Brandenburg Productions, Inc.
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The Cincinnati Enquirer

Wednesday October 30, 1996



Kunzel puts fun into ‘Halloween Spooktacular’ on PBS



The Cincinnati Enquirer


      Erich Kunzel has done it again.  The Pops maestro’s second television special is a “don’t miss.”  Full of family fun, Halloween high jinks and special effects, it’s sure to put Cincinnati in the national spotlight.

      Cincinnati Pops Holiday: Erich Kunzel’s Halloween Spooktacular will air today on PBS.

      This first-ever Halloween special of a symphony orchestra will be carried in every PBS market in the country except San Francisco.

      Producers Phillip Byrd and John Meek have worked magic to squeeze the Pops’ two-hour variety show, taped Oct 25-27 in Music Hall, into a compact, quick-moving hour.  Except for finishing touches still being added (including stereo and sound effects), the photography is artistic, the lighting stunning and the overall impression professional.

      After an opening view of Music Hall’s exterior and Mr. Kunzel’s signature animated short, the show opens with its first special effect: Mr. Kunzel and musicians “morph” into costumes.

      From coffins and bloody daggers to Macarena-dancing kids from the School for Creative and Performing Arts, it’s highly visual fun.  Dazzling lighting turns Music Hall’s interior into a gleaming jewel.  Superb camera work catches the excitement as it happens: zooming into the orchestra for close-ups of made-up musicians in The Overture to Phantom of the Opera, or cutting to a crashing, two-ton chandelier. (“Terrified” audience members play roles well.)

      Kids will enjoy shrieking witches making their gory brew to “Night on Bare Mountain,” and the imaginative Danse Macabre skeleton dance, expertly performed and choreographed by Aaron Douglas Smith. 

      Guest stars include former Dukes of Hazzard star Tom Wopat, who croons a smoldering “Riders in the Sky” medley, and Benson’s Robert Guillaume, a weak Phantom but a wonderful storyteller.  He narrates “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” against storybook illustrations by Daniel San Souci and an original score by Steven Reineke that takes its cue from Disney.

      Illusionists, the Pendragons, do the impossible with flair, and Cincinnati barbershoppers Marquis ham it up.  But the real creativity was the top-notch team of Brandenburg Productions and WCET-TV that put it all together.