Tulsa Symphony Orchestra Presents Bugs Bunny
By DAVID JONES
CARTOON BUDDIES: Master cartoonist Chuck Jones (peering at you) and musical conductor George Daugherty combined their talents to invent the acclaimed show “Bugs Bunny on Broadway,??? which is coming to Tulsa. With them are a rabbit and a duck. They are unidentified.
He started as a non-descript white rabbit in a minor 1940 Warner Brothers cartoon called “A Wild Hare.”
In two years he had morphed into a gray bunny whose primary foe, one Elmer Fudd, kept referring to as “that wascally wabbit.”
He has been nominated four times and won one Oscar. He has starred in four feature films opposite such luminaries as Michael Jordan (Space Jam) and Mickey Mouse (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) and has appeared in 21 prime-time television specials. His name is right up there in public recognition with the likes of fellow Warner Bros. stars Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis and James Cagney.
And now this (not so) humble hare is the featured attraction of concert halls across the globe and is coming to Tulsa to appear with the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra April 28 and 29.
The rabbit, who famously doubled as legendary conductor Leopold Stokowski in one of his most famous cartoons (“Long-Haired Hare”), will not be leading the Tulsa Symphony in person. That honor goes to George Daugherty who, in 1990, created, directed and conducted “Bugs Bunny on Broadway,” which proceeded to play to sold-out houses on the Great White Way before embarking on a tour that would take it to Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Wolftrap, Denver, San Diego and a host of other American cities as well as across oceans to London, Wales, Sydney, Russia, Japan, China, Korea and Central and South America.
The concert, which features some of Bugs’ most famous cartoons complete with dialogue but accompanied by a live orchestra, has won kudos everywhere.
The notoriously hard to please New York Times called the show “hilarious.” The New York Post dubbed it spectacular and Newsday hailed it as “the giddiest entertainment happening between West 44th and 52nd Streets.” Newsday gave it “four carrots, highest rating!”
Appearing with Bugs will be such noted sidekicks as the aforementioned Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Marvin the Martian, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and other animated stars too numerous to mention Classical music plays a prominent role in many of his cartoons and such classics as ‘What’s Opera Doc?,” “The Rabbit of Seville,” “Corny Concerto,” “Baton Bunny” and “Rhapsody Rabbit” can be expected to make their way onto the program.
As with all great stars, Bugs has a number of small moments that helped make his big career. Take the name! One of the animators who helped create the world’s most famous rabbit was Ben Hardaway, who went by the nickname “Bugs.” He was working on a character to play Happy Rabbit in a 1938 cartoon short called “Porky’s Hare Hunt.” He left one of his drawings on a desk and a colleague wrote on it “this is Bugs bunny.” The name stuck.
All the great stars have lines of dialogue with which they are invariably linked. Bogart has “here’s looking at you kid.” Charles Boyer: “let me take you to the Casbah” (which he never said). James Cagney, “you dirty rat,” (likewise never uttered). John Wayne? Too many to mention, so take your choice, pilgrim.
With Bugs it is chomping on a carrot and saying, “eh…what’s up doc?”
Both bits were stolen. The carrot bit was taken from a scene in “It Happened One Night” in which Clark Gable convulsed audiences by filling his mouth with carrot. Director Tex Avery, a native of Texas, used “what’s up doc?” from an expression popular when he was growing up and didn’t think much of it, but when audiences, who recognized the reference to the Gable bit, roared with laughter a signature line was born.
Bugs other classic line, “of course, you know, this means war!” was stolen directly from Groucho Marx in “Duck Soup.”
Speaking of war, at the end of “Super-Rabbit” Bugs was seen in the final scene wearing a United States Marine Corps uniform, so the Marines obligingly made him an honorary master sergeant.”
His last theatrical cartoon was released in 1964.
But though you can no longer see him in your local Bijou you can enjoy Bugs and all his pals in huge-screen glory and with a live orchestra at the Performing Arts Center April 28 at 7:30 p.m. and April 29 at 1 p.m. Ticket prices range from $20 to $65. They can be reserved by calling 596-7111 or online at www.myticketoffice.com.