Last night, I got to enjoy a real treat at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham with Fantasia: Live on Stage. This is the touring version that was presented at the Royal Albert Hall back in October 2013 and with such a response, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham were given the chance to experience it too. The NIA is a huge space and I was pleased to see that organisers Apollo Digital had made the decision to use half the venue. Although still large, it did mean that we felt we were close to the screen and orchestra even though many were still far away. Upon entering the arena, the anticipation of the crowd was evident with a full orchestra and a large cinema screen backdrop.
As the orchestra appeared and the lights dimmed, i was pretty excited to hear some of the great music brought to us by both movies. Having seen Fantasia (1940) and Fantasia 2000 (1999) so many times I was looking forward to seeing the selection they brought to us. It is at this point that the advertised “event for the whole family” was brought in to question. There are many memorable moments from both the first and second movies and it did feel like the music dictated the scenes rather than the other way round. There were many classic moments from the movies that were missed in favour of some lessened known, more adult orientated pieces. It was sad to see the omission of Night on Bald Mountain, Rhapsody in Blue or Carnival of the Animals, all of which I feel would have aimed more squarely at the family audience.
The orchestra on the other hand were sublime, the sound stunning and played with such finesse. It was also great to see so many children in the audience. This event not only encouraged parents to bring their children but also introduced many to a type of music they may have otherwise missed. With so much modern music around, it is rare to see children appreciating classical music and this was really a triumph for the event.
When watching some of the scenes back, it really showed just how in synch the animation and music were in both movies. Their were occasions in which the orchestra, led by David Firman, weren’t quite in synch with the images and that was obvious. With an orchestra of such class, they responded to every swish of his baton. It seemed the baton was not always swishing in time the blips and lines that ran across the conductors own screen.
As a Disney fan, I personally loved every single moment of it. The chance to hear a leading orchestra play such stunning music was a joy. As an adult, I was in awe of their talent. If I had taken a family I may have an different opinion. The event did lack that Disney “magic” the programme hinted at it, but the event didn’t deliver on this occasion. I must point out that Disney weren’t involved in the creation of the concert but licensed the show.
Having said all that, the Royal Albert Hall and the Philharmonic Orchestra have not finished yet! This February will see Pixar in Concert and then Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in concert the following April. Both of these are more than worth a visit, and take the family. Where else will you hear live music from all 13 Pixar movies?
Tickets are on sale from http://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/default.aspx
Want to hear an excerpt for the concert then watch our video below.