In one corner of the world, the Broadway glitterati pats itself on the back and loudly proclaims its tolerance even as it rises and cheers Robert De Niro’s clarion call, “F**k Trump and all his supporters” (I paraphrase).
In another corner at exactly that same moment, President Trump is in Singapore preparing for an historic meeting that could lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and peace in a highly unstable part of the world.
And that juxtaposition clearly doesn’t strike anyone on Broadway as odd. The Tony Awards is a party on its own self-obsessed planet. I’m a big Broadway fan and have probably seen more of the play nominees than a lot of Tony voters, but I have to wonder about an industry that clearly despises the people it feeds off of. Continue reading
6/3/18 (Sun), Tokyo
Massenet’s utterly charming 1899 French take on the Cinderella story, making an overdue debut at the Met in a production by Laurent Pelly. While not as memorable musically as Rossini’s Cinderella opera Cenerentola, it is more whimsical, magical and fun. I had higher hopes for the score after the supremely melodic ballet version of Manon at the ROH just several weeks earlier, but that was a piece created long after Massenet’s death and stitched together from various of his works, presumably taking all the good parts. The only truly impressive musical moments this time were the second-half love duet and the fairy godmother’s vocal acrobatics. Even so, the virtues of the show came through in spades, especially in this light-hearted production. It’s strange that it took so long for the Met to get to this gem, especially as this is a ready-made production that has been around since 2006 with the same Cinderella; it shouldn’t have taken 12 years to decide on this, much less nearly 120 years.
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (National Theatre Live)
5/29/18 (Tues), Tokyo
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern get their day again in the Old Vic’s revival of Tom Stoppard’s through-the-looking-glass take on Hamlet, broadcast as part of the great National Theatre Live series. I always thought that Beckett did the two-man existential comedy act with more punch and efficiency, but R&G is a fun ride nevertheless and with funnier lines to boot (“We’re actors – we’re the opposite of people” “[He’s] stark raving sane” “Life is a gamble with terrible odds. If it were a bet you wouldn’t take it” “The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily… that is what Tragedy means”). Its concept of diving into a classic through its minor characters is feeling its age, partly because of the many imitations it has spawned (Wicked, anyone?), and the part with the players is a hippie touch stuck in the 1960s, saved only by a fabulously flamboyant performance by David Haig as the lead player. But the dazzling wordplay and audaciousness of the interaction between Shakespeare’s fictional world and Stoppard’s own are as fresh as ever. Continue reading
- The Inheritance, Part 1, 4/26/18 (Thurs), Young Vic
- The Inheritance, Part 2, 5/1/18 (Tues), Young Vic
The Inheritance, Part 1: The first half of a seven-hour portrait of gay yuppies in the Trump era — can’t get more contemporary than that. It is reminiscent of Angels in America in its epic canvas, multiple story lines, gay Manhattan setting, AIDS-related theme, broken relationships and up-to-date politics under a conservative government (plus a lead role that would be perfect for Andrew Garfield). But it is not as angry or preachy. Whereas Angels was written and staged at a time when the gay community was still finding its voice in the face of a mysterious deadly virus and social ostracism, the situation has changed drastically in the intervening years, with gays enjoying much higher visibility and widespread acceptance. The real difference is that this generation has no collective memory of the road that others had to travel to put it there, and the theme of the show is how to remember and deal with the past in order to appreciate the present. (Angels has its own issues in how it interprets the past, but that’s another story.)
- My Not-So-Fair Lady, Part 2, 4/25/18 (Tues)
Eliza Doolittle is now officially woke, going by the reviews of Bartlett Sher’s just opened revival of My Fair Lady. The newly conceived ending, as gleaned from spoilers (not to be revealed here), has the former flower girl breaking decisively from her mentor Higgins and going off on her own. No suggestion of romantic love or tolerance for human quirks as in the original musical. That would undoubtedly have pleased the resolutely feminist George Bernard Shaw, who insisted to the end that Eliza would never have returned to Higgins after she has become an independent woman. (In the final scene of Pygmalion, the basis for the musical, Higgins commands Eliza to go buy him a pair of gloves, at which she snaps, “Buy them yourself”, and leaves angrily.) That said, Shaw’s own actors in the original stage show and the producers of the film version, to his fury, all altered the ending without his permission to hint at a budding love affair. So any change back to Shaw’s original concept would be swimming against a long established tide.
But maybe not these days. Continue reading
- 驟雨 (Sudden Rain), 4/21/18 (Sat)
Mikio Naruse’s 1956 portrait of a marriage. Continue reading