Conductor talks ‘Spider-Verse’ live performance

todayOctober 28, 2023 3

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“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Live in Concert” will be presented Sunday at the Lied Center for Performing Arts. 

For Emily Marshall, each screening of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Live in Concert” presents a challenge of coordination, reproduction and performance as she leads the Broadway Sinfonietta through the movie’s score in front of an audience that knows what they’re supposed to hear.

“What I say is that you come to the show and you’re not going to be missing anything that you would expect to hear in the movie,” Marshall said. “So we’re playing along, sometimes to the tracks of the vocals and everything in the movie, but we’re creating all of the music live.”

Last month, Marshall, who’s the musical director and conductor for the production, talked about how the movie’s soundtrack and score are created as the hit 2018 animated superhero picture is projected onto a giant screen in venues like the Lied Center for Performing Arts, where “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Live in Concert” will be presented Sunday.

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“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Live in Concert” will be presented at the Lied Center for Performing Arts Sunday. 

“We’re kind of tied to making everything fit within the movie, obviously,” Marshall said. “So we perform it pretty much like you would do a film scoring session in the studio. We have a click (track) in our ears. So the click is matching up with everything that’s going on on the screen. I have another little screen in front of me with, like, counters and all of that type of stuff, to make sure everything is lined up.”

Getting the music coordinated with the movie is, by itself, a challenge. But there were some significant changes in the arrangement of the music to allow it to be performed by the 13-piece, all-female, mostly women of color sinfonietta.

“In the studio, it was a much larger orchestra that was producing all the music, so we’re replacing all the sounds and everything,” Marshall said. “What we do is there’s three different percussionists on stage. We also have a DJ scratching. Then we’re even producing some of the sound effects. There’s keyboard typing and live whistling, and all these different sounds that they use in the movie.”

Marshall’s use of “we” not only encompasses her work as musical director and conductor. The acclaimed Broadway pianist also joins the sinfonietta a few times during the show.

“I do have a couple of little piano solos where I hop off the podium and I’ll play some keys and have to keep track of what’s going on at the same time,” she said. “I have all these different screens in front of me when I run from one thing to the next. We have to check everything, all the technical elements during sound check every day. There’s a lot of moving pieces that go into making the show work.”

Marshall is no stranger to coordinating performances of disparate entities, having just come off the road with The Who, where she’s the associate conductor and keyboardist for the legendary rock band’s orchestral tour.

She joined the orchestral tour when “things were still very COVID,” and Marshall’s role with The Who was specifically designed for her conducting and performing skills.

“They were going to pare down from a 50-piece pick-up orchestra to 33, so they created a keyboard book that is very string-based to enhance the orchestra to kind of give bases underneath the live strings,” she said. “So my keyboard book that I played for The Who shows was actually created for me. Working with a keyboard programmer, we created, like, over 250 different string sounds that I play during the show.

“So my job with The Who is when we go into the cities, we have an afternoon rehearsal with the orchestra, which I conduct. It’s playing through all the songs, and then for the shows at night, I play my keyboard book.”

The result of that collaboration between The Who and the orchestras has been a resounding success for the band, the orchestra and the audiences.

“It’s really cool because Pete Townsend actually talks about it,” Marshall said. “During the shows, he’ll say when The Who started out, ‘We’re a rock band and we’re not playing with an orchestra. That’s not cool.’ But the way that their music is, it’s rock music, but there’s so much depth to it, especially in the things we focus on with the orchestra, ‘Quadrophenia’ and ‘Tommy,’ I think that’s some of their coolest and best work. He even says that it’s really a time that orchestra gets to shine.”

As our conversation wound down, there was a final question that needed to be put to Marshall. Are you, after seeing “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” dozens of times, bored with the picture?

“I’m actually not,” she said. “It’s cool to watch it every night. I catch different elements because I’m so focused on the music, I’ll see a new scene that I haven’t seen before, or catch a little Easter egg or something that they’ve put in the movie that I wasn’t aware of before. I think they’ll know the movie pretty well by the time the tour is over. But I’m not sick of it yet.”

The Lied Center will also be screening the Oscar-winning 2017 aminated film “Coco” with the score performed by the 20-member Orquesta Folclórica Nacional de México on Wednesday.

Movie critic Bruce Miller says “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” isn’t an animated film meant for very young movie goers but it is a spidey-delight for everyone else. Even when you can’t follow the story, you can enjoy the spectacular visuals which are like an art exhibit that pops to life.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or On Twitter @KentWolgamott  

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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