Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Life of Bits and Scraps

"The Glorious Ones" at the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center, November 10, 2007

From the talented Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens is a new musical that chronicles the career of Flaminio Scala based on the book of the same name by Francine Prose. Italian commedia dell'arte tradition is where the story centers.

As Flaminio, Marc Kudisch is in strong voice, mixing a bit of the Pirate King to his swaggering leader of the motley crew. He does have a touching moment in the 11 o'clock number, "I Was Here." There is an occasional lapse into overly nasal tones, but it's under better control here compared to other performances of his. As Columbina, his lover and leading lady, Natalie Venetia Belcon makes a giant leap away from her role of Gary Coleman in Avenue Q as the former prostitute-turned-actor. With heaving décolletage, she is most uncomfortable when her role requires her to be less sexual. This made for an interesting contrast during her song about her relationship with Scala, "My Body Wasn't Why."

As the newly created harlequin, Jeremy Webb's Francesco services satisfactorily (nice job juggling on his entrance). Erin Davie as his love Isabella has made a nice transition from the slightly manic Little Edie to the ingenue who wants to write plays.

I had a bit of trouble deciding about Julyana Soelistyo's Armanda Ragusa, the dwarf. Sometimes the gender of this role was a bit unclear, between the writing and the costume, although Ms. Soelistyo's gender was apparent. Her portrayal did fall a bit short of the kind of idol-worship Armanda professed.

David Patrick Kelly as Pantalone, and John Kassir as Dottore both acquitted themselves well in their respective roles.

Dan Ostling's multilevel wooden stage evokes the period nicely and is complemented by Stephen Strawbridge's lighting. Mara Blumenfield costumes have captured the period very nicely as well, though some of the silks looked a bit rich for such a ragtag troupe.

Director/choreographer Graciela Daniele, along with Ms. Ahrens and Mr. Flaherty have improved from their last outing at Lincoln Center, "Dessa Rose," but one can see they long for another epic success like "Ragtime." (Say what you will - it's one of my favorite scores in contemporary musical theatre.) Here, they seem to struggle between telling the tale of Flaminio's troupe or writing a commedia dell'arte piece. This becomes particularly apparent at the end as they wrap up the story exactly as they ended "Ragtime" with each character explaining his/her own final story. There are some excellent moments here, too. Most notable was "Armanda's Sack" the penultimate number in which Armanda and the troupe retrace their journey with memories sparked by bits and scraps of fabric from the multitudes of costumes they wore along the way. This song particularly reminded me of a very close friend, who could easily trace much of his own life in the same way.

No comments: