Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tale of Two Cities, part xvdci

Or so it feels, but I'm really fascinated with the process of cutting down and changing a Broadway show. Frankly, I'm amazed how much they're still doing after months of previews in Sarasota.

My previous experience with such matters is limited to the Lowell House Opera's premiere of an opera by a Harvard prof, which I produced. It was nothing but cut after cut after cut, as the opera was four hours long, the orchestration was being done literally at the last moment, and nobody could learn the music in time. In retrospect, it was a freaking nightmare.

In nine days, significant changes were made in this musical. Most importantly, one comic relief number was cut. And just as well; it was a scene in a graveyard and dealt with Jerry Cruncher's sideline as a graverobber, and it featured Cruncher and three supporting characters almost never seen again. No plot development except one very tiny point, no character development, not musically memorable, and not very funny. I feel bad for those supporting actors, but it's a fantastic cut and trims the first act considerably.

They're having a terrible time with the opening, though. When I first saw it, Dr. Manette sang his past history, and then little Lucie goes to England and big Lucie pops out to learn that her father has been found. Cue fanfare and the title card thrown up on a scrim, applause. This time, Dr. Manette's song was gone in favor of a tableau. The problem with this is that it leaves big Lucie as the introductory singer, and while she has a sweet voice that she uses well, she's simply not the strongest. If they could chop and change this to get Madame Defarge to sing something about the oppression of the common people, it would be ideal. Natalie Toro is amazing and (I think) the highlight of the show other than Barbour.

They've also added more business, more emoting, and more instrumental cues. Lucie's big number in the second act was pulled earlier so that the ending can flow better. It's coming together.

I'd like to see more cuts still, frankly. The closing number of the first act is not terribly good, and I'd like them to stop earlier with a really strong number, "Out of Sight," that gets a reprise in the second act. Or as I put it to my friend at intermission, "Here's what I would do if I were god," to the great amusement of the people behind us.

It was interesting to get my friend's perspective, because generally you only hear people enthusing; those who are quietly snarking are very hard to eavesdrop on. She thought the first act was way too much like Les Mis; she also thought that Barbour was the best by far and so much the best that it made it uneven. I think that's a bit harsh on the rest of the cast, but they were also clearly playing with sound levels again, and hearing him from further back this time through the speakers, he did sound different. But still unbelievable. I'm convinced that Sydney's big song, "I Can't Recall," is going to become a Broadway standard.

Who knows what else they'll change? I probably won't ever see it after it's 'frozen,' but they definitely have the makings of a fairly good show, and a showcase for some amazing talent.


Reflections on an Epic in the Making said...

Sorry I didn't get back to you. I am crazy busy and haven't had much time to post about the show. Glad to hear your thoughts. It sounds like the show keeps getting tighter tighter. Hope you don't ever get too busy to enjoy the theatre!

Rob said...

Thanks for coming to visit my blog as well. Soon, my thoughts on Tale will be more or less wrapped up, and my blog will turn its attention to other topics that buzz around my mind.

You know, one of the weirdest things about being in a Broadway show is leaving the theatre. there are people waiting for autographs, but if you're in the ensemble like me, you have no idea whether or not to approach the fans who are obviously waiting for the stars to come out. I've certainly been stopped to sign programs and posters, but mostly it's just awkward! Oh well. We should all have such problems.

Thanks for your kindness and perspective. Feel free to visit again, though it seems you update your blog much more frequently than I.