Far From Heaven–a film with a monstrously overwrought score has been turned to a sadly beautiful musical at Playwrights Horizons.
In the post-show discussion of today’s very early preview, with the director, artistic director of Playwrights, composer Scott Frankel, and lyricist Michael Kortle, they talked about using the architecture of an existing property, like a film, as a starting point. Frankel commented that he looks at a contemplative close up in a film as an opportunity to unrepress the character’s feelings in a song. That really worked in this show, as it did in their Grey Gardens. They also talked about converting stylized 1950s dialogue into lyrics and period-driven rhythm. They have something very good here, liberating a really good story from its hideous soundtrack and adding in their smart songs. It’s almost there.
I brought up how I found the ending too abrupt, that the central character moved faster than I did. I made the comment with some trepidation, since the discussion had been so laudatory to that point. They not only responded well, but also took a poll of the audience who agreed and offered several more suggestions. I feel great that I might have helped the show along, but they were already thinking along the same lines. By Tuesday, it will be on its way to being fixed. So go see it, and let me know.
The heck of it is, one of them said they should hire me. The road not taken…being a dramaturg. I always thought I’d be good at that, being a natural critic and all.
So then to a more traditional musical good time with On Your Toes at City Center.
In the Encores Series, they put on forgotten musicals in a Mickey-and-Judy let’s-put-on-a-show kind of way. It all comes together in just twp weeks, then runs for only one week. Of course, they’re working with Christine Baranski , Kelli Barrett with her huge, sweet voice (a great complement to wondrous Kelli O’Hara this afternoon), a temperamental Russian ballerina played by the hilarious Russian ballerina Irina Dvorovenko from American Ballet Theatre, and old Broadway pros Karen Ziemba, Randy Skinner, and Walter Bobbie. How can you go wrong?
I wore a smile through the Rodgers and Hart songs with their lush sound and clever lyrics, and the Russian ballet, choreographed by Balanchine of course, was laugh out loud funny. Even better than the finale “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” was the tap-ballet dance-off–a literal show stopper.
How could they pull this all together in two weeks? That’s the magic of New York theater.