John Rando and Joshua Bergasse are ingenious at moving ensembles around a stage—be they orphan pirates, lovelorn young ladies or frivolous policemen. Pirates leap onto rope nets strung down from the top of the theater; they crawl down the aisles at our feet, swords in hand. Young ladies sidestep closely together as they pine in song for young men to be their husbands. Uniformed policemen hop onto each other’s backs or fall down onto the stage dominos style all the while delighting the audience into non-stop grins.
Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is dark, dark musical theatre. A vengeful barber returns to Victorian London, slits the throats of those who have wronged him and with his accomplice turns their bodies into the stuffing of meat pies. Todd’s London is as menacing as he is …
“There’s a hole in the world
Like a great black pit
And it’s filled with people
Who are filled with shit
And the vermin of the world inhabit it …”
Before there was texting, emails, voicemails, and answering machines, there were telephone answering services. An extension of a telephone number was connected to a switchboard in an office where it was answered by an operator. Of course, whoever took the messages learned maybe a little too much about the customers lives, loves and foibles.
Man of La Mancha is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year. Since its premiere at a Greenwich Village theatre in 1965, when it won a Tony for Best Musical, it has had four Broadway revivals and numerous productions all over the world. Its endurance is based on its gorgeous score and its 400 year-old classic story of the dreamer, Don Quixote, who imagines only good and gallantry in a dark, ugly world.
Will the town kill him for the money? The townspeople initially proclaim that it’s not right but are too quickly seduced by the promise of riches and do the woman’s bidding. They rationalize it in the name of justice.
It has been said that the sign of a good musical is when the audience leaves the theatre humming a tune from the show. Not so with Stephen Sondheim. His ability to dazzle us with his lyrics, his verbal brilliance and wit, causes us to ponder his lyrics on the way up the aisle and wonder how he pulls it all off.
Just reading the program builds anticipation for the Barrington Stage Company production of Kiss Me Kate. The songs listed—“So In Love,” “I Hate Men,” “Wunderbar,” “Too Darn Hot”—are among the best from Broadway’s golden age. The first number, “Another Op’nin’, Another Show” adds more anticipation. Then the show builds and builds and builds until it is, unfortunately, way over the top. Barrington Stage Company, always so reliable for exceptional musical theatre, this year embellished a Cole Porter gem. They shouldn’t have. Kiss Me Kate gleams on its own.