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Rolfe Kent Embraces Melody to Score ‘Stan & Ollie’

Rolfe Kent has a reputation for scoring offbeat comedies (“Sideways,” “Legally Blonde”), so “Stan & Ollie,” the Laurel & Hardy late-career study with Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly, was right up his alley. “One of the fine lines,” he says, “was to navigate between the emotion and the lightheartedness, but the other question was, how much period do you reference?”

The film is set in the 1950s, as the veteran comedians embark on a last-hurrah tour of theaters in Great Britain. “The emotional stuff is much more contemporary sounding,” he explains, “but at the same time there are these silent-movie-style sequences. The timing and the comedy of those require at least some reference to the way they used to be scored.”

The music is “very deliberately melodic,” Kent points out, defying the current trend of scores without hummable tunes. And he identifies each of the key characters with a specific instrument, a choice that Kent says was encouraged by director Jon S. Baird: bassoon for the rotund Hardy, clarinet for thinner, livelier Laurel. “Woodwinds connect with those characters and that early-talkie era anyway,” he notes.

The London orchestra was “not a big one,” Kent says. “It’s really a brotherhood story between two characters. You don’t want the music to overwhelm that.”

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