Nightmare Before Christmas Live in Concert at the Hollywood Bowl

Legendary film/TV composer Danny Elfman celebrated the 30th anniversary of the cult classic Disney film Nightmare Before Christmas directed by Tim Burton this past weekend with three nights at the Hollywood Bowl. It was also the 10th anniversary of Elfman’s return to the stage post Oingo Boingo which took place at the Hollywood Bowl when he came out to perform the singing voice of Jack Skellington. Since then it has become nearly an annual tradition of an orchestra performing the music to the film and Elfman singing his parts as well as some of the original cast. These concerts have taken place not only at the Hollywood Bowl, but also the Peacock Theatre (formerly Microsoft), and the BMO stadium (formerly Banc of Ca) in 2021 while Dead and Co. played the Bowl Halloween weekend. Elfman debuted an all new show at Coachella last year featuring not only his film music, but also Oingo Boingo hits and new solo material with a band and orchestra. Elfman brought his Coachella show to the Bowl Halloween weekend last year rather than Nightmare Before Christmas and performed the music to the film in London in December instead. These three shows marked Elfman’s first Nightmare Before Christmas shows at the Hollywood Bowl since 2018. There is no venue more perfect than the Bowl especially with its shell where projections can be used. The shows took place under a full moon.

 Before Nightmare Before Christmas Burton directed and Elfman composed the music to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Schissorhands, and at the time of Nightmare Before Christmas, they were also working on Batman Returns. Following Nightmare Before Christmas Burton and Elfman were behind the live action Alice In Wonderland films, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Frankenweenie, live action Dumbo, Mars Attacks, and more. Earlier in October, Elfman performed his music to Tim Burton’s films at the Royal Albert Hall in London. In August, Elfman performed his Coachella show in Chula Vista and Irvine, CA. 

Before the concert started a costume contest was held and judged by Greg Proops a regular performer at these concerts and is the original voice of Harlequin Demon, Devil, and Sax Player. There were many Nightmare Before Christmas costumes as well as Pee Wee Herman and the sisters from fellow cult classic Disney movie Hocus Pocus which also turned 30 this year. Before the film began, the orchestra performed  “The Skeleton Dance,” the very first Disney/Silly Symphony cartoon dating back to 1929. Next would come the overture which includes the iconic songs throughout the film, but instrumental. The opening credits would begin followed by the film’s first song “This is Halloween. There were six members of the orchestra that had played on the original film score as well as members of the orchestra that performed with Elfman at Coachella and his solo shows. The orchestra was conducted by John Mauceri. Elfman would make his debut for the evening for “Jack’s Lament” wearing a striped suit like Jack as always. The first guests of the evening (Friday & Saturday) were Saturday Night Live/Portlandia’s Fred Armisen and Garfunkel & Oates Riki Lindhome to perform “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” with Elfman. In 2021 Paul Reubens who was the original voice of Lock and Weird Al Yankovic came out to perform it and it was one of Reubens last public appearances.  Elfman and Reuben’s friendship goes back to the first Pee-Wee movie (1985) and after Reubens passing in August this year just a few days before Elfman’s solo shows, he added in a tribute to Reubens following “Breakfast Machine” from the first film. 

The next guest to come out was none other than the voice of Oogie Boogie, Ken Page who is a regular performer at these shows. Page performed “Oogie Boogie’s Song.” While the live vocals were performed, the featured performer(s) were shown on the middle screen with the film on the side screens. Next would be “Sally’s Song” performed by Baraka May (Fri/Sat) who has sung back-up for the likes of Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Pentanotix, Josh Groban and has over 500 credits. This was her Hollywood Bowl debut. Last year Billie Eilish performed as Sally. On Sunday the original Sally, Catherine O’Hara (Beetlejuice/ Home Alone) who has performed at these shows in the past reprised her role. Following the end credits, Elfman and all the guests took a bow. Then Elfman came back to sing “Oogie Boogie’s Song” which he said had always been intended for Page to perform for the film from the beginning. For the second encore, Elfman brought out his band of bassist Stu Brooks (Perry Farrell), guitarists Robin Finck (Nine Inch Nails), Nili Brosch (Steve Vai), and drummer Ilan Rubin (Nine Inch Nails) and Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek who conducted the orchestra for Elfman’s solo shows and has been the arranger on over 100 projects with Elfman. The closer was Oingo Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party.”