Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Sat Jan 24
On my way in to the theatre, I spy a Weeping Angel. I forget all about not blinking but I somehow survive. I guess the Angel didn’t see me…
This evening ought to be exceptional. An impressive musical performance is all but assured, given the assembly of talent that includes conductor and orchestrator Ben Foster, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, soloist Antoinette Halloran, the Graduate Singers (conducted by Karl Geiger) and the Elder Conservatorium Chorale. The evening gets underway with a stern warning over the PA system from the dreaded Cybermen, regarding staying in one’s seat, shutting down mobile phones and the like. The lights go down, the massive video screens come to life, and the orchestra launches into A Good Man. It’s a moody, dramatic opening, and introduces the remarkable voice of Antoinette Halloran to the audience. On screen, the audience is introduced to Peter Capaldi, the latest regeneration of The Doctor.
The evening is hosted by the affable Peter Davison, the fifth Doctor. He appears through the mist and provides a genuine link to the earlier incarnation of the series, while also providing some deliberately corny jokes along the way (with sixth Doctor Colin Baker being the butt of most). The on-stage presence is completed by a host of monsters providing live action treats for the punters: a Silurian, The Foretold, Daleks, The Teller, Cybermen, a couple of Ood, Whisper Men, an Ice Warrior (my all-time favourites) and more. Some of these creatures make their way into the crowd on occasion, creating some audience disquiet.
Through the course of the first half, the audience is treated to a range of composer Murray Gold’s soundtrack music from recent series of Doctor Who. The jaunty Wherever, Whenever is probably the lightest piece of the entire evening, while most of the works represent the increasing epic and adventurous nature of the modern version of the show. The Doctor’s Theme provides first glimpses (on screen) of Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant, only adding to the fans’ growing rapture, while Song Of Freedom allows the beautiful voices of the choir to shine. The Companions Suite, again featuring Halloran, is a tribute to those who have travelled with the Doctor in recent times. It’s nice to see them again…
The climax of the first half comes with the somewhat expected arrival of The Doctor’s nemeses, the Daleks. Suddenly, they are amongst the audience, on the stage, and have commandeered the public address system. After realising that extermination is probably not part of the plan for the evening, patrons breathe a collective sigh of relief. The orchestra provides a suite of “special Dalek music”. As the fear subsides, the session concludes with Last Christmas Suite.
During the interval, the auditorium bears witness to a host of Doctors that look unfamiliar in terms of screen time, milling around, getting their photo snapped in front of the TARDIS. There are obviously many Doctors living in Adelaide, perhaps awaiting their call from the BBC. Those who haven’t come as Doctors have done their best to empty out the merchandise booths. It seems everybody is wearing some Whovian merch!
The second half offers more of the same impressive sound and vision. There’s a glimpse of some of the Doctors of yesteryear, and some more live monsters, accompanying All The Strange, Strange Creatures. This is followed by a musical tribute to The Doctor’s latest companion, Clara, before a dramatic précis of the Mummy On The Orient Express story is presented in sound and pictures. The Pandorica Suite, from season five, is rousing and fabulous. Antoinette Halloran returns to the stage and takes the lead role in the haunting Abigail’s Song, a touching piece from 2010’s A Christmas Carol. The concert progresses; it continues to stir the hearts and minds of the audience members; the anthemic This Is Gallifrey is followed by the Death In Heaven Suite and the gravitas of the work is almost palpable.
Davison and his assorted monstrous friends provide some light-hearted balance to the proceedings, but there’s no escaping the power of the music. All too soon, the fifth Doctor announces that the show is over and that people must return to their own time and space. Unless, he inquires, the audience would like some more? The beautiful, haunting Vale Decem provides a touching remembrance of Doctors past and present. And, of course, the show wouldn’t be complete without a rendition of the most modern interpretation of the timeless Doctor Who theme.
When the lights go up, there’s a sense of sumptuous satisfaction amongst the Whovian collective. To be so close to something that is obviously so special to many, something that is much, much more than simply a television show, has proved a wondrous moment indeed.
There’s no doubting the wisdom of augmenting the music with the video and live action, but this evening’s highlight was, without any doubt, the musicians’ brilliant execution of Murray Gold’s epic compositions. Bravo!