Elfman at the Ballet

PROPS: Conductor Ormsby Wilkins, center, who led the Pacific Symphony in the West Coast premiere of Danny Elfman's score for "Rabbit and Rogue" Wednesday night, takes a bow

Perhaps I should start off by saying I am not necessarily a fan of Elfman's music. Some of his stuff is pretty good, like what he did with "Spiderman" and "Edward Scissorhands". And then there is stuff like "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Hellboy II" which fell flat (IMHO). He has lots of talent and certainly has a way with tunes, but, by his own admission, there are two composers living inside his body and they don't get along.

Danny Elfman's most recent musical expression is a ballet with Twyla Tharp creating "Rabbit and Rogue". Reviews are coming in from a variety of sources, but they seem to have a common thread - interesting, but scatters, a nice attempt, but lost in focus.

Timonthy Mangan of the Orange Country Register says, "It all ends up sounding rather like a musical soup constantly being stirred, motion for the sake of motion." Laura Bleiberg of the LA Times reports Elfman "supplied a composition so eclectic that it fueled Tharp's taste for smorgasbord." It seems there is Ragtime music, Gamelan music, a classical section and more. Paul Hodgins gave it this review, "There's more of a story percolating behind 'Rabbit and Rogue'...The only problem is we're not sure what it's about."

It seems that Elfman has done it again, come close but not quite hit the mark - but then again, this is his first attempt and to get to work with Twyla Tharp from the get go only bodes well for his career (not that this needs help, having achieved success with Oingo Boingo, film and TV score and an orchestral work two years ago). He sites influences of Stravinsky and Prokofiev and rhythm seems to be the one unifying factor through his pieces.

Perhaps where he fell down is in his schedule. "Hellboy II" just released and he has three more films, a broadway musical and music for Cirque du Soleil for their production for the Kodak Theatre. He's busy and it's hard to be successful with so many irons in the fire. Then again, the more attempts the more chances for success. For nothing else, Danny Elfman is bringing classical music (at least his version of it) to new audiences - and that has to be a good thing.


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