Monday, April 8, 2019

Weekly Margin 2019, W14: Beetlejuice, Hadestown, Hamlet

4/02/19: Beetlejuice
What: A musical adaptation of the Tim Burton classic about a dead couple haunted by a new family taking over their home, and the demon who just wants to be loved (and to be allowed to destroy everything).
And? We saw it in previews, which means they're probably still tinkering before the official opening on April 25th. The show is uneven, but when it's good it's really good (and when it's not, it's bloated). Fantastic work by the entire design team. There's a lot of cleverness in the songs (though the ballads are more repetitive than clever--I think the writers have difficulty balancing the very dark humor with an attempt at heart). It runs the standard musical length, 2.5 hours, but it feels longer, and some filler still needs to be removed, from both book and score. Strangely, the two least successful musical numbers are the two Harry Belafonte songs from the film. They just don't stop the show the way you expect them to (the way Miss Argentina's "If I Knew Then What I Know Now" does). (speaking of, Miss Argentina is an uncredited doubling by Leslie Kritzer, who absolutely steals the show as Delia and is my favorite) The cast is pretty good (including NY favorites like Alex Brightman, Sophia Anne Caruso, Kerry Butler, and Rob McClure), wisely not trying to recreate the iconic performances in the film, but finding their own way in (the story, too, deviates from the source material on a number of points, so it's best to go in with an open mind). Also, if you're thinking this is a kid-friendly show, keep in mind what kids you'll be bringing. Because our title character says "Fuck Brigadoon," and he means it.

Alex Brightman, Rob McClure, Kerry Butler, Sophia Anne Caruso, Leslie
Kritzer, and Adam Dannheisser as Beetlejuice, Adam, Barbara, Lydia, Delia,
and Charles. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

4/04/19: Hadestown
What: A new musical adaptation of the Orpheus and Euridice myth, written by Anaïs Mitchell and developed and directed by Rachel Chavkin.
And? I adored Chavkin's production of The Great Comet to so many pieces, and I've heard nothing but good hype about this, so perhaps those expectations set me up for a bit of disappointment. Don't get me wrong, the show isn't bad. But it didn't blow me away. It could just be that there was a bit of a void with the two lead performers and their story. I was way more invested in the estranged-to-reconciled arc between Persephone and Hades (a show-stealing Amber Gray and an always wonderful Patrick Page dropping to the bottom of his range to do his best Leonard Cohen--they both had better get Tony noms for this). The design is gorgeous, particularly when the space breaks (Rachel Chavkin does like to break her plays), and the muscular staging and choreography is meticulously perfect (those Fates! those harmonies! Like three voices and bodies with but one guiding mind, are Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, and Kay Trinidad). The one other complaint I'll voice: we were very close, which is amazing, but in the side section. The stage pictures in this production are very much front-facing proscenium stage pictures, but they do not favor the side-seating, so I didn't get the full visual experience that some others were getting. All this to say: people are loving this show, audibly weeping through it. I had some issues, but I won't tell you not to see it.

Amber Gray and the National Theatre cast. Photo by Helen Maybanks.

4/05/19: Hamlet
What: Hamlet Isn't Dead tackles Shakespeare's most intimidating tragedy, with David Andrew Laws and Megan Greener alternating the roles of Hamlet and Ophelia.
And? While I would have loved to have seen both iterations of this production, my schedule is too prohibitive at the moment (I just moved into a new home a week and a half ago), particularly as the director's note from James Rightmyer, Jr., makes it clear that the mere swapping of these two players produces two very different shows. My apologies to the cast and creative team that I could not see them both (for the record, the performance I saw had Greener as Hamlet and Laws as Ophelia). You guys, this is a terrific production. It's a lean and hungry Hamlet: quick moving and well-staged (though, depending on where you sit, you may have to swivel your neck a lot), featuring a terrific cast. Greener's Hamlet is sharp with both pain and wit, and Laws's Ophelia is appealingly vulnerable and sincere. The other big standout in the cast is James M. Armstrong, doing triple duty as the Ghost, the Player King, and the Grave Digger. I don't have words to describe how much I loved him in all three parts. Try and catch their final weekend if you can.

David Andrew Laws and Megan Greener as Hamlet and Hamlet.
Photo by Valerie Terranova Photography.

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