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Friday, September 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Bugs Bunny at the Symphony’ a natural concert

Many orchestral music fans got their start thanks to the cartoon

Are the audiences for “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony” made up of cartoon fans? Or orchestral music fans?

What? You mean there’s a difference?

That wascally wabbit probably created more classical music fans than any movie star of all time (with the possible exception of Mickey Mouse in “Fantasia”).

“Practically every kid in America got their first dose of classical music from these incredible cartoons,” said George Daugherty, the show’s creator and conductor, in a recent interview with Playbill.

So the audiences range from cartoon-loving kids to former cartoon-loving kids who grew up to love orchestral music – especially the kind that accompanies Wile E. Coyote’s plunge from a cliff.

“This is a very interactive concert,” Daugherty told Playbill. “The audiences get very involved, and they are very enthusiastic. Some might even be described as slightly rowdy.

“Orchestras who have not played the concert before are sometimes surprised the first time around; they are not used to audiences who are so unabashedly, vocally enthusiastic.”

The Spokane Symphony shouldn’t have that problem. This will be the orchestra’s second time around, having done the show’s precursor, “Bugs Bunny on Broadway,” to enthusiastic crowds in 2007.

This show will include many of the most popular segments of that concert, along with some new cartoons and music.

The format remains identical: Classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melody cartoons will roll on a giant screen, and Daugherty will conduct the music synchronized to the action.

It’s not a job, he said, “for the faint of heart.”

“It’s like running in front of a freight train for an entire evening, trying not to get run over,” Daugherty told Playbill.

And what do the serious men and women of the orchestra think of the entire idea? Daugherty said he has yet “to see a bored musician in 20 years.”

Classical music fans have long appreciated the cartoons’ scores by composers Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn. And they have especially appreciated the famous operatic spoofs that will be part of “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony.”

“ ‘What’s Opera, Doc,’ and ‘The Rabbit of Seville’ are both very dear to my heart,” Daugherty told Playbill.

“I mean, who else but Chuck Jones could have taken all 23 hours of Wagner’s Ring Cycle and delivered the whole thing in seven minutes and 30 seconds flat?”

As for “The Rabbit of Seville,” Daugherty said even the most sophisticated opera aficionado can’t hear “The Barber of Seville” Overture without “at least a momentary flash of Bugs slicing a fruit salad on Elmer Fudd’s bald head.”

The pleasures are visual as well as aural. These classic Warner Bros. cartoons will be presented in the way they were meant to be seen – on a big screen, in a packed, rollicking theater very much like The Fox.

And here’s another visual attraction: The Spokane Symphony has announced a costume contest at each performance. Dress up as your favorite animated character (Looney Tunes or any other kind) for a chance to win in one of three categories: children 12 and under, adults 13 and up, and family or team with groups of three or more.

Judging will take place before the concert and winners will be picked in the lobby at intermission. The grand prize winner will receive the 20-DVD “Looney Tunes Golden Collection.”

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