Concert Review: Bugs Bunny at the Symphony

For each of our daughter’s birthdays, my wife and I started the tradition a few years ago of allowing each of them to pick where they want to go out to eat for dinner. In the past, there choices have not been restaurants, but places like Monkey Joe’s where they can jump around on various blow up contraptions and slides while parents must sit on a bench waiting for them to tire out while other screaming kids whiz by, stopping by to check on their parents to refill on cheap pizza and sugar drinks.  The kids absolutely love it, but it’s a less than ideal way to share the joy of your child’s birth.

Enter karma and a conveniently scheduled concert by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at Powell Hall, Bugs Bunny at the Symphony.

It’s created and produced by many of the same people who created Bugs Bunny Does Broadway almost twenty years ago.  You know you’re getting old when a retrospective concert on long cherished media is now also old in itself. Bugs Bunny at the Symphony is wonderfully created and conducted by George Daugherty who serves up a great commentary on each piece and the history behind the creation of all the music performed.

Of particular interest to St. Louis is the history of Carl W. Stalling, born and raised in Lexington, MO, who arranged and produced the music on nearly every Looney Tunes cartoon.  Stalling started at his local theatre at 12, playing the pipe organ, and before too long was working at the Powell Symphony Hall in St. Louis (called St. Louis Theatre back then). He was soon wooed away from St. Louis to play the organ for the Newman Theatre in Kansas City where he came to the attention of Walt Disney.  Disney took him to Los Angeles where Stalling created the music for some early Disney cartoons. Stalling left Disney to join Warner Brothers where he showcased some of the days contemporary music in short cartoons people viewed before movies. Daugherty, the conductor, described it best as the “MTV of it’s day.” Through his work at Warner Brothers Stalling met the conductor/violinist Felix Slatkin and cellist Eleanor Aller, the parents of Leonard Slatkin, famous conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

I go on about the history only because if you are a fan of Looney Tunes at all, you will absolutely love this show. Our kids were visibly nervous when they played the first song without any video playing but after that when the cartoons started rolling with the orchestra providing the full score they were totally enthralled. And since the original Bugs Bunny on Broadway, Warner Brothers has acquired Hanna Barbara, thus allowing Daugherty to showcase popular cartoons like Scooby Doo, the Flintstones, and Tom and Jerry. The last song before the encore is the best by far and one of my favorite Bugs cartoons of all time, ‘What’s Opera, Doc?’ (a close second is ‘The Rabbit of Seville’ which is done in the first act).

Bugs Bunny at the Symphony was a joy to attend, and, oh yeah, your kids will love it too.