Monday, February 24, 2014

'Fez', the Music

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular
Saturday 23 February 2014, TSB Arena Wellington

[This post has been synched! Check out Jamas' impressions of the day, and Al's premiere review]

It's long been an ambition of mine to see a film with performers providing the soundtrack live. Chances have arisen in the past - most recently the Goethe Institute brought the NZSO and Metropolis together in a sold-out event last year, and the original members of Goblin performed the soundtrack to Suspiria for the Auckland Festival. Both well out of my abilities to attend, alas, so when Jamas offered me a seat accompanying him for a matinee performance of a reworked Proms performance for Antipodean audiences (and using their own talent), I was very keen indeed.

Not that I went in with any expectations of a synchronised screening and symphony, but that's the deal with the BBC Proms' version of Who, and at times I, too, had to pinch myself an remember that I wasn't there to just watch a very large TV playing dialogue-free stories, but that up on stage there was an entire ensemble of highly talented players, choristers, a renowned conductor and soprano to boot. And seriously, with the audio-visual and lighting displays, not to mention the live wandering monsters in the theatre, you'd be forgiven for forgetting the actual orchestra on stage at any time.

Highlighting the work of the series' composer Murray Gold from the show since its 2005 return, and emceed by Fifth Doctor Peter Davison this was in all, a very slick, very assured production, and easily the best live Who experience I've had. It was, to be honest, a little long. But you couldn't complain at being short-changed by a two-hour performance with or without a twenty minute interval, and the audience were clearly up for it. My top five moment are:

1. Companion Suite
Highlighting four of the Doctor's most recent companions and comprising Gold's love letter to Billie Piper/RoseMartha's Theme, the more off-beat Donna's Theme and for The Girl Who Waited, Amy's Theme. Clara?, described by Davison as "light as a souflle" and his own favourite came later, and it's a good 'un indeed - I'd never noticed it until now, although of them all Martha's is still my favourite

2. Classic music suite
Classic Series composer Mark Ayres selected a quartet of music from the previous Doctors' eras, ticking off a wishlist I compiled as Jamas and I entered the venue - and they were all great choices. Martin Slavin's wonderful timpanic 'Space Adventures' 60s Cybermen theme from Tomb of the Cybermen, Malcolm Clark's putting-the-'mental'-into-experimental score for The Sea Devils, Paddy Kingsland's Fourth Doctor regeneration music from Logopolis and Ayres' own composition from The Curse of Fenric. Alas, nothing of John Debney's soundtrack for the Paul McGann movie - perhaps rights were an issue, but that will have to remain an undiscovered gem.

3. A Message from the DoctorWell, two, actually. Proms attendees back in the UK of course have had live skits featuring the current Doctor, but we got Tom Baker breaking character in two addresses to his fans, thanking them for the happiest seven years of his life, and later for the response to his unheralded appearance in Day of the Doctor. Typical Tom - a little batty, but full of warmth and for me more than a little moving as the various tics and space fillers of the Fourth Doctor now seem irremovable from Baker's own speech patterns. Or is it a stage affectation? he'll never let us know, will he - uh? Mm?

4. Silver Stalker
Due to dodgy ticketing information my companion and I got separated ended up being shifted to another pair of seats - and they were closer to the action! Best of all, they put us in direct eyeline with our wandering monsters - a Judoon, a Silurian, a seriously large Paradigm Dalek, and the new model Cyberman which, I swear, trained its shark-like lifeless eyes on me as it went through the most robotic of marching poses. And then it reached out to grab me. I was four rows back from it, but the child within me was looking for the exit signs.

5. Wandering Monsters
Yes, them again, but something for the day as a young father and his boy making their way in the half-light back to their seats laughed nervously as they encountered a silver giant in their aisle, and after dodging it, realised they were then trapped between two Cybermen and a Silurian, forcing a very hasty shuffle into their row. Again, all before my eyes - you can't beat a floor show.

Very cool in that all of this was provided (Davison, Gold's music and arch-conductor Ben Foster excluded) by the NZSO, Wellington's Orpheus Choir and local soloists; again, I had to occasionally remind myself that I wasn't simply listening to a familiar soundtrack. Closing off proceedings was the valedictory Vale Decem (with mezzo soprano, rather than counter tenor) and last of all, Gold's reworking of 'the feem toon' as Denis Waterman would put it. A fitting end much prepared for, and well worth the sting of my parking ticket later on. 

Thanks again, Jamas (and Jamas' parents!) for the opportunity to see this :)

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