Minnesota Orchestra gives 'Home Alone' the celebration it deserves

Home Alone20th Century Fox

November 29, 2015

Home Alone and I are just about the same age. That means that every year since the age of three, I've watched at least 75% of the movie at some point during the month of December (I say 75% because let's be real, sometimes humans fall asleep during even their most beloved cultural pastimes). So, on the very conservative side, I've spent 39 hours of my life watching this movie. For me, Home Alone — with its magical John Williams score — is a more iconic harbinger of Christmas than The Nutcracker Suite.

Lest you judge: I was an orchestra kid, who loved and studied classical music for many years. I can hum along with some of the lesser-known bits of Waltz of the Flowers, and was privileged to have my grandparents take me to performances of The Messiah more than once. When it comes to the holiday season, I dig the old standbys.

I'd be lying, though, if I said that during the holidays I'd rather listen to the "old standbys" than turn on the Home Alone soundtrack. When I heard that the Minnesota Orchestra would be performing the score to accompany a screening of the film, I was downright giddy.

The Home Alone performances are the latest in a "Stage and Screen" series that has included Fantasia and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and it's clear that the Minnesota Orchestra is having as much fun with this programming as I am. Led by an exuberant Sarah Hicks, they sound buoyant and festive, and blend seamlessly with the film — under a lot of pressure, considering they're providing the music for a movie that's part of the collective auditory memory of Gen Y. When you've seen the McAllister family running to catch their flight to Paris upwards of 20 times, it's hard not to let your jaw drop a little when you hear the "making the plane" music (titled, appropriately, Making the Plane) performed live.

I realize that I represent the exact target demographic of this production, and that my nostalgic love of Home Alone colored my experience of watching it. Even so, it's hard to imagine even the Grinchiest orchestra lover failing to enjoy the performance. Picture a nearly-packed Orchestra Hall crowd breaking into spontaneous cheering after the 20th Century Fox theme; then giggling like little kids to cheesy John Hughes one-liners ("Fuller! Go easy on the Pepsi!"); then listening with rapt attention to a touching medley of Christmas classics — notably "O Holy Night," and Williams's "Star of Bethlehem," with vocals provided by the Minnesota Boychoir. The fun even extends to the lobby, where design workshop Leonardo's Basement provides movie-themed interactive props: dangling tarantulas, swinging paint cans, and — I kid you not — a dummy Macaulay Culkin zip-lining across the atrium.

Sadly, the run is limited to two performances, closing with a matinee on Nov. 29. With any luck, though, it won't be the last of the "Stage and Screen" series at Orchestra Hall. If they decide to do Jurassic Park anytime soon, they can count on having this millennial in the audience.

Dana Hanson is an educator living in Minneapolis.