Theatre Gigante is opening its season with a two-performance show that, as of this writing, is quite nearly sold-out. In the intimate space of the Kenilworth 508 studio, Gigante presents a screening of Nosferatu complete with live original scoring by Michigan-based composer Frank Pahl. Pahl’s work is deliciously eerie. Bizarrely engaging dissonance does an unhinged dance with old celluloid played through digital projection on a modest screen. The show mixes the traditional, silent black and white horror of the original 1922 film with pleasantly eerie orchestration brought to the studio by The Little Bang Theory. That’s right: Nosferatu is about to turn 100 years of age and Theatre Giagante is having a really good time with its delicious creepiness.
The very first live performance I’d ever seen in Milwaukee was Pandemonium III with Present. Music back in 1995. Present Music performed a live, new score for Nosferatu as a part of a program that also including Todd Browining’s Freaks and a costume party with The Little Blue Crunchy Things. The enduring appeal of “the first ever vampire movie” isn’t difficult to understand. Nosferatu is a cult classic German horror film that skulks along the edges of sanity in a way that absolutely defines silent-era horror. It’s a towering legend of the genre. Thanks to Th we Little Bang Theory, enduring shadows from another century being resurrected once more.
Opening night was sold-outThe delightfully moody percussion that calls itself The Little Bang Theory rested onstage at the beginning of the performance with a weird collection of things including a kick drum, toy bells, a mini xylophone, metallophones, automata, homemade instruments and a whole bunch of other things. This is strange, strange darkness. Side seats are covered with fake webbing. Then there’s that opening title card...”Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror.” Okay...yeah...but it’s a really WEIRD symphony of horror played with a respectfully playful madness. There are three grown adults...serious musicians who are ready to play tasty, little nightmares with a few toys while classic horror plays on a relatively small screens . And yet...there’s something strange about the shadows in that tiny, little studio that DO feel a bit chilling and disturbing a round the edges. There’s something about it that definitely feels like it’s resonating deeply into that strange meeting place between beauty and grace and time and space. There’s a mix of childhood fear and adult disorientation as shadows from another era play out on a comfortably large screen. The strange tone and percussion playing through the space reaches beyond expectation into something new and chilling amidst the advancing autumn on Milwaukee’s east side.
The final scene before “The End,” continues to echo through my head as I write this. Todd Browning’s end to Bella Lugosi’s Dracula feels like weak surveillance camera footage next to the final death in Nosferatu. For all its jerky motions and awkward motions, this cinematic vampire still holds some power.
Theatre Gigante’s Nosferatu with Little Bang Theorey has one more performance on Sunday, Oct. 24th at the Kenilworth 508 Theatre on 1925 E. Kenilworth Place. For ticket reservations and more, visit Theatre Gigante online.