A show both rollicking and precise began the season at the Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham, New York. Among several accomplished performances, Corrinne Tork as Lola connected the threads of the play into the real thing and raised her performance to an expression of kindness. Damn Yankees purports to be a play about baseball, but it is really a soul-searching adventure. Baseball is only a tangental part of the action, although the writer does allow a victory for all at the end. What really mattered and what really played as if it mattered, was the progress the major characters taught themselves.
Few musicals head to Broadway with the pedigree and promise of The Bridges of Madison County: Music by Jason Robert Brown (Parade, which premiered at Lincoln Center Theatre), book by Marsha Norman (Tony winner for ‘night Mother and The Secret Garden), and directed by Bartlett Sher (South Pacific and many Metropolitan Opera productions). The show, based on a controversial best-seller of the same name by Robert James Waller, is currently having its pre-Broadway developmental performances through August 18 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. It is a privilege to be in attendance at the birth of this musical. Many aspects of the show are going brilliantly. But many need further work.
For lovers of the American musical theatre there is no better reason for goose bumps than a large cast of energetic performers strutting toward the footlights singing the title song of Oklahoma!. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein set up this moment perfectly with a short, vocal solo followed by the full orchestra playing an eight note scale. Finally we hear the one-note crescendo and the familiar melody.
Music at the close. The adage is leave ’em wanting more, not less, but Stephen Sondheim has barely skirted the latter fate. At eighty-one, he’s been erratically revising a problem child since 1999 that is now called, blandly, Road Show. Under various uninspired titles — Wise Guys, Gold!, and Bounce — the musical flipped and flopped around the country from Chicago to New York and Washington D.C. At every step of the way Sondheim, being Sondheim, attracted the biggest names to direct and star, including Hal Prince and Nathan Lane. But no luck.
[Ed’s note. J. R. R. Tolkien detested movies, and he didn’t know what pop culture was, beyond perhaps Ivor Novello…