Sunday, April 15, 2007

"How Did I End Up In This Mess?"

"The Pirate Queen" at the Hilton Theatre, April 10, 2007

It's here, it's big, it's splashy and it's a mess. Boublil and Schonberg's latest stage effort has arrived at the Hilton Theatre. After much reported doctoring on the script, score and staging, the producers decided to open this show anyway.

With their first two successes, "Les Miserables" and "Miss Saigon," Messrs Boublil and Schonberg proved that even though the good stuff comes out of London, it could be Frenchmen that actually wrote quality theatre.

Unfortunately, they've not matched their earlier success, first stumbling with "Martin Guerre" which underwent a total re-write from the London to the Canadian productions and never made it to Broadway after a US tour in 1999-2000 (I saw it in Washington, DC on New Year's Eve).

What we get is a not-bad concept that is unfocused and without a compelling book or score. They have assembled some talent in their cast, but all of their efforts aren't enough ballast.

Stephanie J. Block in the title role is likeable and remarkably talented, but no one could bring credibility to a role that has her crawling out of the birthbed where her son was just delivered, to strike the fatal blow vanquishing an English attack on her ship, without rising to her feet. It was not the only time I laughed out loud at what should have been a dramatic moment.

Linda Balgord as Elizabeth I gets all the fun and some fabulous costuming. It's curious that this role was written to be so vocally shrill.

As Grace's real love interest Tiernan, Hadley Fraser is another waste of talent. Great voice, excellent stage presence in an apology of a role.

My biggest thought was that the show was misguided in its plotting, in the same manner that I thought "Boy From Oz" was misguided. BFO should have focused on Judy Garland as the center of the show, with Peter Allen as a featured character, instead of the other way around. With PQ, I think the show would have been much more interesting had it focused on the parallels between Grace's and Elizabeth's life journeys as unconventional leaders in a world that was otherwise totally dominated by men. I think the scenes between Grace and Elizabeth support that - they seemed more interesting to me, relatively speaking.

Frank Galati and Graciela Daniele at the helm, could save this wreck from sinking, sadly. The production plows from number to number, almost in a formula of power ballad-battle-irish dance. Martin Pakledinaz' costumes are a mix of trash and treasure. He does provide nice exposure to some of the hotter pirate/chorus boys as well as the aforementioned Elizabethan regalia. Eugene Lee's overproduced sets, including a three-story trapeze of ship's rigging (which Ms. Block had predictably scaled before the opening number was finished) and a series of theme-park-ride projections. Kenneth Posner's lighting does manage a little more restraint.

I really wanted this show to fix the problems that preceded its Broadway bow. I'm disappointed.


Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Evidently, we were struck by many of the same bizarre choices. In my review of the Chicago tryout, I stated, "I wanted so desperately to like this new musical, but found myself laughing at some key plot points (like Grania’s postpartum sword fight)." S

orry to see they haven't cleaned that up, but I guess when you're talking about the desperate need to shore up the remainder of the show, this laughable item remained intact. Go figure!

Abby said...

Hey-- frequent reader of your blog, first comment though.

Sad to hear that PQ is not up to par with the previous words of Boublil and Shonberg. :o/ It doesn't seem to be taking a hard hit at the box office though.
What a shame.

I had planned on seeing it just for Stephanie Block, because I loved her in Boy From Oz (as underwritten as the part was)-- funny that you compare the concepts of BFO and PQ, Stephanie's only B'way credits.
Bad pickin's, Steph. *laughs*

I love your blog. :o) Congrats on the show, PS!