Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, Tue 17 Nov
Pokémon fans of all ages gathered together at the Festival Theatre for a musical celebration of the gaming phenomenon as it nears its twentieth anniversary. In response, Conductor Susie Benchasil-Seiter led the Adelaide Art Orchestra through a rousing program of selections from throughout Pokémon’s history, accompanied by video montages from the games, which collectively met with enthusiastic audience approval.
In anticipation, the entire Festival Theatre lobby had been converted into a Pokémon arcade, drawing a large crowd of early arrivals, several of whom came dressed as their favourite Pokémon. There was also a glass-enclosed exhibit featuring all of the games, a collection of large Pokémon statues, and a trivia discussion, all of which seemed to ensure that the attendees had a great time before the show even started.
A brief primer for the uninitiated: in Pokémon, the player controls a human character who collects and trains various Pokémon, which are creatures who range from adorable to rather menacing. When opposing trainers meet, they send their respective Pokémon into battle with one another. The game generally involves the hero trainer setting out in search of Pokémon while facing off against teams of hostile trainers en route to becoming the Pokémon League Champion.
It’s safe to say that few video games can boast as dedicated a following as Pokémon, and its musical legacy is well-suited to the orchestral treatment, with numerous distinctive melodies built into each new generation of the game.
The program opened with an Overture consisting of the main theme from series opener Pokémon Red and Blue, as the title screens of the many iterations of the game scrolled across the stage-width projection display, situated above the orchestra. After the ensuing applause died down, Producer Jeron Moore came out to have a few words with the audience about the show and introduce the first act, starting with selections from Pokémon Red and Blue.
And so it followed after a quest-opening jaunt through Pallet Town and a storyline-building journey through Team Rocket’s hideout that we were launched into a medley of battle themes entitled Born To Be A Champion, complete with a battle montage of various opponent trainers and their Pokémon.
The concert progressed chronologically through the series, moving on to Pokémon Gold and Silver next, starting in Ecruteak City, then through Songs Of The Towers before reaching the dramatic “…”, introduced by the orchestra’s glissando and punctuated by percussion and sharp bursts of violin and woodwinds. Then it was on to Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, culminating with another battle montage entitled The Lake Guardians.
After a brief intermission, we were treated to a health-restoring visit to Pokémon Centre before making our way into Pokémon Black and White and later through Pokémon X and Y. As the performance continued, it was interesting to watch the technology advance from the original single-colour Nintendo Game Boy on to three-dimensional multi-colour entries in the series.
The Adelaide Art Orchestra was virtually flawless, delivering crisp and spirited performances throughout the evening. Jeron Moore once again engaged the audience to introduce the encore, consisting of a singalong of the Pokémon TV series theme, and closing with the understated end credits piece Kiseki from Pokémon X and Y. The appreciative audience applauded raucously, before eventually dispersing, smiles beaming into the warm Adelaide night.