Show Review: ‘E.T. the Extra Terrestrial’ Live in Concert with the SF Symphony

by Chad Liffmann on March 27, 2016

All the music. All the magic. All the feels.

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I haven’t seen E.T. in twenty years, but by the time the credits rolled I had teary eyes and the theme song wonderfully repeating itself in my head. My girlfriend sitting next to me exclaimed, “my track record of crying every time I see E.T. is still intact”. That’s the power of Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, and there really was no better way to watch the film than with live orchestral accompaniment at the San Francisco Symphony.

Conductor Sarah Hicks led the first half with matching perfection, once again making me lost in the film and only when breaking my gaze down at the stage did I remember that the music was being performed live. The first half ended with a rousing performance of the iconic bicycle ride across the moon silhouette, and a standing ovation at the intermission. Fifteen minutes later, Hicks entered stage right with a bag of Reese’s Pieces, playfully leaving a few in a trail to her position center stage. The second half kicked off and the feels starting pouring in…

E.T. is as emotionally resonant as it was twenty years ago, and likely as it was when it was first released in 1982. Watching it again reveals nuances and filmmaking techniques that were so brilliantly beyond my comprehension so long ago — masterful use of shadows and lighting, not revealing any adults faces aside from the mother’s until the third act. There’s simply so much expertise at work, whether its an unparalleled child performance from Henry Thomas as Elliott, or the amazing practical effects which still look fairly good today, or the most magical component at all, John Williams’ iconic score!

The score to E.T. is arguably one of the most recognizable pieces of movie music in the twentieth century, and the San Francisco Symphony honored it beautifully. The amazing thing about film nights at the SF Symphony is that the celebration is trifold — celebrating the movie, the music, and the connection it all makes with the audience. For example, hearing the music burst with energy while on screen, Elliott and his friends flee from the authorities on their bikes, or the breathtaking and emotional finale as E.T. takes off in the spaceship. Each of the aforementioned moments (and many more) helped create a magical evening. Indeed the entire show was a treat for the senses, and there are more nights coming up that you too can experience the sensation.

Film Nights as the SF Symphony continue with:
10/13-10/15 — 2001: A Space Odyssey
1/7-1/8 — On the Waterfront
4/13-4/15 — Raiders of the Lost Ark


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