Melbourne Symphony Orchestra: Home Alone in Concert – Live Review

There is a reason why Home Alone is such a beloved Christmas classic.

For some, it would be for Macaulay Culkin’s excellent portrayal of the misunderstood, mischievous, and charming Kevin McCallister who cleverly outwits odd couple and cat burglar pair Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern’s Harry and Marv in style.

For others, Catherine O’Hara’s facial expressions are a winner, and it would be hard to not feel a little bit of schadenfreude watching her character Kate McCallister have a full-blown melt-down while trying to get home to her son. Strangely, she takes full responsibility for the neglect and abandonment of her child while her husband Peter McCallister, Kevin’s father played by the late John Heard, is somehow completely fine with this and is totally zen (no, really) about leaving their youngest home alone (something I never noticed until recently).

Perhaps, what cements Home Alone as your favourite Christmas movie are the scenes with neighbour Old Man Marley, played by the late Roberts Blossom, with all these gorgeously shot scenes, especially the one in the church with the choir, accompanied with moving dialogue that tugs at your heartstrings every time, no matter how many times you watch it.

For me, I love all of the above but I have also noticed that the film hits differently whether you’re a kid or an adult. As a kid, I loved Home Alone for Kevin‘s mischief, felt joyful for him when his family disappeared, cheered him on when he kept outwitting and outplaying the burglars, but I also identified with Kevin for being the black sheep of the family. Now, seeing the film as an adult, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated for Kevin. I was mad at his family for abandoning him but I also noticed how resilient Kevin actually is. It’s really funny how a film can inspire different feelings and new meanings every time you watch it.

All these amazing scenes in this timeless Christmas film would not be nearly as wonderful without its music. The entire score was composed by none other than the great John Williams, the man behind the scores of films such as Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Harry Potter. It’s hard not to make a distinction between the Home Alone film and the first Harry Potter film with their music and direction, both the original Harry Potter film and Home Alone were scored by John Williams and directed by Chris Columbus. And despite no magic school, Home Alone is still filled with magic. Christmas magic.

Watching such a wonderful timeless tale at home or on the big screen is great, but hearing it with a live symphony orchestra is even better – actually, it is the best possible way to see the film. Passionately and excitedly conducted by Nicholas Buc, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra held two shows of Home Alone in Concert in Melbourne on the 14th and 15th of December. I was one of the lucky few to attend and the experience of hearing one of your favourite movies with a live score honestly blew me away.

My biggest take away from seeing the film live in concert was how exquisitely beautiful the song, ‘Somewhere In My Memory’ is, written by John Williams and Leslie Bricusse. The song feels and sounds authentically like a Christmas classic, to the point where I am surprised people haven’t been singing it annually since Home Alone’s release in 1995. When the MSO Chorus directed by chorus director Warren Trevelyan-Jones began to sing during the church scene, I was conflicted on what I wanted to concentrate on, the dialogue and scenes of the movie, or the singing choir and the live orchestra. In the end, everything melded together nicely (as it should) as all these elements combined helped make this incredible movie stand the test of time (and counting).

With so many movies now using pop music instead of having an original score, seeing Home Alone again with a live orchestra was a reminder that they really don’t make films like they used to. Hearing Home Alone with a live symphony orchestra held me on the edge of my seat and even moved me to tears. Even though I had seen the film countless times before, seeing it with a live score made the film even more magical that it already is. Home Alone is not only a great Christmas movie with a beautiful score, but it’s a visual time capsule to how films used to be made, with heart, depth, and happy endings.

Melbourne, we are so blessed to have the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra deliver year after year with their amazing concerts, but especially their film concerts. It also felt very special to have the opportunity to see, hear, and witness Home Alone live. To experience the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra alone is truly an honour and one can only hope that the MSO bring this back this film concert every holiday season because I would see it again in a heartbeat.

Home Alone in Concert was performed on December 14th and 15th 2022 at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Hamer Hall with the MSO Chorus. We attended on the 15th of December for the purpose of this review.

While this was the final MSO film concert for 2022, there are a lot more ones coming up next year.
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