Cartoons playing on a big screen while a symphony orchestra provides live music to match every slip and slide – it’s a fantastic concept and one that is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. For those who watched Warner Brother cartoons as kids, Bugs Bunny at the Symphony was not only a trip down memory lane but also an education in the fascinating history behind these cartoons and the memorable melodies that accompanied them, often in place of dialogue.

The night opened with a rousing performance by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra during which I heard a child ask when the movie was starting. They didn’t have to wait long – Bugs Bunny soon made his appearance on screen, dressed in a conductor’s tails and waving a conductor’s wand. Before the screen turned on, members of the orchestra put on headphones and we later learned they were listening to clicking sounds that ensured they were perfectly in time with every movement in the cartoon. The familiar opening sounds of the Looney Tune had everyone smiling at how great it was to hear this nostalgic snippet performed live and as Bugs Bunny conducted WASO, it was amazing to see how perfectly in sync they were.

Throughout the night, we were treated to a series of cartoons and medleys, some with the orchestra, some without. All the old favourites – Bugs Bunny, Porkie Pig, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck and Tweety Pie - made appearances along with some more modern ones such as the Flintstones and Scooby Doo.

The conductor and compere, George Daugherty, relished his role as educator and maintained that cartoons were as much for adults as children as they often containing content and innuendo that would go straight over a child’s head. I hadn’t realised how much cartoons relied on symphonic music to assist the dialogue and create atmosphere. Many of the cartoons were based around iconic classical pieces such as Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries appropriated by Elmer Fudd as Kill the Wabbit, Bugs Bunny playing Lizt on piano and Strauss’s The Blue Danube as the backdrop for a sweet cartoon about an ugly duckling being accepted as a swan. The cartoon of Road Runner and the Wiley Coyote was free of dialogue, with music setting the tone for the story – as well as the occasional “beep beep”.

Coming from the US and having been performed at hundreds of international shows over the last two decades, Bugs Bunny at the Symphony contained well chosen cartoons and was highly entertaining. I would have liked to have seen the symphony providing all the backing music for the cartoons but it was still a fantastic show and well worth going to see – with or without a child in tow.

Warner Bros. Studios Present
West Australian Symphony Orchestra

Conductor George Daugherty

Venue: Burswood Theatre
Dates/Times: 8pm, Friday 28 May; 2pm, Saturday 29 May; 6.30pm, Saturday 29 May
Tickets: $89.90 - $34.90
Bookings: Ticketek on 13 28 49

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