Film Reviews
Photo courtesy of Disney

Many great films include superb musical scores and songs, though too often that contribution to a memorable experience garners less attention than it deserves. However, when entertaining cinema is screened with a live orchestra, audience appreciation of all the audio, including sound effects, soars. This best describes the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s presentation of Disney Animation Studio’s 2021 “Encanto.”

According to Playbill notes, Anthony Parnther has managed numerous film and television recording sessions, and his expertise with navigating songs, sound effects, and music informed his conducting of the multifaceted “Encanto” score from whispering softness to bombastic action. The orchestra enhanced every aspect of the film, from the characters’ quieter interaction to their explosive, wildly energetic action.

“Encanto’s” story focuses on fifteen-year-old Mirabel Madrigal, the only Madrigal family child without a magical gift, though brother Bruno has a dark one. Set in a Colombian mountain village, the name Encanto, meaning “charm," has also been used to describe Puerto Rico as the Island of Enchantment. Here it signals the enchanted nature of the Colombian Madrigal casita, soon under threat from Mirabel’s antics, as are the gifts of her siblings. Those magical abilities include extraordinary strength, control of the weather, and producing flowers at will. All of these highly valued powers coexist with the stress to perform.

Criticized by Abuela (i.e. grandmother) and barely tolerated by her extended family, Mirabel must learn that she does indeed possess a rare gift; that is, accepting herself. Each Madrigal will also realize they have self-worth just being who they are, not for their gifts. This valuable lesson, especially for children (and happily there were many clearly enjoying the Symphony event), comes through both dialogue and songs. With original songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s no surprise that the rhyming and energy of the message has enormous appeal.

Germaine Franco’s score (masterfully played by SLSO), the vibrant colors, imaginative animation of the characters (with emphasis on large eyes and Mirabel’s oversize glasses which she often repositions), and the heavenly voices confer on “Encanto” its own magical life.

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra regularly presents films for “in concert live to film” events. Next up April 13 and 14 is “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” You may visit the website for more information.

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