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aradia22

Theatre Talk: In Our Own Little Corner

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Hi guys, 

 

Look, I have no idea if theatre stuff is popular enough on previously to deserve it's own board but real theatre forums scare me and I don't like to use my facebook for everything so here goes. Let's chat about theatre talent, current shows, old favorites. Let's figure it out together. The only thing that will be exempt is movie musicals as I'm making a separate thread over in Movies. 

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Has anyone seen anything good this Broadway season or are you anticipating any new shows? What are your favorite places to learn about theatre and theatre news? Personally, I prefer Broadway.com (and their youtube channel) to playbill. For me the best non-news channels to follow are FamousinNY and Seth Rudetsky/his Playbill Obsessed videos if you want to indulge your inner theatre geek. 

 

As for shows, I saw After Midnight earlier this month which is sadly shuttering soon. The cast was very talented and I think they did their best with a musical revue which is never going to have the impact of a narrative show. Some of the costumes were lackluster in the first half but as the show went on I think there was some beautiful work from Isabel Toledo on that stage.

 

I also saw the current run of Much Ado About Nothing at the Delacorte as part of Shakespeare in the Park. It was spectacular. I think some of the performers could have been better but Hamish Linklater and Lily Rabe were fabulous. Honest, masterful, and just crackling with energy. 

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Thank you so much aradia22 for starting this thread!!  I've just finished my evening perusal at the BroadwayWorld.com forums.  And while I love some bitchy theatre talk, those people are almost too bitchy for me.  I get info there, but don't participate much because I'm too afraid someone will yell at me.  And I'm too old to be worried about that!!

 

That said... I'm totally unprepared tonight to give any opinions that will make sense.  Haven't seen anything this season yet, but hoping to make a trip up next month.  I really wanted to go to the Delacorte last night for the Public Theatre Gala but didn't have the ginormous amount of money they wanted for tickets.  Then, after my husband made his decision to do a one day trip (today) instead of going up yesterday, I read there would be a standby line for free tickets last night...and the actual tickets to buy were much cheaper.  Ah well...timing... 

 

Anyway, I'll be back.  Thanks for starting this!!

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Of the current season, I especially liked A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, a musical based on the same source novel as Kind Hearts and Coronets (and using the same gimmick, casting one actor as all eight murder victims -- Alec Guinness in the movie, Jefferson Mays here). It's delightfully staged, in mock Edwardian-theater style, and the score is operetta-like, with two sopranos, witty lyrics, and vocal ensembles to give things a lift. When it opened last fall, I was sure it was too slight and un-modern to attract much notice, but guess what? it's still running and it won the Tony for Best Musical!

 

Here's the Act II trio as performed on the Tony Awards:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BV356ZKDn34

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And aradia, very appropriate that your theatre thread here references a television musical.

Ha! I didn't even think about that. I love R&H's Cinderella. I don't have a good answer now but I always used to tell people that was my favorite musical when I was asked.

 

I've only seen the Julie Andrews version one once (I think it was on PBS). Obviously Julie was fantastic but I don't remember thinking much of the rest of the production.

 

I used to watch the Brandy/Whitney Houston version all the time. Looking back on it, it wasn't that great but at least they had some theatre talent in Paolo (the Prince), Jason Alexander, and Bernadette Peters. I think the redheaded stepsister might also be a theatre person because she showed up on Smash. Anyway, that movie will always hold a special place in my heart because it introduced me to the score. And I know the dialogue is kind of sappy in parts but I adore Cinderella's conversation with the prince at the ball. This musical doesn't get enough credit for developing their relationship.

 

I saw the production at Madison Square Garden. I don't know which actors were playing the leads but Eartha Kitt was in it in full Catwoman/Yzma growly mode. I was young so I don't remember much.

 

I also saw a production at Lincoln Center. I can't remember much but my mom spent most of the time complaining that the prince was unattractive and he couldn't sing very well.

 

A few years ago I was in the Philippines on vacation and visiting family and I found out that Lea Salonga was doing the show and we were able to get last minute tickets. Oh my God, I was so thrilled. There was no kind of stage door but it's cool because I think I might have passed out at meeting Jasmine/Mulan/Kim/Eponine in person. I don't think she was really giving it her all and the rest of the production was a bit meh but I still enjoyed it. I thought the prince was pretty good. I have the cast album.

 

OK, after Frozen I'm in love with Santino Fontana's voice but I couldn't bring myself to see the show with him and Laura Osnes. First, Laura already burned me by not being Kelli O'Hara when I had third row tickets for South Pacific. She was not a good Nellie. Her voice was too weak and her build was particularly small next to Paolo Szot, making her seem very young for the part. But the big reason I couldn't see it was the changes to the book. I could rant about this on the Disney Renaissance board I made but I don't understand the preoccupation with super-developed male characters in princess properties at the expense of the female characters. Princess/fairytale adaptations are one of the few places we're usually guaranteed of having female protagonists. Stop trying to take this away from me! Also, it sounded kind of like the plot of Ella Enchanted and some direct to DVD movies. The costumes and sets looked good though.

 

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Let me add my thanks to you, aradia22. And I know what you mean about theater forums. :-)

 

I very much liked Gentleman's Guide and thought it would be a really tough sell for today's Broadway, but so far it's doing great business since the Tonys. It played some regional theaters before New York.  I could see it visible at more after Broadway, if it might not be the stuff big tours are made of.  And I would bet college theater programs will be all over it when they get the chance. 

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I saw the Julie Andrews Cinderella when it was first shown, and have the kinescope DVD that's been issued (one of my dreams is that they'll somehow find a color tape of the original telecast, even though such a thing probably never existed -- it was broadcast in reportedly sumptuous color, through only a handful of sets in the US could show it that way). This is still my favorite of the three TV versions -- it's the liveliest and funniest, and the cast is aces. Never liked the Lesley Ann Warren one, which removed all the humor and individuality. I actually have a soft spot for some of the Brandy version, despite my impatience with her (she breathes in the middle of words!). And some of the cast who should be good just make me roll my eyes (Jason Alexander prime among them). But Veanne Cox (yes, she's a stage actress -- I've seen her in lots of things) is fun, and Paolo Montalban is excellent. I especially like the opening scene ("The Sweetest Sounds," unfortunately not an R&H song) and much of the ball scene.

 

The Prince at NY City Opera would have been either George Dvorsky (who I think is an outstanding singer, so I hope he's not the one you saw) or Christopher Sieber, depending on the year. 

 

I saw the current production of Cinderella in January, when I heard the cast was soon going to change. Unfortunately I saw an understudy Prince (a scheduled performance; he was excellent but I wanted Santino). But everyone else, most especially Rebecca Luker and Laura Osnes, were terrific. Osnes is a consistently fine performer in my experience. The rewriting of the story is odd, and sometimes awkward (and remarkably devoid of real humor), though it has the benefit of keeping the adults involved and surprised -- we think we know how it's going to go, and then it goes a different way. And the designs, especially the onstage gown transformations are marvelous. (I don't see what Disney has to do with the issue of rewriting, as this is the R&H musical and it has no "princess" obligations.) Also the orchestrations (my special interest) are excellent, though inevitably (these days) for a too-small orchestra. I saw this on the same day as Gentleman's Guide, so it was a pretty good day trip to NYC.

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I probably should see Gentleman's Guide because everyone likes it but I know I won't. Well, I might like it but I won't love it. I'm angling to see Violet and Lady Day instead. I like opera when it's done right. I watched Cosi Fan Tutte (fun because of the panto/broad comedy vibe) and La Cenerentola (not a great Cinderella adaptation with everybody marking in like the first 1/3 or 1/2 which was not cool) as part of the Met Live in HD program. But I've never really been one for operettas. I still need to get around to Pirates of Penzance. 


 

I actually have a soft spot for some of the Brandy version, despite my impatience with her (she breathes in the middle of words!).

This made me laugh so hard. I'm still laughing in the middle of typing this.


 

The Prince at NY City Opera would have been either George Dvorsky (who I think is an outstanding singer, so I hope he's not the one you saw) or Christopher Sieber, depending on the year.

Hmn. I was pretty young so this might have been a long time ago. I think I would have recognized Sieber. Also, I think he's attractive so it probably wasn't him.

 

I forgot to add that I went to a Lyrics and Lyricists concert at the 92Y (yay for being under 35 and getting discounted tickets) with Rebecca Luker, Jonathan Groff, Philippa Soo, Mandy Gonzalez, and another actor with a beautiful voice whose name I can't for the life of me remember. It was an all R&H concert (my favorite composer/lyricist team by the way) and when they got to the Cinderella portion I teared up. I love the waltz but it was Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful that really got to me.

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I grew up with and was generally entranced by the Lesley Ann Warren version--don't find it quite as captivating now.  Celeste Holm is kind of droll and Stuart Damon is quite the eye and earful. The Julie Andrews original I enjoyed, when I caught up with it, though you do have to give it some 50s live TV slack.  Haven't seen the Brandy one in ages--and I wonder how it would strike me now Whitney Houston's gone.  Sometimes the real world events can color my feelings about something, even if I don't want it to.   Haven't had a lot of interest in seeing the stage version. 

 

Rinaldo's observation about Brandy's breathing reminded me of another TV presentation of R and H: the concert version of South Pacific.  I like Reba McIntire, and she's not unreasonable casting for Nellie, but her "scooping" on practically every line of every song drove me nuts!

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I liked Gentleman's Guide as well. I was a bit surprised how much I enjoyed it, because it is not the type of musical that I usually enjoy.

 

I am a Michael Mayer fan. I loved both Spring Awakening and American Idiot. They are among my favorite musicals. I loved Hedwig and the Angry Inch, but I prefer John Cameron Mitchell over Neil Patrick Harris.

 

Also, I am a big Glen Hansard/Swell Season/ The Frames fan long before Glen and Marketa won an Academy Award, so Once is my favorite musical. Plus any musical with an onstage bar is made of win for me.

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Stuart Damon is quite the eye and earful

In a good way or a bad way? When I auditioned with a Cinderella song for a musical in high school one of the adults in charge told me that he loved Lesley Ann Warren in that movie. I didn't get the part (because I didn't get any parts in high school) but that's a conversation for another day.

 

Rinaldo's observation about Brandy's breathing reminded me of another TV presentation of R and H: the concert version of South Pacific.  I like Reba McIntire, and she's not unreasonable casting for Nellie, but her "scooping" on practically every line of every song drove me nuts!

I didn't catch it on TV. At the time I wasn't into Brian Stokes Mitchell (I mean, honestly, I'm still not... mainly because I haven't gotten around to looking up his cast albums yet though he was pretty good in his minor role in Much Ado About Nothing) and I saw Alec Baldwin and was like, nope, not for me. I have it on my iPod. What I really wish I had seen Reba in was Annie Get Your Gun. So mad there aren't recordings! I listened to some bootlegs but they were very scratchy. On the one hand, I believe it's important to see theatre live but on the other hand, in this day and age I believe we should record everything and I should be able to watch videos of every single actress who has played Elphaba.

 

Also, I am a big Glen Hansard/Swell Season/ The Frames fan long before Glen and Marketa won an Academy Award, so Once is my favorite musical. Plus any musical with an onstage bar is made of win for me.

I like Falling Slowly (the original) but I have no desire to see the musical. I listened to their Tony performance and I've heard clips here and there and it just sounds so off and horrible to my ears. I think it's both the singing and the music. There's something discordant and chaotic about it. And I do like folk music. Because Spotify hates me I keep getting the commercials about how Once is the best musical ever.

 

I made a joke about it on another thread (I think Movie Musicals) but I really do love the score for Gypsy. Aside from R&H musicals (and even then it's stiff competition) I think it has my favorite overall score for a musical. The music just puts me in the best mood and I can get swept up in the emotion of the musical just by hearing the orchestrations. I know this because I went to see Andrew Rannells and Stephanie J. Block in concert at Carnegie Hall this year and I was tearing up when the orchestra started playing Gypsy. Though, to be honest, the orchestra was kind of half-assing it. Oh, I can tell. Don't think I can't tell, orchestra. I have seen the Rosalind Russell movie, obviously. I also watched the Bette Midler version which plays on Ovation from time to time if you haven't seen it. I also went to see Bernadette Peters do it on Broadway though I have no memory of anything except the "You Gotta Have a Gimmick" number. I wish I'd see Patti Lupone and Laura Benanti (big Laura fan. I watched The Playboy Club and Go On just because I heard she'd be in them. I wish I could have afforded to see her in The Most Happy Fella at NY City Center Encores) but I think the clip of them doing the big confrontation scene is still up on youtube and I have the cast album for that on my iPod. Gypsy is one of those weird shows that I don't think there's ever going to be a "perfect" version of.

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The TV Guide cover for the Lesley Ann Warren Cinderella was the first "poster"-ish thing I ever hung up in my room, so that version holds a special place in my heart.  Which is why I don't really want to watch it again.  I'm afraid I won't love it anymore.  I did see the Broadway show right after it opened a couple years ago.  Sets and costumes were fabulous.  Rinaldo, I agree wholeheartedly about the onstage gown transformations!  However, I wasn't ever totally engaged with the show.  Enjoyed it, and forgot it...

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(I don't see what Disney has to do with the issue of rewriting, as this is the R&H musical and it has no "princess" obligations.)

It's just one of the things I get annoyed about when it comes to adapting or rewriting properties with female protagonists. For some reason there's this urge to really develop the male characters or to sometimes rewrite the story to push them even more into the forefront at the expense of the female characters that you know, doesn't seem to happen that often in reverse. I put it together in my head because I'm a big princess person (probably because Disney movies were one of my first big connections to musicals and from the Disney Renaissance on they tended to feature Broadway talent). Not to digress, but Disney has been trying desperately to appeal to boys with their animated movies and musicals of late and you can see that reflected in the more developed parts for guys when they aren't the star of the movie. I have no problem with more developed male characters but not when it overtakes the plot and pushes the female characters to the background in stories where they would traditionally star as it seems to have done in the new version of Cinderella.

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Rinaldo's observation about Brandy's breathing reminded me of another TV presentation of R and H: the concert version of South Pacific.  I like Reba McIntire, and she's not unreasonable casting for Nellie, but her "scooping" on practically every line of every song drove me nuts!

I went to Carnegie Hall for that concert! I was (and remain) obsessed with Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Reba seemed like ideal casting for Nellie -- but in the end she didn't give the performance I'd hoped for, or that I think she had in her. It may have been underrehearsed; she blew a lyric in every song (and these are iconic lyrics -- the whole audience could have prompted her; fortunately they were able to patch the video from rehearsal material). More fundamentally, I think she pitched her characterization wrong: corn-pone poor-trash Southern, Daisy Mae. In the subsequent revival, Kelli O'Hara got character and accent just right, the best I've seen: Nellie may put herself down as a hick, but she's clearly from the upper end of Little Rock (gets written up on the society page) and aspires to be progressive. It genuinely surprises her when she realizes she still has an automatic revulsion against the idea of interracial relationships. It's that trigger point that almost anyone will find they have in them somewhere, and it made the show seem vital and relevant.

 

I certainly don't mean to overpraise the Beane book for Cinderella. It made several dubious choices. But the Prince really hasn't been made of equal importance with Cinderella, it's still her story. He's been given a little more time and complexity because that's just good dramatic sense onstage: if he shows up only briefly in two scenes, then why do we care if they get together? What makes him worthy of her? So that side of it was fine, it was all the additional stuff about revolution, and one of the stepsisters being not-wicked, that didn't work out for me.

 

I teach History of Musicals in college. When I talk about Gypsy, and it's one of my best lectures :) , I always use the Bette Midler TV version. Mostly because it's about the only movie of a musical that uses the stage text essentially word for word, note for note. Nothing is omitted and elided, so we can actually study the structure of the show, which is indeed brilliant and pretty close to perfect (however unconventional). I'd call Laurents's work the best book for any musical, ever.

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I certainly don't mean to overpraise the Beane book for Cinderella. It made several dubious choices. But the Prince really hasn't been made of equal importance with Cinderella, it's still her story. He's been given a little more time and complexity because that's just good dramatic sense onstage: if he shows up only briefly in two scenes, then why do we care if they get together? What makes him worthy of her? So that side of it was fine, it was all the additional stuff about revolution, and one of the stepsisters being not-wicked, that didn't work out for me.

Ah, OK. I read 2 or 3 reviews and got the impression that the changes in the book expanded Topher's (see, he even has a name now!) role through the revolution and political stuff. For the record, Ever After is one of my favorite Cinderella adaptations ever and it also develops the prince's role and adds political stuff. But two of my new least favorite adaptations The Glass Slipper with Leslie Carron and La Cenerentola (which has a wicked stepfather, male fairy godfather who is actually the prince's tutor, and this other dude who is the prince's valet who pretends to be the prince for most of the opera) made changes like that so I'm sensitive to it. There are also some things I just don't think you should mess with.

 

I teach History of Musicals in college. When I talk about Gypsy, and it's one of my best lectures :) , I always use the Bette Midler TV version.

I wish I could take your class, or at least sit in on that one lecture. Do you teach at a performing arts school? I don't remember a ton from the Bette Midler version but there were definitely parts where she played it a little too abrasive and broad, especially for a movie and I didn't always love her singing. I didn't connect to the Louise as much as Natalie Wood but I think she was good past the scene where she looks in the mirror and says "I'm a pretty girl, mama." Of course, that's when Louise starts to come into her own. Louise is an interesting part because you have to put aside your vanity for most of the show to play it but then you get rewarded at the end when she becomes Gypsy.

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I'm gonna see Gentlemen's Guide in August (I really wanted to see it after seeing its Tony performance) and I hope it's as good as the reviews say. I place a rather large amount of stock in the Best Musical Tony Award (theatre awards, being less mainstream than say, the Oscars, have a lot more room to award based on merit rather than politics -- that's what I think anyway) and since I LOVED Book of Mormon, I'm hoping I'll like this one, too. And GG will be my first musical actually seen on Broadway (I've only seen touring productions of Wicked, BoM, and Catch Me if You Can)! 

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I place a rather large amount of stock in the Best Musical Tony Award (theatre awards, being less mainstream than say, the Oscars, have a lot more room to award based on merit rather than politics -- that's what I think anyway)

Ah, I see you haven't been on angry theatre boards lately. This article brings up some issues in a very nice way. I've seen a lot of not so nice things over the years. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/03/theater/theaterspecial/03tony.html?_r=0

 

But I really hope you enjoy Gentleman's Guide. It does seem like a deserving winner, especially given what it was up against this season. I enjoyed After Midnight but it does not have a plot. There is no point to the spoken word portions in between songs. Aladdin should not count (as much as I love Alan Menken). And I would have thrown something at the TV if Beautiful had won. It was bad enough that Jessie Mueller robbed Kelli O'Hara of her best chance at a Tony so far.

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I think this is an Unpopular Opinion but I don't like Forbidden Broadway. I think it's produced some good parodies and engaged some great talent. I love Christina Bianco's version of See Me On A Monday 

Wickeder, and Wicked & the Flying Monkeys: Defying Gravity/Don't Monkey With Broadway but I think the composer/lyricist is too hung up on certain things to the point of laziness (Patti Lupone, Disney musicals, Cole Porter, Ethel Merman, Bernadette Peters, revivals) and a lot of the songs are just mean-spirited and not clever and not funny while they're deriding the current slate of musicals for not being clever or funny. I find some things small-minded, particularly revivals and populist musicals as a lot of younger theatregoers shouldn't miss seeing shows performed by professionals just because they weren't alive when they were first staged and populist musicals get people into the theatre. It's not like a ton of great musicals (and not so great musicals) aren't adaptations of something or other. There's just too much cruelty and maliciousness without the talent to back it up and make it more palatable for me to enjoy most of it. Sutton Foster is too perky? The Book of Mormon is too crass after you've finished with your own toilet humor and lazy jokes? Shut up.

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Meh. I'm fussy about my celebrity impersonations and from all the clips I've seen, she doesn't make enough of an attempt to sound like Carole. Whatever happened to acting?

 

Some new/upcoming shows we might like to discuss... Holler If Ya Hear Me, The Last Ship, Finding Neverland, Allegiance, On the Town, Piece of My Heart (off-Broadway), Bright Star, Diner, The First Wives Club

 

At this point I've forgotten all the rumored productions aside from Amelie and Ever After but if you have a better memory than I do we can debate the wisdom of adapting those properties.

 

http://www.broadway.com/buzz/176513/terrence-mcnallys-its-only-a-play-starring-matthew-broderick-nathan-lane-sets-first-preview-date/

 

In seriously, what the hell, guys news... http://www.broadway.com/buzz/176506/high-school-musicals-vanessa-hudgens-to-headline-workshop-of-broadway-bound-gigi/

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Jessie Mueller is an astounding talent. She has risen to the top in a very short time, and deservedly so. She can sound convincing as a soprano, belter, or Carole King. (Bio-musicals aren't about impersonations -- the star of Funny Girl isn't supposed to do an imitation of Fanny Brice, and in fact none of them ever have.) And her acting is always first-rate too. She was splendid in Edwin Drood and as Carrie in the televised concert of Carousel.

 

I wouldn't say that the Tony awards are free of politics or favoritism. There was no way NPH wasn't going to win this year, for instance, or Patti LuPone when she did Gypsy. But they do often seem to choose on merit rather than sentiment (as with Mueller). They don't seem to know how to choose the Orchestration award, though. 

 

The one upcoming show that interests me is the On the Town revival. The director John Rando did a pretty good job with it at Encores, the three men (Tony Yazbeck, Clyde Alves, Jay Armstrong Johnson) seem ideally chosen, and when they announced "orchestra of 28" I bought my ticket immediately.

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The one upcoming show that interests me is the On the Town revival. The director John Rando did a pretty good job with it at Encores, the three men (Tony Yazbeck, Clyde Alves, Jay Armstrong Johnson) seem ideally chosen, and when they announced "orchestra of 28" I bought my ticket immediately.

 

I'm with you that "orchestra of 28" is the dealmaker. I hope I get to see this.

 

The famous recent example of acceptable orchestra size being reason enough to see a show was Lincoln Center's South Pacific. But I'd add to that the 2009 revival of Finian's Rainbow. The production was full of pleasures, but none took second place to the sound of the full, actually-adequate orchestra under the direction of Rob Berman.

 

(And I know you understand that in the current environment, "actually-adequate" is one of the highest compliments available, since inadequate has become the almost universal norm.)

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That was a golden moment; for a few months there were four productions running on Broadway with actually-adequate orchestras -- all revivals of course. South Pacific (as I've said elsewhere, that production had a whole lot going for it, but it was when I read "orchestra of 30, original orchestrations" that I got tickets for previews), Ragtime, West Side Story, and that Finian's Rainbow. In the case of Finian's, the producers must have known they'd lose their shirts and just decided that the production (which originated at Encores) needed to happen so audiences could see it done right: the title means little commercially these days, there were no big-name draws associated with it, and that big orchestra was a further drain on a big weekly nut. But they did it right, and I salute them for it (its cast recording is beautifully produced by PS Classics, by the way).

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On the subject of upcoming shows, I'm having issues with " Finding Neverland." I have nothing against Jeremy Jordan, but I think he looks way too young to play J.M. Barrie.

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I'm expecting that On the Town revival will be better than the last one in NY.

 

I'm intrigued by The Last Ship. The PBS concert of songs had me a little wary, but the concept and the music grew on me as the show progressed.  I'm all for pop people writing musicals, even if they aren't always classics.  I guess the Chicago reviews will be in soon. (Or already are? Haven't checked.)

 

I really wonder if Diner will happen.  Is Sheryl Crow still attached?

 

Allegiance I would love to see succeed because I like Mr.Takei a lot and because the subject matter is worthy.

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Jessie Mueller is an astounding talent. She has risen to the top in a very short time, and deservedly so. She can sound convincing as a soprano, belter, or Carole King. (Bio-musicals aren't about impersonations -- the star of Funny Girl isn't supposed to do an imitation of Fanny Brice, and in fact none of them ever have.) And her acting is always first-rate too. She was splendid in Edwin Drood and as Carrie in the televised concert of Carousel.

I watched her Seth Rudetsky Obsessed video and I think she has a very pretty soprano but I'm sorry. I'm still not sold on her as Carole King. I think there needs to be some level of impersonation or else there's really no point in portraying that specific character. But then, maybe it's because I'm less impressed by someone singing a Carole King song than say John Lloyd Young having to sing in Frankie Valli's range. I have mixed feelings on jukebox musicals in general. As stupid as it was, I enjoyed the matinee I saw of Good Vibrations (partially because I was in a box for the first and only time and could see some of what was going on backstage... and it was the first time I saw Sebastian Arcelus in anything).

 

The one upcoming show that interests me is the On the Town revival. The director John Rando did a pretty good job with it at Encores, the three men (Tony Yazbeck, Clyde Alves, Jay Armstrong Johnson) seem ideally chosen, and when they announced "orchestra of 28" I bought my ticket immediately.

Just saw Tony Yazbeck in concert at 92Y. He's got a gorgeous, warm tone to his voice and his dancing is pretty good if not Gene Kelly.

 

On the subject of upcoming shows, I'm having issues with " Finding Neverland." I have nothing against Jeremy Jordan, but I think he looks way too young to play J.M. Barrie.

I found out recently that a friend of mine is involved with the production so now I'm biased and I want it to do well.

 

Allegiance I would love to see succeed because I like Mr.Takei a lot and because the subject matter is worthy.

I've heard some of the songs and I haven't been thrilled but it's time we had more Asian Americans on Broadway and it's nice that we're getting another Asian American musical. I generally enjoy Flower Drum Song (though I have some issues with it) and I've come to find Miss Saigon rather racist now that I'm older though I before I loved it because obviously... Lea Salonga. Also, it kills me that I can't find a recording with anyone other than Simon Bowman whose vocals sound tortured to my ears. Patrick Wilson played this part. Where is his version? I've seen a video of Sean McDermott singing the part and I also find him preferable to Bowman.

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I probably won't be on this thread very often because I can't get to plays and musicals much, but oh, how I wish I could!  Our school had some great singers and a couple of teachers who were wonderful at directing, so they always put on musicals instead of plays and I'd sit every day I could to watch them rehearse, then go to their opening night.  I just loved the story lines and the music.  I so wished I could've seen many of them professionally.  Since this, and the time when I could see the occasional musical were about a hundred years ago, my familiarity with the theater is limited to the old stuff.      Oliver, Godspell     (love the soundtrack!),    West Side Story   ,   Sound of Music,    Anything Goes .....   

 

As an adult, I was able to see professional versions of  Sound of Music, A Chorus Line, Grease,  the musical review Smokey Joe's Cafe and the three biggies at the time:  Phantom of the Opera, Cats (my first professional product ion!) and Les Mis

 

One of my favorites, though, was another musical review:  Forever Plaid.  I think my husband and I saw this about 6 times when it was going around.  I loved the music, they made me laugh a lot and they were beautiful singers. 

 

Here's one that I'd recommend: Funny Money.  We saw it at a local community theater and laughed so hard that we were wiping away tears.  I don't know how good community theater is in your areas, but if you see it advertised, take a chance and go see it. 

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So I wanted to bring up the subject of flops or "underappreciated musicals". I read Not Since Carrie: 40 Years of Musical Flops earlier this year, which I do not recommend because it's a terrible read. If anything, you can flip through it like a catalog and maybe discover a show you want to look up but aside from a few entries it doesn't provide you with a lot of information or interesting anecdotes or entertaining prose. And for a catalog, it's super long. But if you haven't discovered "If It Only Even Runs a Minute" on youtube yet, then I highly recommend that you check it out because it is amazing. I have lost days of my life devouring that concert series. 

 

Since some of you are older than I am, I wondered if you had firsthand experience with any of these major flops and if you have affection for any of them.

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I have recommended Not Since Carrie to a number of my History of Musicals students, always with gratifying results. Ken Mandelbaum is an engaging and knowledgeable writer (who unfortunately seems to have stopped writing cold turkey about a decade ago when Playbill stopped running his column; his successor there is nowhere near his class). Some of his formulations are a bit simplistic and glib, and I disagree with some of his views, but there's a lot of good reading in that book, and I've enjoyed returning to it since it first appeared. I wish he'd write a sequel; there's plenty he didn't yet talk about. (His book about Michael Bennett is also worth a look.)

 

Of the ones in the book, I think the only flop I saw in its original run is Nick & Nora. Music by Charles Strouse, music by Richard Maltby, book and direction by Arthur Laurents, orchestration by Jonathan Tunick, starring Barry Bostwick and Joanna Gleason and Christine Baranski -- how could it miss? By a mile, it turns out. I saw an early preview, before word had started getting around, and it got more dismaying by the minute. When a new song would start, hope would revive and I'd think "maybe this will work." and then it would just fizzle away again. A very discouraging experience. (The CD makes a better effect than the show did; there are a handful of cast recordings like that.)

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Not Since Carrie isn't a book to be read cover to cover, but sampled, like you said, aradia22. I agree with Rinaldo for the most part about Mandelbaum's writing (and the Michael Bennett book is very good).  I too saw Nick and Nora, and as a huge Thin Man fan, I was hugely disappointed.  It didn't help that the performance I saw the leading man walked through it--though I can understand why that cast (a pretty high-powered one) would be discouraged. The score has its moments.

 

If Mandelbaum does a sequel or updated edition, I would imagine he'd include Side Show, which looks like it might get another shot with that well-received DC revival. I didn't go as ape over that in its original production as a lot of people did. The shifts in tone weren't well managed--from satire to heartfelt plea for tolerance to camp. Here too the score had some worthy things.   I liked Triumph of Love, which I think was in the same season, better.  A chamber musical comedy, with a showstopper for Betty Buckley.

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Hmn. I may be speaking as someone who finished the book rather than someone who was 100 pages in, but by the end I had enough of him. He may have had a lot of knowledge but he didn't bother sharing most of it with the reader. I think that's why I love If It Only Even Runs a Minute so much. Hearing their short description and one of the songs from the show, I feel more much connected to it than I did to the shows mentioned in Not Since Carrie, barring a few entries. It also seems to be a book that starts off strong and then drops in quality. It's also really poorly organized. I wish he would have just gone chronologically since his method of organizing chapters ended up making no sense. And it also bugged me for him to keep mentioning shows (I think the big one was Tenderloin) and then only getting to those shows at the very end of the book.

 

If not Mandelbaum, I wish someone would write a follow up. I'm surprised no one has taken up the challenge yet.

 

I was tempted to see the revamped Carrie with Marin Mazzie but I really don't like her voice (except in very specific instances) and truthfully, I just wanted to see Betty Buckley sing "And Eve Was Weak" after watching Seth Rudetsky's deconstruction.

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Mileage clearly varies, but if it matters, add my voice to those saying that Ken Mandelbaum was one of our finest writers on musical theater. I hate to use the past tense because I hold out hope he'll reappear after his long self-imposed exile, but his absence has now been so protracted that the past tense is necessary. He had taste and knowledge, a combination that's rarer in theater journalism than it ought to be. I loved Not Since Carrie (reading it in order from first page to last), and devoured all his news columns, and reviews of shows and CDs, that appeared on playbill.com and such.

 

This discussion prompted me to see if any of his playbill.com stuff is still online, and miraculously, it is. (Googling "ken mandelbaum playbill.com" works.) Here's just the first result that came up, neither his best necessarily nor his worst, just the first that came up at random:

 

http://www.playbill.com/news/article/33112-Ken-Mandelbaums-AISLE-VIEW-Whats-Left-To-Revive

Edited by Milburn Stone

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I met Ms. Rodgers briefly once, at a play reading, and she was very gracious and had a very appealing sharpness to her as well.

 

The quote from the obituary that reflects that:

 

 

“I had a pleasant talent but not an incredible talent,” she said in an interview with The New York Times Magazine. “I was not my father or my son."

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I thought I would try to tempt those of you who might be holding out to check out the If It Only Runs a Minute series with some of my favorites.

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for these, aradia.

 

I'm not generally fond of revues or jukebox musicals, but I was into the original off-Broadway production of Closer than Ever.  The songs were good, the performers very strong (including Ms. Wintersteller--love her stories in the video); and I did much appreciate that it was the small Cherry Lane theater, there was no amplification. Much pleasure ensued. I saw it more than once--rare for me.

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I haven't heard of Allegiance until just now. I want to see it on Broadway!

 

I like Falling Slowly (the original) but I have no desire to see the musical. I listened to their Tony performance and I've heard clips here and there and it just sounds so off and horrible to my ears. I think it's both the singing and the music. There's something discordant and chaotic about it. And I do like folk music. Because Spotify hates me I keep getting the commercials about how Once is the best musical ever.

What I don't like about the musical version is the lead actress' singing voice. I'm not a fan. Cristin Milioti, who guest starred on "How I Met Your Mother" as the Mother, seems like a decent actress, but I'm not a fan of her voice. It's not bad, just not very Broadway. I do like the lead actor's voice. I've listened to the cast recording a couple of times and his voice is very nice.

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Here's another avenue to possibly explore... West End musicals. What are our thoughts? I don't think I've ever really listened to a West End cast album in my life but I've seen a handful of recorded performances online as well as clips of West End performers outside of the context of a show. It's the accent that really gets to me. Fine, do Les Miz (though it bothers me that they don't do it with French accents), Phantom, Oliver, or Matilda. But it just hits my ear so wrong when they try to do American accents for the majority of shows. It's the vowels! Musicals are an American artform. They're just not as good at it. I'm always a little baffled at what they consider worthy of adaptation though. Complain all you want about how American musicals will adapt any movie or TV show but West End musicals really seem to have no shame as far as that goes. 

 

I recently watched the West End episode of On Stage (which we get in NY, I don't know if it airs elsewhere in the country). Anyway, two things that interested me were a revamped Miss Saigon (will I finally be able to listen to a good cast album without SImon Bowman?) and Gemma Arterton starring in a Made in Dagenham musical. The movie, which I haven't gotten around to seeing yet, came out in 2010. What? Oh, London.

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Someone uploaded all of Passion OBC onto youtube so I decided to watch it. Some thoughts...
• I'm used to Sondheim as Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods and Assassins with bits of his other work here and there so I'm used to the lyrically complex, rhythmic stuff. Obviously, there are songs like Johanna and Unworthy of Your Love but to me those feel like the exceptions. So imagine my surprise when the musical started and it was like "oh, every song sounds like Johanna." I prefer more lyrical, ballad-y music so this was not entirely unpleasant, just unexpected.
• These are the most "American" Italians, I've ever heard.
• I think one of the most clever choices is the reveal that

Clara is married

. I knew about it because I read the wikipedia page before I sat down to watch the musical. I think the ideal way to watch would be two viewings. One before you know the truth and one after. It definitely colors how you view the couple and all the gushy romantic stuff Clara and Giorgio are spouting.
• I'm not the biggest Marin Mazzie fan but I like her in this part.
• I think this is a musical that needs to be performed completely earnestly or else one can easily see the ridiculousness of it.
• I was probably never going to find a story about a "hysterical," infatuated woman not in control of her emotions that compelling. I don't know. Maybe it would have had more of a chance in middle school and high school when I was experiencing my own infatuations and occasionally extreme emotional states.

  • It's odd. Some parts are incredibly subtle and yet so much of the stuff around Fosca and beauty are not. 
  • Excellent points made in "Is This What You Call Love?"
  • The doctor was horrible. It would be excessive to call him the worst doctor ever but he was ridiculous. He was more like one of the meddling characters in a Shakespeare play. 
  • I mean, yes, end the affair with the married lady but I find Giorgio's reasoning shaky. He wants her to pull an Anna Karenina and because she doesn't want to give up her child, she's being too "rational." OK, then.

  • Why does the ending

    validate Fosca

    ? Why? We were doing so well! There is a line in "No One Has Ever Loved Me" where Giorgio

    tells Fosca that no one has ever known him as well as she has. But she doesn't! She doesn't know him! Argh!

     

 

Reasons I can understand people not liking Fosca...
• If you take it at face value and not in the context of a musical, "I Read" is an insane conversation to have with a stranger. I could go through it and dissect it but it's pretty clearly not anything you should be saying to someone you just met.
• I laughed the first time Fosca fainted. There is something slightly ridiculous about Donna Murphy's performance with the periodic screams and the slightly mannish voice she uses to access her lower register, both speaking and singing. I don't mean that there's a certain pitch for a female voice but it's that unnatural thing a woman might do if she's pitching her voice lower to mock a man. The same way a man might unnaturally pitch his voice higher to mock something that a woman said. It's not a natural sound that she's making.
• She is quite abrasive which is understandable given her illness and the hand life has dealt her but it doesn't make her terribly likable.
• The relationship is clearly established as an infatuation with Fosca building up Giorgio in her mind based on certain details about him and using them to build this picture of him as kind and sensitive. That's a textbook infatuation/crush. She's not interested in who he genuinely is but who she wants him to be as a complement to her own personality. Based on their two conversations, I don't think there's enough that he actually said to get her to genuinely be in love with him.
• She kind of molests him... holding his hand against his will, kissing his hand, kissing him and clinging to him. She forces him to get into bed with her and manipulates him into kissing her and then grabs him and kisses her. I mean, if you don't already think that's bad enough, reverse the genders.
• She is manipulative, prostrating herself and using various techniques to force him to pay attention to her, threatening to influence her cousin into not allowing Giorgio to take another leave, though I don't find that as bothersome as the earlier points.

  • She doesn't have a kind or good heart. What would he love about her?

    That she loves him? Well, fine, but that's not love either. That's them both being screwed up. Don't celebrate it as some kind of happy ending. As he says on the train, it's not about her looks. It's about her personality and behavior. What is there to love?

Edited by aradia22

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That's a really thoughtful dissection of Passion, aradia.

 

This is a musical that some Sondheim admirers don't like for a lot of the reasons you list, and not as respectfully as you approached it.

 

I like it very much,  I tend to think that Fosca and Giorgio are really looking for "love without reason."  Clara and Giorgio are attracted to each other, and think it's more, but it's really about the surfaces.  Giorgio finds he is willing to risk everything for love, and Clara, quite reasonably, is not. 

 

Also, I think Fosca has been changed by her pursuit of Giorgio. She pursues him out of infatuation, out of some kind of guess (or intuition) that they might be kindred spirits. She gets what he's saying when he dresses her down.  And she gets past her bitterness. It's not precisely a happy ending. Where else is Giorgio going to find that kind of intensity?

 

Murphy's performance in the theater was one of the best I've ever seen.  Some  found (and do find it on video) a bit much, and not just because of the character's hijinks. But she commits to them so fully, ridiculousness be damned (or embraced).  On a second viewing, it's possible to notice more fully how good Jere Shea and Marin Mazzie were, and how integral Clara and Giorgio are to the show.

 

And yeah, not much effort to reproduce an Italian-sounding or feeling idiom. But what makes this different from other Sondheim for me is how direct the lyrics are, not cloaking the essence of the characters in evasion or wit.

 

True story: we had an out of town guest who wanted to see a show.  He wasn't up on what was playing.  When we described Passion to him, he said, "Naw, who wants to see some sick lady hanging all over some guy?"  He chose The Who's Tommy.

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Thanks, Charlie. I can be a little snarky but I try to never get too mean-spirited. Just let me know if I ever need to rein it in.

 

I like it very much,  I tend to think that Fosca and Giorgio are really looking for "love without reason."

That's understandable. I just didn't find their version of love that compelling. Take for example, Wuthering Heights, which has an irrational, animalistic, insane brand of love but sells it with character development and time. You understand why Cathy and Heathcliff fell in love with each other even though their love seems crazy. Of course, this is inspiring me to read the original novel the movie and musical were based on. Based on the lack of information about the movie on wikipedia and imdb it could be difficult to track down.

 

Also, I think Fosca has been changed by her pursuit of Giorgio. She pursues him out of infatuation, out of some kind of guess (or intuition) that they might be kindred spirits. She gets what he's saying when he dresses her down.  And she gets past her bitterness. It's not precisely a happy ending. Where else is Giorgio going to find that kind of intensity?

Ah. I think this might be a point on which we differ. I didn't really see a change in Fosca so to me it just seems like she wore him down and then when she got what she wanted, she seemed kinder because she had won.

 

And yeah, not much effort to reproduce an Italian-sounding or feeling idiom. But what makes this different from other Sondheim for me is how direct the lyrics are, not cloaking the essence of the characters in evasion or wit.

I was speaking more about the the really blatant American accents of the cast. The men were particularly bad. Your point about the directness of the lyrics reminds me of another Sondheim musical I forgot to mention above, A Little Night Music. I saw it on stage with Catherine Zeta Jones (honestly, she was fine) after listening to the original cast album for months. I think the wit and deception aids my appreciation of Sondheim as I'm someone who dislikes his lyrics for West Side Story. I think the directness and honesty feels too simple sometimes. It lacks complexity and weight. While I find it honest with Clara and Giorgio who are mired in deception, with Fosca's story, it leaves me wanting. I don't feel like anything particularly poignant or original is being said. 

 

To bring another Catherine into the mix, if you haven't been able to tell I'm drawn to fictional and historical Catherine's as that is my actual name, I see in Fosca shades of Catherine Sloper but drawn too starkly and too unsympathetically. And I don't think the musical has quite resolved its own issues with Fosca. It thinks that it has but it's both a question of not fully developing her character past stereotypes and the force of her "passion" and rushing the resolution. 

 

True story: we had an out of town guest who wanted to see a show.  He wasn't up on what was playing.  When we described Passion to him, he said, "Naw, who wants to see some sick lady hanging all over some guy?"  He chose The Who's Tommy.

It was a rather depressing start to the day finishing up Passion (my internet quit on me last night) and now it's raining here. Thanks for making me laugh.

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In reference to Passion:

I was speaking more about the the really blatant American accents of the cast. 

Genuine puzzled question: What kind of accents are they supposed to have? They are speaking in their own language to each other, so an Italian accent would be inappropriate. There used to be a convention that for drama (and movies) in which the characters would really be speaking Russian or French or whatever to each other, and it was rendered into English, that only British accents were appropriate. But I had thought/hoped that that idea was several decades out of date.

 

I'm a Sondheim devotee (I've seen all his musicals, most in their original productions and all in multiple productions) who doesn't like Passion. I saw the original production twice, and two other highly praised productions since, so I've given it a fair chance, I think. It made the most sense to me when an important relationship had just ended for me before I saw it: I was able to buy into the masochistic creepy frame of mind that thinks "If I just stalk and pester this other person enough, they'll see the light and come back to me." But otherwise, in a state of relative mental health, no. I just don't buy it.

 

Donna Murphy was marvelous as Fosca, though, I agree. So was Judy Kuhn later in a Kennedy Center production.

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Genuine puzzled question: What kind of accents are they supposed to have? They are speaking in their own language to each other, so an Italian accent would be inappropriate. There used to be a convention that for drama (and movies) in which the characters would really be speaking Russian or French or whatever to each other, and it was rendered into English, that only British accents were appropriate. But I had thought/hoped that that idea was several decades out of date.

I wouldn't mind the Italian accents. I suppose it's just jarring with all the Italian names... which could easily be solved by changing the names. I don't know. There are certain American accents that don't bother me. I think Marin Mazzie and Donna Murphy didn't take me out of the action so much. It was the guys. Sometimes I'd hear them talk or sing and think "you could sound exactly the same and be performing bloody Oklahoma."

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I wouldn't mind the Italian accents. I suppose it's just jarring with all the Italian names... which could easily be solved by changing the names. I don't know. There are certain American accents that don't bother me. I think Marin Mazzie and Donna Murphy didn't take me out of the action so much. It was the guys. Sometimes I'd hear them talk or sing and think "you could sound exactly the same and be performing bloody Oklahoma."

 

To some extent the difference you heard between Marin/Donna and the soldiers might be due to a modified version of the old convention Rinaldo mentioned. The classic example is the film Spartacus. All the patrician Roman senators speak with British accents, while the slaves speak with American accents. British (or indefinable mid-Atlantic, or at the least not overtly "American") equals patrician. Recognizably "American" equals plebeian. The soldiers in Passion, being mainly from the lower social orders, would have the coarser-slash-more-colloquial American sound. It's a deliberate choice to help give us character information, in a manner Henry Higgins would approve.

Edited by Milburn Stone
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A similar convention was observed in the movie Ben Hur. The Jewish characters sounded American, the Romans spoke British. And I think @Milburn Stone is right, the regular soldiers in Passion, being of lower social classes, sound American. (Gregg Edelman, as the commander, was simply giving a poor performance -- I don't understand why, as I've seen him be quite convincing in other roles.)

 

The revival of Nine, a story set in Italy, had everyone speak with an accent, and was rightly criticized for it. But their hand was forced, by the casting of Antonio Banderas in the central role. (And the risk paid off -- he was fantastic in the role, and sang like a dream.) His own accent, which he has never lost, had to be camouflaged as Italian by having the cast around him speak in a similar way.

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British (or indefinable mid-Atlantic, or at the least not overtly "American") equals patrician. Recognizably "American" equals plebeian. The soldiers in Passion, being mainly from the lower social orders, would have the coarser-slash-more-colloquial American sound. It's a deliberate choice to help give us character information, in a manner Henry Higgins would approve.

Hmn. I am trying to think of a show where the American accents but all I can think of are shows where it wouldn't matter (Into the Woods, most of R&H, etc.). I also find it off-putting that British and some American productions of Les Miserables give the upper class characters Queen's English (or whatever you call it) posh accents while the peasants and poorer characters have some kind of cockney dialect. Guys, they're French. What are you doing??? 

 

The revival of Nine, a story set in Italy, had everyone speak with an accent, and was rightly criticized for it. But their hand was forced, by the casting of Antonio Banderas in the central role. (And the risk paid off -- he was fantastic in the role, and sang like a dream.) His own accent, which he has never lost, had to be camouflaged as Italian by having the cast around him speak in a similar way.

I've only heard the cast album. Spotify is stupid and won't let me listen to songs that I have in iTunes on the same computer so I can't refresh my memory right now but I don't remember being bothered by the accents. I loved Laura Benanti's number (Unusual Way) and Jane Krakowski's A Call From the Vatican. I remember Laura using an accent but I can't recall if Jane did. 

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 I also find it off-putting that British and some American productions of Les Miserables give the upper class characters Queen's English (or whatever you call it) posh accents while the peasants and poorer characters have some kind of cockney dialect. Guys, they're French. What are you doing??? 

 

See, I find that entirely defensible, on the same grounds that justify the soldiers in Passion sounding American. The English-language production of Les Miserables is meant to be seen by an English-speaking audience, and the place the characters occupy in the social structure of Paris needs to be delineated for an English-speaking audience (among other ways) by the way the characters speak. Language is an important signifier of class, and to lose this signifier just because a piece is translated for a foreign audience would be to lose an important piece of communication. I'm just guessing, but I wouldn't be surprised if in the original French production, this same stratification of language took place: The elite French characters spoke "the King's French," while the characters from the lower social orders spoke the working-class French equivalent of Cockney, whatever that is. Henry Higgins wasn't wrong when he sang, "An Englishman's way of speaking absolutely classifies him." The same is true for every society, and for whatever land a theater piece is translated.

Edited by Milburn Stone
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