Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

After Tragedy, the Show Must Go on for Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

After Tragedy, the Show Must Go on for Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Article excerpt

'The show must go on" is a show business dictum about perseverance in the face of difficulty or even tragedy. This year, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra was forced to put that saying to the test, proving that its annual holiday extravaganza could and should go on after founder and primary conceptualist Paul O'Neill died in April from a reaction to a combination of prescription medications.

"On a personal level, it's horrifying," says longtime TSO musical director Al Pitrelli. "I lost my best friend. There's an empty seat at the dinner table that will never be filled again. And there's a hole in my heart that will stay there forever."

But TSO, Pitrelli says, was built to outlast all of its principals.

"Paul would tell everybody for years that he wants this thing to live long past all of us for generations to come. So there was never a question of whether we were going to go on.

"Besides," he says, "Paul was such a great, methodical planner, that the plans for this year, next year and down the road from that are all there. This is what he wanted, what he created. This is his child, and it will continue on."

There are a number of projects already in progress that the TSO team will address after its tour wraps at year's end. But "the first thing is to get through this tour emotionally," Pitrelli says.

For now, the focus is "The Ghosts of Christmas Eve," which TSO has toured with in the past, but with some updates.

"The front of the show, musically and visually, is different, and the second half of the show has some changes as well," Pitrelli says. "But the story remains the same."

That story about a teenage runaway longing to go home strikes a universal chord, he says.

"Everybody misses somebody, especially during the holidays. You insert your name and your situation into Paul's story, and it becomes about you. We look into the audience and see people crying, their eyes welling up. Our eyes are welling up, too."

That is no mean feat, given the show's overwhelming production, with loads of pyrotechnics, fireworks, laser lights the works and then some. …

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