Classical Music With Bite

Peter and the Werewolf puts teeth in a classic just in time for Halloween

You wouldn’t put a schoolboy and a hungry wolf in the same room, let alone in the same piece of classical music. But Prokofiev did. And now, “necromancer” Neil Tobin is upping the ante just in time for Halloween.

The result: Peter and the Werewolf, now on CD and available at Amazon, CD Baby, and other online music stores. Every note of Prokofiev’s treasured score is preserved (and expressively performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra) — but the story bears a new, darkly humorous imprint, in a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sort of way.

After years of hearing Peter and the Wolf with the same quaint folktale narration, Tobin thought it was time for a Halloween-inspired overhaul. Admittedly, it’s always dangerous to tamper with a classic. But while Prokofiev was unquestionably a brilliant composer, his storytelling left room for exploration. And Tobin is well suited to fashioning a more haunting tale: he has made a name for himself on Chicago’s theater scene with the long-running Supernatural Chicago, his original one-man show featuring alternately humorous and dramatic takes on area ghost stories (punctuated by mindreading and magic, hence his “necromancer” title).

Points of departure in Tobin’s narration go beyond the simple wolf-to-werewolf substitution to include swapping the Duck for a Raven, and Grandfather for an Old Gypsy Fortuneteller. Most dramatic of all is the ending: without spoiling the suspense, let’s just say it owes more to Rod Serling than to Sesame Street.

It all adds up to a musical experience that’s both comfortingly familiar and full of surprises. With its hip and funny narrative, this Peter may very well attract new fans to classical music. And for those who memorized every note long ago, it could be just the performance that lets you enjoy this classic in a whole new moonlight.

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