— Written by Matt Kabik
If there were one word to sum up the experience that is Hollywood Heroes and Villains, it would be: delightful. The highly popular production, put on by the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra and in its fifth season with The Arts at Millersville, isn’t what one would typically think of when the words symphony orchestra are used.
That being said, people were certainly dressing up for the occasion, in that I spotted several “Supermen,” at least one Ella, The Flash, several “Batmen,” and one pint-sized Iron Man. Dressing up to take in the performance is encouraged for young and old alike, though short of executive director Paige McFarling dressing up as Maleficent and Stephen Gunzenhauser dressing up as a non-descript villain, it seemed that only children were putting on their best outfits to fully experience the night.
PhotOle was prepared, however, for those underdressed. With an automatic photo booth and plenty of props, parents were able to get into the right frame of mind before the orchestra began—and it began in earnest with a heroes and villains parade of those who dared to dress the part.
The performance itself is broken into several parts, each highlighting the music from famous movies wherein heroes or villains (or both) battled with their counterparts. Starting the night was the oh-so-familiar 20th Century Fox Fanfare, which I could not have expected to be so impressive in person, but proved to set off the experience wonderfully.
Next came the Batman Suite (this being the only true Batman, featuring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson), which was powerful and nostalgic without being too reminiscent for the younger members of the audience.
What I didn’t expect was the use of movie clips throughout each section performed—and from the first swell of music for the Batman Suite, I realized it could either really work, or really fall a bit off key. In the case of Batman, it only sometimes worked, and I was scared that it would be troublesome through the whole performance.
My fears were quickly subsided, however, when the Frozen Medley began. While I don’t come from the generation who will remember the movie as a defining moment, the use of clips from the movie with the skilled and playful performance of the orchestra worked perfectly. It went by quickly and—if the little girls staring wide-eyed at the stage can be trusted—did exactly what it needed to in order to entrance the audience.
The next two sections before intermission were “Gabriel’s Oboe” from The Mission and a medley from Evita. If I had to choose two sections where I’d advise you simply close your eyes and enjoy the music, it’d be these two. While the video was not nearly as exciting for children, the performance of the orchestra was remarkable, particularly that of Jeff O’Donnell, Principal Oboe, for “Gabriel’s Oboe.” I don’t know if these two performances really held the visual attention of children, but they certainly showed off the skillsets of the performers.
After intermission came what I believe were the powerhouse performances: The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, and Star Wars Suite all provided immensely thrilling music and videos, and I found myself just as giddy as the kids were for Frozen. From the chilling, somber performance of “Song of the Lonely Mountain” to the iconic “Imperial March,” I felt like this was what I came for.
My final verdict? If you want to take your children out for some culture without them knowing it, this is a perfect fit. If you’re a diehard fan of any of the movies mentioned here, it’s a perfect fit, too. If you like trying out your Halloween costumes a full month before they are needed, this might be an elegant way to satisfy that need. In all honesty, however, if you’re looking for a new annual event for your family, Heroes and Villains is the ticket.