By Katherine Karlson
The Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra and Southern Tier Actors Read (S.T.A.R.) invite all Rod Serling fans to join them for a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. “Walking Distance,” the Binghamton-based Twilight Zone episode, will come to life at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22 in Binghamton High School’s Helen Foley Theatre.
This combination of live incidental music and storytelling is as unique as a trip to the Twilight Zone itself. A string ensemble of 18 instruments plus harp will perform Bernard Herrmann’s evocative score under the direction of guest conductor Michael McGehee, the Los Angeles-based conductor of the Hollywood Studio Orchestra. McGehee has recorded various Herrmann scores since 2018. (The composer worked with such cinematic giants as Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese and won an Oscar in 1941 for All That Money Can Buy.)
Hermann also composed the original Twilight Zone theme for its first season, which included “Walking Distance.”
“He was involved with Twilight Zone from the beginning,” said McGehee.
“Herrmann felt television was a more intimate medium than movies, and his scores reflect that. ‘Walking Distance’ is probably his best-known work from television. With his haunting melodies, he creates the effect of memory, that longing for childhood. The score is timeless,” he added.
The concert will be unconventional in that the music will be performed twice: first as a suite and then as background to the dialogue of the original story. Nine actors from S.T.A.R., under the direction of Judy McMahon, will weave the tale of a man who, as a disappointed adult, yearns to return to the carefree days of his childhood and almost gets the chance.
There will be minimal staging in the theater named for Serling’s high school mentor, and few, if any, costume changes. One actor who takes on three different roles will simply change hats, said McMahon.
While set in a time that is not the present, the actors know how to put themselves into the environment of the play, she added.
“Serling always introduces us to another world — in this case, our memory of childhood. How many times do you think about when you were 10 or 11 years old, and what life was like then?” McMahon said.
The audience’s enjoyment will, no doubt, be heightened by familiarity with the story and by a “guest appearance” from an actual mechanical carousel organ, a sound that evokes childhood memories in many Triple Cities residents.
“We’re excited to hear the score performed live,” McMahon said.
IF YOU GO: “Walking Distance” will be performed by the Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra and Southern Tier Actors Read at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, in the Helen Foley Theatre of Binghamton High School, 31 Main St., Binghamton. Tickets range from $65 to $20 for adults. For discounted tickets, call the Binghamton Philharmonic box office at (607) 723-3931 ext. 1. To purchase tickets online, visit binghamtonphilharmonic.org, or go to the box office at 71 State St. (lower level), Binghamton, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.