Monday, September 27, 2021

Weekly Margin 2021, W39: Moulin Rouge!, Persuasion, Stupid Kids, Tony Awards

9/24/21: Moulin Rouge!
What: The Broadway return of the adaptation of one of my favorite films (a repeat visit).
And? I saw this show for my friend Marissa's birthday back in 2019, so I knew ahead of time the weaknesses in the book, including the fact that the momentum just flat out drops when they speak more than four lines of dialogue. The changes made to try to confront some of the issues in the film, for the large part, don't know how to stick the landing (a perpetual issue of mine with adapter/playwright Logan) So putting all that aside, this was my first Broadway musical back (not first musical or first Broadway, but first Broadway musical) and it was the show's reopening, so the energy was ecstatic in that theater. Entrance applause for every ensemble member during the preshow, standing ovations to greet the entrances of Tveit and Burstein, standing ovations at the end of numerous songs, including twice during the opening "Lady Marmalade." "Backstage Romance" was as showstoppingly good as I remembered it being. The night was joyous. I cried when Danny Burstein appeared, knowing what a hard year he's had, and hearing his voice sounding gloriously healthy. Aaron Tveit continues to sound wonderful as well, and Satine replacement Natalie Mendoza is gloriously suited to the part and a gift.

Photo by Zelda Knapp.

9/25/21: Persuasion
What: Bedlam presents Sarah Rose Kearns's new adaptation of Jane Austen's novel about love rekindled.
And? I am ready for director Eric Tucker to stop using a man in a woman's wig as a joke in and of itself. I am ready for femininity to cease being a punchline. Honestly I feel like this is a play trying desperately to be good despite its director's best efforts. The random, uncomfortable, and tonally inappropriate horniness that plagued Peter Pan (Bedlam's worst outing to date) is back in mercifully muted force, and beyond that Tucker's usual bag of tricks is in somewhat effective use. Les Dickert's lighting design, which like many Bedlam productions utilizes a number of handheld lamps manipulated by the actors, is inadequate for this proscenium venue--too often the actors' faces are too shadowed for anything to be conveyed beyond maybe the first few rows. This would work fine in some of Bedlam's earlier, more intimate stagings, but not at the Connelly. John McDermott's scenic design also has a number of headscratchers (someone needs to explain the sheep to me. anyone?), but I will say Jane Shaw's sound design is effective and enjoyable, especially its utilization of the two standing mics for the actors to create ambient sound (the satisfying clink of fork against plate in the dinner scene, yum). The cast is mostly okay, with Caroline Grogan and Yonatan Gebeyehu two particular standouts in a number of roles (even if I hated every choice involving Lady Dalrymple, I still enjoyed Gebeyehu quite a bit). I didn't dislike the show so much as this review is making out--like I said, it's trying so hard to be a good play despite the questionable production choices imposed upon it, and the cast is working hard. But the degree of frustration engendered from the show's shortcomings is ... acute, especially with the memory still fresh of how wonderful Kate Hamill's Sense and Sensibility was.

Streaming Theater Related Content I Watched
  • Broadway's Best Shows's livestream reading of Stupid Kids.
  • The Tony Awards.

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