“Putting together a reading is nerve-wracking, at least it was for me. Fortunately, I had the resources of a small theatre company, including their space and a corral of actors.”Read More
You’ve probably seen it: at the end of a play about some kind of tragedy, every character in the play starts interlocking monologues that individually paint their own pictures but which add up to a bigger picture, and the audience is often forced to move their heads around like their watching the worst game of tennis ever. I can see why playwrights would do this, but I think it is hurting plays.Read More
When looking at both a musical adaptation and its source material, I try to let each be its own thing, to not judge them by each other’s standards, but look at how they coexist. This is typically easier if I am familiar with the musical first, since I usually already have affection for it, and source material is rarely expected to “live up” to what has been created from it, unlike the other way around. For the past few months, I have been very slowly making my way through Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables,” the thousand-plus page novel that is the basis for one of the most beloved pieces in the history of musical theatre.
For the most part, I have been impressed and amused seeing how the writers of the musical (Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Jean-Marc Natel, Herbert Kretzmer, Trevor Nunn, John Caird, and James Fenton) condensed and streamlined the massive story. Two characters, though, have stuck out to me as having made unnecessarily imperfect translations to the stage. I believe the musical version of “Les Mis” would be better if Javert and Éponine’s big numbers were cut.Read More
I’ve noticed something of a trend at the Winter Garden Theatre over the past few years. Three of the last four productions that have played there have been musicals based on movies with iconic central characters. The one production that did not was about icons, but of a very different sort. The historical figures depicted in “Wolf Hall” are iconic, but not from movies, not from being embodied by a singular actor. Rocky, from “Rocky,” Dewey, from “School of Rock,” and Beetlejuice, from “Beetlejuice,” are very closely tied to the actors who played them originally, actors who were a big part of why the movies were so popular that they were adapted into musicals. As each one of these musicals has come to Broadway, most recently “Beetlejuice,” taking up residence in the Winter Garden this spring, I’ve had the same apprehension: the material may be good for the musical theatre treatment, but who’s going to get stuck toeing the fine line between doing his own thing and imitating an icon?Read More
The plan was to move to New York City, get into a Broadway show, and find a composer to finish my musical. No, not your plan, mine. Oh, it was yours too? Well, you'll appreciate this: only the first thing happened, and that remains true more than seven years on.Read More
Many things happen after a performance ends. Actors get out of hair, make-up, costumes, and anything else that might go into becoming their characters. Stage managers write performance reports, accounting for any mishaps that hopefully went unnoticed by audiences. For me, currently, post-show activities center around scraping deviled egg from on stage plates and silverware, which allows me to notice the post-show activities of another of my colleagues in the theatre: the usher. After the audience files out, the usher sweeps through the rows of seats to tidy up before the next performance. There are discarded drinks, wrappers, headphones that will live in the lost and found for a while, and, if the world is fair, at least a little bit of fallen money. But none of that confuses me like the abundance of playbills I see picked up and headed for the garbage after a show.Read More
The year 1918 was a good one for culture: it gave us Leonard Bernstein, honored with an exhibit at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts earlier this year, and also Jerome Robbins, born October 11th of that year, the current subject of such an exhibit, and the namesake of southern border of Lincoln Center Plaza, 62nd Street. Last spring, the library celebrated Robbins's centennial with "Robbins At Night," projecting images of Robbins and his work on the ground just outside its front door from 7pm to 1am, images that sparkled not just with Robbins's creativity but with the reflective specks embedded in the ground of the plaza.Read More
While my first priority was always seeing whatever shows I had come to see that particular trip, early visits to New York City were also consumed by my eagerness to take it all in. Not the city; Broadway, specifically the fabled theatres. Long before thousands of pictures from a single day could be stored effortlessly on one's mobile phone, my dad would, fortunately, pack enough film (long, black, shiny plastic-y stuff with chemicals that fixed themselves into images when exposed first to light and then to other chemicals) to get pictures of me in front of every Broadway marquee we could find. With no idea what most of the shows were, and absolutely no idea who the theatres were named after, I collected Broadway marquees in a camera. It was really quite innocent if I do say so myself.
Now, I'm old and I know things, and things that used to be pure fun are borderline offensive to me. Watching a television report on a new Broadway show recently, I found myself asking, "What business does that show have in that theatre with that namesake?" It was an irrational response to an ultimately harmless coincidence that I realized I have felt several times over the past few years at least, and something I thought worth exploring. Why is it jarring to see certain Broadway marquees?Read More
I had the good fortune to see the cartoonist Alison Bechdel give a talk at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2010. Mostly, she talked about the process of creating a comic strip or graphic novel, but one thing she said stood out to me, and made me think of musicals. Unfortunately, that talk was not recorded and put online, but it must have been similar to this part of a talk she gave at Cornell a year or so earlier, which was put on YouTube: “I had the somewhat unusual experience of being raised by parents who loved music and books and art and who really wanted me to become an artist or a writer…It’s a double edged sword because you still have to rebel against it. So I think I came up with a pretty good way of rebelling: instead of becoming an artist or writer, like they wanted me to, I became both at once.”Read More