The Warner Bros. Orchestra: Bugs Bunny on Broadway (1991)
02. This Is A Life?
03. High Note
04. What’s Up Doc?
05. Baton Bunny
06. Jumpin’ Jupiter
07. The Rabbit of Seville
08. Act II Entr’Acte
09. A Corny Concerto
10. Long-Haired Hare
11. What’s Opera Doc?
12. Merrie Melodies Closing Theme “That’s All Folks”
The Warner Bros. Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by George Daugherty
Recorded at The Power Station, New York
Composers: Carl Stalling, Milton J. Franklyn
Label: Warner Bros.
In 1990, amidst a variety of Bugs Bunny-themed ventures, George Daugherty conceived and pulled off a concert presentation based on the classic Bugs/Warner Bros cartoons that took a cue from classical music, including one of the all-time acknowledged greats, “What’s Opera, Doc.”
Daugherty’s idea was simple — take the cartoons, strike new prints, set up sync tracks, and have a live 50-piece orchestra perform the tracks live on-stage.
That he was allowed to carry this idea through was astonishing enough.
That it worked once is breathtaking.
That the Warner Bros. Orchestra managed to pull it off, on Broadway, night after night, is a tribute to the people involved, because we’re talking about precision timing here — from an orchestra involved in complex scores played at breakneck speed with only a click track in one ear for tempo and no sight of the screen.
The result was a massive hit both on tour and on Broadway.
Bugs Bunny on Broadway is a shortened version of that adventure into musical madness.
It’s a wonderful companion to and expansion on The Carl Stalling Project in that it provides fresh renditions of classic scores (with a resulting dynamic and cleanness that’s wonderful).
It also provides some sterling examples of Milt Franklyn, whose position as Stalling’s arranger through the years made him a perfect successor as the scores to “Baton Bunny,” “The High Note” (an exceptional non-Bugs outing from Chuck Jones) and “What’s Opera, Doc?” prove beyond a doubt.
Still, it’s those demented Stalling scores that have the edge — “A Corny Concerto” (with conductor Daugherty and post-production supervisor Robb Wenner providing voices) masterfully demolishes Johann Strauss and Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky with brilliant mixes of music and effects, hewing to the originals only when needed.
In “Long-Haired Hare,” Stalling and company brilliantly cross numerous classical themes, songs, sound effects and dialogue — it’s almost as funny on record as it is on film.
The new recordings are first-rate — clear, well-balanced and astonishingly dynamic.
The production is clear and well-mixed without any digital harshness, and the analog elements (from the original cartoon tracks) are blended nicely.
The tracks taken from the soundtracks of the original cartoons have been cleaned up remarkably, though their origin is certainly clear enough.
In that respect, this disc manages to improve on The Carl Stalling Project, which suffered from an inability to reduce noise and improve dynamic and frequency ranges beyond a certain limit.
If you like Warner Bros. animation or terrific motion picture scores, don’t pass up this disc.
It’s the key link between Spike Jones and P.D.Q. Bach.
~ Steven McDonald
Though it’s the “cast album” to the touring Bugs Bunny on Broadway show, which featured a 50-piece orchestra playing to the original cartoons, the real stars here are not the musicians but Carl Stalling and Milton J. Franklyn.
As the composers behind the Looney Toons cartoons, Stalling (and later Franklyn) expertly composed scores that borrowed from classical music, popular songs of the day, and the whimsical compositions of Raymond Scott.
Working with talents like Chuck Avery (the most musically adventurous of Bugs Bunny’s directors) and voice actors Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd) and Mel Blanc (virtually everybody else), they created some of the best-loved music of the century.
They also introduced classical music to new generations through their loving re-enactments of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (as “The Rabbit of Seville”) and, amazingly, the entire Ring cycle (condensed to seven minutes in “What’s Opera, Doc?”).
Not as expansive as the two volumes of the Carl Stalling Project, Bugs Bunny on Broadway nevertheless is a fine collection that concentrates on an oft-overlooked legacy of Bugs Bunny and company.