Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Stop With the Musical Instruments, Already

Oh, come on. It was cool and inventive when director John Doyle staged a production of "Sweeney Todd" that involved all the major players doubling as orchestra members, but this is getting a little bit precious, don't you think?

It's a Cincinnati production of Sondheim's "Company" using the same gimmick.

The Times reviewer, Charles Isherwood, seems to think this contrivance works on behalf of the musical's power, but this fish ain't bitin'. I'm sorry, you can wax poetic about how all married couples communicate in modalities other than speech, and that's groovy and everything and I believe you, and you can tell me that watching the couples in "Company" play their tubas and clarinets at each other is deeply symbolic of marriage and everything, but I think it's just cheap.

Hire an orchestra and let them play the score. Let the actors act, sing and dance. For pity's sake, they've got enough to do, and musicians have a hard enough time keeping bread on their tables. Hey Mr. Reviewer, when you off-handedly mention that none of the actors manage to find really memorable specificity in their characters, ya wanna know why? Because they're blowing a freaking trumpet or banging a drum through the show, and it's hard to create a memorable character when you're playing in the pit at the same time.

"Company" is a beautiful show. Everyone should see it. Single people should see it. Married people should especially see it. Everyone should have heard Bernadette Peters singing "Being Alive" off of her Carnegie Hall album (not the bombastic, mushmouthed Patti LuPone version off the "Sondheim at Carnegie Hall" album, and there's a difference). Everyone should have had the chance to see a corps of goofy adults sing "Side By Side" and find themselves cheering with total abandon because it's so wonderful. And everyone, everyone should know all the lyrics to "The Ladies Who Lunch." Everyone, everyone should have had the chance to see Elaine Stritch perform this number with a glass in her hand.

And no one should have to see April the stewardess leave for Barcelona with a tuba over her shoulder, no matter what Charles Isherwood says.

Man, I have so many dream roles I want to play yet. Now I live in fear that I'll finally get cast as the Old Lady in "Candide" and I'll have to drag a bassoon around the whole time. Stop the madness.

P.S. If anyone owns the DVD of the documentary that was made of the recording of the "Company" Original Cast Album, please oh please loan it to me. I will make you dinner.


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