Friday, August 17, 2007

Through Sung Musicals

Larry Stark talks about why he doesn't feel the need much anymore to review such musical powerhouses as Miss Saigon...

I hate, detest, and abominate "through-sung" anything. Richard Wilbur's translations of Moliere are not only lyrical, they rhyme --- but intelligent actors find expressive advantage in running around or over the rhymes when everyday details arise. That's a little hard to do when a composer has forced upon a phrase like "Hi, how are you?" notes and rhythms that, contractually, cannot be ignored. I call such sprecht-stimmer "WRETCHED-tatif" and I say the hell with it.

If the music is what is really carrying the emotional weight of the
show, that music better be damn good, and well-wedded to everything the words themselves are saying. The secord or third time I saw "Evita" I managed to ignore the score (Sir Andrew, in my mind, is an artistic excrescence propped up by Tim Rice and his other his lyricists/librettists) and I listened to The Words. And what I heard was a powerful "play with a couple songs thrown in" that could have been Brecht for the new century --- except for the pseudo-Puccini histrionics slathered on top.

And unfortunately I had the same experience with "Miss Saigon" [It was my THIRD production there, too!]: there were good, gifted performers singing their hearts out (and Still Acting! That's my definition of excellence in musical theatre.) --- and I was sitting there thinking, "Now, how would that actor say those lines if she didn't have to Bellow Them at me over the orchestra?"

This reminds me of what I, and several other reviewers found so frustrating about the musical Parade back a couple of months ago; the idea of singing the book.

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