CastAlbums.org: REVIEW: If/Then

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.

Recording Cover

If you enjoy original cast albums in the Goddard Lieberson mold, which is to say, those that reconfigure the songs to be enjoyed without needing to follow the story from which they’re drawn, then you’re well-primed to appreciate If/Then, the new Idina Menzel vehicle by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey. The show follows two different life stories of the same urban planner, Elizabeth, exploring how one inconsequential choice might set off two entirely different life paths. These two parallel lives are portrayed in alternating (and occasionally overlapping) scenes on stage, with different color schemes, nicknames (“Liz” and “Beth”) and the hardest working pair of eyeglasses this side of Clark Kent cueing the audience which timeline they are seeing.  Continue reading

Advertisements

Talkin’ Broadway: Company

Originally published on Talkin’ Broadway.

Most theatre companies are considered bold and edgy when they occasionally stray from the endless succession of Shakespeare and Ibsen revivals to venture into the untested waters of new works. How ironic it is that The SpeakEasy Stage Company, Boston’s company so known for “staging Boston premieres” that the phrase is part of their logo, has chosen to inaugurate their new home in the Nancy and Edward Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts (say that one five times fast!) by making the bold and edgy choice of a revival! Of course, Sondheim and Furth’s Company certainly isn’t seen as often as Hamlet, but the obvious question everyone is asking is … why?

In the show’s program booklet, director Paul Daigneault suggests the time is right for Company, both because the new theatre offers physical resources necessary for the show that were previously unavailable to the SpeakEasy, and because the definition of marriage is such a hot topic in Massachusetts these days. One can’t argue with the former reason – this is certainly the largest production I’ve seen by the SpeakEasy, with a two-story set, a nine piece band, and an ensemble cast of fourteen, at times all on stage together. But does Company, which had its world premiere in Boston in 1970, really have anything to say about what constitutes a marriage in 2004?

Daigneault tries his best to say it does. Taking advantage of the minimal updating to the script and orchestrations from the 1995 Broadway and West End revivals of the show, Daigneault has chosen to set Companyfirmly in the present. Eric Levenson’s set is a slick, modern structure of chrome and light, juxtaposing a sleek, modern sensibility with a decidedly retro bachelor pad feel. While the disco-style light-up floor panels may hark back to Company‘s groovy origins, the costumes, designed by Gail Astrid Buckley and ranging from the wives bedecked in current shopping mall chic to a Marta (Sara Chase) dressed like a Britney Spears acolyte, making it clear that this Company takes place now. The actors gamely try to pass off dialogue referring to themselves “getting soused” and being “hopelessly square” as current slang, and they almost succeed. But the mere portability of the show from the 1970s to today does not instantly make it relevant to the politics of today.  Continue reading

Fynsworth Alley: Donna McKechnie

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

donna mckechnieDonna McKechnie is best known for her Tony Award winning performance as Cassie in A Chorus Line, but her career has spanned four decades, from her start in the chorus of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying all the way through the upcoming Broadway revival of Mack and Mabel. She made her first big splash as a featured dancer on the television show Hullabaloo, where she met Michael Bennett, with whom she would create memorable dances in Promises, Promises, Company, A Chorus Line and more. In recent years, Donna has starred in State Fair on Broadway, Follies at the Papermill Playhouse, and Mack and Mabel as part of the Reprise concert series in Los Angeles. She is currently performing in her one-woman show, and she appears on the forthcoming Fynsworth Alley CD, You Never Know.

DL:When you were a little girl, what made you want to be a dancer?

DM: It was never a question for me. I guess I’m lucky that I didn’t need to grow up and go to college to wrestle with what I wanted to do with my life. Maggie’s story in A Chorus Line, in the song “At The Ballet” is my story. I used to dance around the living room with my imaginary Indian Chief. And it was never separated from the music; the music and the movement were both equally important to me. So my mother took me to ballet classes, and I eventually worked my way up from the little local classes to more serious classes. By the time I was in junior high, I was giving lessons to little girls in my basement. Sheila’s story in A Chorus Line is mine, too, watching The Red Shoes and being inspired by the girl with the red hair. From the time I saw that movie, I wanted to dance ballet.   Continue reading