Danny Elfman concert at Hollywood Bowl brings out Tim Burton fans

Screens show the movie "The Nightmare Before Christmas" during Danny Elfman's concert at the Hollywood Bowl on Oct. 31.

Screens show the movie “The Nightmare Before Christmas” during Danny Elfman’s concert at the Hollywood Bowl on Oct. 31.

(Michael Baker / For The Times)

Danny Elfman was the main attraction on Saturday night at the Hollywood Bowl during a live concert performance of Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” But in many ways, it was Burton’s devoted fan base who stole the show with inventive costumes drawn from the director’s charmingly twisted filmography.

The Halloween concert, which played to a packed house, doubled as a costume festival and selfie bonanza, with audience members eagerly posing for photos with walking incarnations of Jack Skellington, Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice.

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The screening of the 1993 stop-motion animated movie, with a live orchestra, felt almost like a decadent dessert to the main course. (The concert is scheduled to repeat on Sunday evening.)


The crowd Saturday saw no shortage of Skellingtons, the movie’s Pumpkin King protagonist who has grown weary of Halloween and decides to hijack Christmas. They ranged in age from young to young at heart, with costumes coming in various levels of creativity.

Britt Pennella’s rubbery, spherical Jack Skellington skull -- which fit over his head like a giant ping pong ball -- came from Etsy, the handmade and vintage goods website, while his black tuxedo was from Amazon. “I ordered it piece by piece online,” said Pennella, 46, a former teacher in Pacific Palisades. He said it took a few weeks to gather all of the costume elements, including Jack’s spindly hands.

Five-year-old Timothy Hiett wore a Skellington costume that included a white knit cap as his skull head. His mother, Tracy, said she put together the ensemble in just two days at a cost of about $8.

The kindergarten student said that “Nightmare” isn’t scary at all and that he’s seen the movie “like 100 times.”

There were also a large number of portrayals of Sally, the female heroine of the movie. Astrid Slotterbeck of Huntington Beach said she spent close to two hours on Saturday putting on her costume and makeup. She said she has seen the movie more than 20 times.

On entering the Bowl, audiences got to play trick-or-treat, with concession stands offering free handfuls of candy. They also posed for photographs for a Burton-themed costume contest.

One of the winners, announced before the concert began, was middle school teacher Maklynn St. Clare, who came with her sister, Teresa, and partner, Terri, all dressed as the skeletal reindeer who pull Jack’s sleigh.


Their reindeer heads were made of cut-up cereal boxes affixed to baseball caps, and the antlers came from a crafts store. They also created special hooves to place over their hands. “It took us all about five days,” said St. Clare, who traveled from Ojai to attend the concert.

Other supporting characters from “Nightmare” on view on Saturday included a few versions of Oogie Boogie, the movie’s burlap sack villain.

Jordan Shaw of Simi Valley created a giant burlap costume that covered his entire body -- except holes for his eyes and thumbs. “So I can drink beer,” he explained.

He came to the concert with Nancy Pulver, also of Simi Valley, who dressed as the protagonist from Burton’s 2005 animated movie “The Corpse Bride.” Her creatively decaying costume included real beef bones around her ribs “where she’s supposed to be rotting.”


The audience also featured examples of the title character from “Beetlejuice,” but Clifford Sisneros and Dolores Tejeda of Pasadena took their love of Burton’s 1988 movie even further.

The couple came dressed as the deceased Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) when they disfigure themselves to scare away the living humans who have occupied their house.

They said they spent three hours a night for almost two weeks creating their papier-mache heads, gluing individual teeth into horrifyingly contorted mouths.

Leonard Martinez of Torrance donned a pink angora sweater and blond wig to come as the title character of “Ed Wood,” Burton’s 1994 biopic of the spectacularly untalented filmmaker who was a transvestite.


“I put [the sweater] on this afternoon, and I thought, wow, it’s really hot,” he said. But the weather had cooled significantly by the evening and Martinez, who came with his wife, Michelle Clark, dressed in matching sweater, said he felt more comfortable.

Brenda Lasker, an L.A.-based actress, said she spent three hours applying make-up for her costume as the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) from Burton’s 2010 movie “Alice in Wonderland.”

“It’s hard to get white make-up to actually look white,” she explained. Despite her costume, she said her favorite Burton movie is “Beetlejuice.”

Saturday’s concert, which kicked off 45 minutes later than the announced start time, began with conductor John Mauceri taking the stage to enthusiastic cheering. The former head conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was making his first visit to the venue in nearly eight years.


Mauceri led an orchestra and chorus in a new overture to the movie, sampling different motifs from the score.

Elfman saved his entrance for last, sending the audience into a frenzy of cheering and fan worship. The former Oingo Boingo frontman -- wearing a black suit, magenta shirt and his trademark thick-framed spectacles -- strutted and careened around the stage in character as he reprised his singing voice as Jack Skellington.

The four-time Academy Award-nominated composer sang Jack earlier this year in a Tokyo concert of “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” He has also performed in Burton-themed concerts, conducted by Mauceri, in cities around the world, most recently in Paris.

The concert included guest appearances by Paul Reubens and Catherine O’Hara, both Burton veterans who voiced characters in the original “Nightmare” movie.


In a recent interview, Elfman said that he had sworn off live concerts altogether after Oingo Boingo broke up in the the ‘90s. But he said that singing Jack Skellington makes him feel “kind of wired.”

He added: “There’s going to be a point where I feel trapped, where I know this too well.”

A few Oingo Boingo devotees made their presence known on Saturday. Craig Mackles of Northridge, who wore an Oingo Boingo T-shirt, recalled first seeing the band in the early ‘80s and later attending their farewell show in 1995.

“I don’t get to wear this shirt very often,” he said. “But I have the memories.”


Twitter: @DavidNgLAT


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