“And I was trying to even comprehend what that meant, but Kenny and he – and I feel pretty strongly it was Kenny’s idea – and it’s everybody’s favorite moment in the film, and I look at it now and I love it but I was sure it ruined the film. I was positive it ruined the film, and I just could not see why you would just stop a movie and break into song and dance when there’s so much at stake. And of course, the reason for it – It’s a spell.”
Bette Stole the Show
The moment that Winifred takes the stage at the adult’s Halloween party, utilizing the opportunity to cast a spell on a majority of the town and getting the adults out of the way,, is nothing short of brilliant.
“Thank you Max, for that marvelous introduction…” Winifred kicks off with, as she bursts into song. She quickly wins over the party crowd when she is, of course, met with laughter. Nobody could possibly believe this woman is a 300 year old witch.
While the familiar song is a cover of the 1953 Screamin’ Jay Hawkins tune—a staple for any Halloween party in the last 70 years—this particular version was arranged specifically for Midler. Award-winning composer, and Broadway talent, Marc Shaiman, created the arrangement exclusively for the film. It also helps that he’d previously worked with Midler on Beaches and would go on to win Tonys for Best Musical and Best Original Score thanks to his work on the stage version of Hairspray.
Speaking to Bustle, Shaiman said he was inspired by Midler’s live performances, knowing that Midler began her career on the off-off-Broadway circuit before making a name for herself as a Grammy Award winning solo artist. He even worked with her back in those days, as well as her back-up group, the Harlettes. It’s what informed the arrangement and how Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, who play the other Sanderson Sisters, are used in the film.
“Since I worked with Bette AND her back-up group The Harlettes so often,” Shaiman said, “it was natural to give Kathy and SJP the ‘Harlette’ style back-up part that they sing [and dance to] in the movie.”