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Curtain Up: Hal Willner's Stay Awake


By Dan Frankel

Published Oct 1, 2008 6:10 AM

Copyright © Illustration Courtesy of UCLA Live.


It's always good to make a splash on your first day, and with that in mind, UCLA Live Executive and Artistic Director David Sefton has no regrets about booking prolific music producer Hal Willner to stage one of his lavish, multi-artist tribute events back in April 2001, Sefton's first UCLA Live booking, which featured Willner's typical blend of eclectic acts (including Beck, Sonic Youth, Marianne Faithfull and Elvis Costello).

"I've done all sorts of shows with Hal over the years, and it's always an enormous party with an enormous guest list," says Sefton. On Oct. 30, Willner brings the party back to Royce Hall for the 20th anniversary of his Stay Awake, the multi-artist tribute album he put together in 1989 that re-interpreted 21 tunes from classic Disney animated films. The show included Tom Waits' reinvention of the Seven Dwarfs' marching song, "Heigh-Ho!," and Bonnie Raitt performing a soulful version of "Baby Mine" from Dumbo. Other takes included The Replacements' boozy "Cruella De Ville," Los Lobos' rollicking "I Wanna Be Like You" and Ringo Starr's "When You Wish Upon a Star."

At presstime, Sefton wasn't sure which of those artists would make it out to Westwood to perform the songs live, but his track record with Willner — the longtime music supervisor for Saturday Night Live, in addition to numerous feature films over the years — has him confident that the Royce Hall marquee will be filled come Oct. 30.

"I know there are certainly things that won't happen," Sefton concedes. "I know that (R.E.M. frontman) Michael Stipe probably won't turn up to back up The Roches (as he did for the Stay Awake studio session). That's a long shot."

Then again, when you wish upon a star ....

Hal Willner's Stay Awake.