Tuesday, June 23, 2015

He 'da man

Tonight Peggy, Jim, David, and I saw Man of La Mancha at Barrington Stage. To put it mildly, I was underwhelmed. I'm not quite sure why. I saw the original production in New York at the ANTA Theatre in Washington Square in 1965. As I remember, this was a temporary theatre, possibly even a tent. I remember that a large bridge-like stairway was lowered from the top of the stage into the audience. Other than that, I have no vivid memories.

Richard Kiley was Don Quixote and Joan Diener was Aldonza. I guess that they were fine. The show ran for several thousand performances.

Image result for jeff mccarthy Jeff McCarthy

Tonight's performance was a 'puzzlement' to me. (Sorry to mix Broadway shows). I had a hard time getting involved in the production. Jeff McCarthy played Don Quixote and Felicia Boswell was Aldonza tonight. 

He is a stalwart of Barrington Stage and has appeared in many of their musical productions. I saw him in Sweeney Todd several years ago and felt he was just not a Sweeney Todd vocally. I had the same feeling tonight as regards his singing of the Don. I'm not sure whether he was trying to make his voice sound 'old', like the aging Cervantes, but it really didn't work very well. Gaspy phrases followed by very loud high notes.

Image result for felicia boswell Felicia Boswell

Ms. Boswell acted the part of Aldonza very well but has an even more problematic vocality than he. She pushes the 'chest' voice up to the point of pain and then flips into a tiny head voice for a few notes.

Several other of the male singers had really fine voices, especially Tom Alan Robbins as Sancho Panza.

Image result for tom alan robbins  Tom Alan Robbins

I just had a very difficult time staying involved with the often wandering plot. And the singing of the two leads really put me off.

Oh well, there speaks the voice teacher...

The show started life as a 1959 Television, non-musical presentation. Sometimes trying to expand a work pushes it out of context. This is what I felt tonight.


After finishing this blog last night, I went to You Tube to hear Richard Kiley's interpretation of the role. This is what was missing in last's night's production. He sang 'The Impossible Dream' with fervor, rich voice, and an effortless long musical line. No gasps. When he came to climactic high notes, they were the obvious emotional response to the text. Not a desperate attempt to gain applause.

The main character in any production has to hold the whole thing together. When lesser characters sing better than the star it weakens the whole thing.

Imagine Otello without a strong Otello.

I also just listened to Joan Diener as Aldonza. More of an operatic voice that still has the show-biz sound.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Butler did it!

Tonight David and I saw a fascinating play, Butler, at Barrington Stage 2. Richard Strand, the author, has managed to treat a very serious subject in a hysterically funny way.

The play takes place during the Civil War and the Butler is Major General Benjamin Butler, an exceptionally colorful person.

The plot concerns a slave who tries to give himself up to the General at Fort Monroe. At this period escaped slaves were supposed to be returned to their masters without exception.

While the General likes to rant and roar, he has a soft heart and tries to find a way to avoid doing this. Over the course of the play the General and the slave have shouting contests which are very funny. Finally a Major from the Confederacy comes to take the slave back to his owner. The General refuses to do this on the basis that the slave is 'contraband'.

David Schramm is over the top as Benjamin Butler, shouting and slamming his fist on the desk as he and the slave argue.

Image result for david schramm

Ben Cole plays Lieutenant Kelly, the General's aide who takes some of the General's ire but in the end helps to save the slave.

Image result for ben cole

Maurice Jones plays Shepard Mallory, the slave, with energy and humor.

John Hickok is Major Cary who comes to collect Mallory to return him to his master.
Image result for john hickok
The writing and the performances are all extraordinary. It was a fine evening in the theater.