missed the Weeping Angels. All good for a bit of audience and orchestra conductor menacing and the happy alarming of small children of which there were many.

The lighting design went mad on masses of moving TARDIS blue except when something more flame like was required, but managed to calm things down for the occasional good moment with one of the live aliens caught in a single pool of light. Dr Who has always had its moments of introspection and reflection.

Out in the foyer commerce raged but I was able to resist the opportunity to purchase a blow up Dalek or a Laplander-style TARDIS hat. Took the photo though.


 Alanna Maclean

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