Showing posts from June, 2017

Bastard Jones: A Quippy Comedy

Currently playing at The Cell Theater in Chelsea is Bastard Jones (official site), a new musical by Marc Acito (Allegience) and Amy Engelhardt. It is based on Henry Fielding's picaresque novel, The History Of Tom Jones, which might be described as Don Giovanni meets Candide.

One of the comic highlights of the show came before the first (technically non-existent) curtain, when Rene Ruiz, who would later assume the character of Partridge, gave his variation on the standard "turn off your cell phones" announcement. Throughout the performance, Ruiz acted as an emcee and stand-up comic, delivering comic asides and puns to the audience, commenting on the action throughout. One-liners like "I'd swear off drinking, but it's not polite to swear" abound. (When he later entered the story at the end of Act I, he added made-up Latin phrases to his list of comic devices.)

As the action begins, Tom Jones, the illegitimate ward of a squire, is a notorious womanizer, wh…

Novel Narration: How Broadway's Russian Novel May Be An Oratorio

After my last post speaking rather negatively about one of this season's most highly-acclaimed musicals, I thought I'd better make up for it by extolling the virtues of another one. But rather than more or less parroting what all the other reviews say, I hope to contextualize in the frame of a classical oratorio. And this blog post will be short.

Much of the praise for Natasha, Pierre, And The Great Comet Of 1812 cites its highly innovative and immersive staging. It is perhaps more often described as an "experience" rather than a "musical." The corollary to this is that I have heard it criticized as being too complicated, difficult to follow, and not having enough hummable tunes.

I will not justify that hummability criticism with a response. I thought Sondheim smashed that argument into the ground.

The funny thing is that I don't find Great Comet complicated at all. I had to look it up on Wikipedia (it does tell you to do your research in the opening nu…

The Sorrows Of Young Evan: How Broadway's Biggest Hit Might Be A 1774 German Novel

Note: This blog post is lengthier than usual. Read it when you have time.

"Thwarted happiness, confined activity, and unsatisfied wishes are not faults of a given period, but the problems of every single person, and it would be a bad thing if, once in his life, everyone did not have a period in which he felt that Werther had been written exclusively for him."

So said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe regarding his 1774 epistolary novel, The Sorrows Of Young Werther, about a young artist who goes to a quaint little village, falls in love with a woman who does not love him back, wallows in self-pity for a little while, and then shoots himself with her husband's pistol. It became wildly popular, regarded as one of the most significant and influential works in romantic literature (a movement which Goethe later derided as "everything that is sick") and served as an inspiration for many subsequent works. It also lends its name to a sociological phenomenon.

Today, there …