Stella and I drove up to LA, listening to “Songs in the Key of Springfield” and “Go Symphonic with the Simpsons” and making our own wishlists for what we’d like to hear at The Hollywood Bowl. In short, we heard almost all of our favorites.
“25 Years Ago. . . In a gorge far, far away.” Homer “jumping” the Springfied gorge became our touchstone to Simpsons past and present.
The show started with a great video parodying the poor slobs who end up way in the nosebleed seats. Slobs like The Simpsons. Oh, and us. The crowd around us loved it, and it felt special to have these fully animated Simpsons clips made just for us.
Matt Groening welcomed the crowd with some “facts” about the show and actual notes from Fox censors.
After that, the show kicked off with Hank Azaria (who does a ton of voices on the show), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), and Nancy Cartright (Bart, Ralph, Nelson) entertaining the crowd with their vocal skills. The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra played each song with incredible skill, and Beverly D’Angelo came out in full character to sing Lurleen Lumpkin’s “Gonna Bag Me a Homer.”
The highlight of the first act was definitely “Weird Al,” who expanded on the “Jack and Diane” parody they had him do on the show. He wrote two killer versus, danced like a maniac, and tore it up with an accordian solo.
The second act was packed with the best songs. The Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus sang “Spider Pig,” “The Stonecutter’s Song,” and “See My Vest” with the Stonecutter robes, which came off to reveal sequinced vests. Former writer Conan O’Brien knocked us dead with a bit of stand up that melted into “Monorail,” and John Lovitz did a tribute to Phil Hartman and “The Planet of the Apes” musical.
The show was full of surprises. Hans Zimmer made a rare public appearance to play piano for the Academy Award nominated Maggie daycare short and be the Stonecutters leader, and Michael Jackson’s infamous sound alike performed “Lisa (It’s Your Birthday)” publicly for the first time ever. Tito Puento performed the Emmy nominated “Senor Burns” while a sultry dancer (who did the show’s choreography) made everyone’s jaw drop. The movie’s director, David Silverman, even got in on performing. His band Vaud and the Villians set the stage (and a sousaphone) ablaze with their riotous performance of “We Put the Spring in Springfield.”
Everything culminated with a fireworks display that was synched with some clips. Homer finally jumps the gorge with the help of Bart and his slingshot (a scene from the film)
The big finish came when a full stage of the night’s performers backed up Cartright as she performed “Do the Bartman.” Forget the fireworks, flaming Bart, and hologram Bart, the best visual moment of the night was “Weird Al” and Matt Groening side-by-side at center stage, each doing their own variation of the Bartman. Classic.
Honestly, there were only two songs that I really missed. No “Streetcar” and no “I’m Checking In.” Without Harry Shearer (Ned Flanders, among others) or Julie Kavner (Marge), the former wasn’t really possible. I do think the latter was a missed opportunity though. We were in Hollywood, after all.
My favorite moments of the night include some real gems. Hank Azaria as Chief Wiggum, singing “Let It Go” from Frozen. “Weird Al” rhyming “Marge almost had an affair with her bowling instructor” with “She felt too guilty, so he never. . . kissed her” and then cheekily saying he wouldn’t even talk about season ten on. And Conan O’Brien insighting a riot against the “one percent of the one percent” sitting up front, confused about why cartoons kept being shown.
It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to celebrate the longest running scripted primetime show in American history. Even if your seat was on the O of the Hollywood sign.