Friday, January 13, 2006

"Lestat" a new musical (yes, a musical, but without a "!" in the title)

Well. San Francisco has the mixed blessing of seeing "Lestat" in it's pre-Broadway incarnation. It's the new Elton John musical, by the way. First, the positives: The voices of the entire cast were outstanding! Carolee Carmello is especially effective as Lestat's mother, Gabrielle. She reminded me of a young Betty Buckley. Allison Fischer also steals the show as Claudia, in doing basically a "Bad Seed" imitation. It doesn't fit at ALL with the production, but it was entertaining as she pops up at around the 2 hour mark. (FYI: she is 16, playing a 10 year old, who is actually only 5 years old in the book. Anyway...)

Now, the rest of the production. It is sort of hard to figure out where to start. However, one can begin with the material. Elton John's score is dull. There are a couple of numbers that almost get you involved, however running at 2 hours and 40 minutes, there's got to be something MORE to keep you going! What the score initially lacks is the "I want" song. What does Lestat want? There are also lost opportunities for Lestat and his supporting cast, i.e. a duet for him and Nicholas would have been lovely, as well as some sort of trio for Lestat, Luis and Claudia. As it is now, each character has something of a moment, but nothing that brings them together, with the exception of a particularly Disney-like finale. And for what is Lestat's show, he is not given the kind of material to make it his own. Which leads us to...

Lestat is performed by Hugh Panaro. He is an 'Andrew Lloyd Webber tenor' as can be ascertained by his bio. He has a great voice. However, he just doesn't seem to know how to play Lestat. His technique is so wooden, it is nearly melodramatic, which is in direct contrast with the very POP music that he needs to sing. He also does not seem to form any kind of connection with anyone, with the possible exception of Gabrielle. And he has an annoying habit of upstaging the supporting cast. tsk, tsk. Why hasn't the director helped him? Which leads us to...

The director, Robert Jess Roth. He directed the mind numbingly successful "Beauty and the Beast," but is more notorious for having been the director who was fired from the original production of Disney's/Elton John's "Aida" in Atlanta. I can sort of see why. Firstly, the pacing is just DEADLY at times, and most unfortunately, especially in the second act. He hasn't seemed to pull Linda Woolverton's book and Elton John's score and the production design together without making cuts and concessions. I sort of got the feeling that Roth said "Yes" to everything that anyone on his production team wanted. There is not feeling of guidance, aka direction for the production. It just keeps slugging along.

That said, the costumes by Susan Hilferty ("Wicked"), wigs by Tom Watson ("Wicked" again) and sets by Derek McLane ("I Am My Own Wife") are all quite effective, especially in presenting the passing of 200 years. The 'Visual Concept Design' (aka projections) by David McKean ("MirrorMask") and lighting by Kenneth Posner (again, "Wicked") are a bit overdone. I love McKean's work, but it seemed that the production relied too heavily on the projections at key moments, i.e. whenever someone was sucking someone else's blood. Also, the constant intertitles projecting Lestat's narration was annoying, and it was an obvious way to kill time for another costume change. And what might work cinematically, is just a bit confusing on stage as one is trying to concentrate on this really complicated story while also watching some truly surreal art behind the performers. Again, it is as if Roth said 'yes' to everything.

But seeing as this is its first stop (next stop: Boston), perhaps this is how Roth works: Throw EVERYTHING in and we'll start cutting. I'm just not sure that cutting is going to help. He needs to get John and Bernie Taupin (lyrics) back in there and write stuff for LESTAT!! It is HIS show! And start forgetting about being so slavishly tied to Anne Rice's books (the show includes both "Interview with a Vampire" and "Lestat").

1 comment:

JimmyD said...

The FIRE. I also must single out The Fire! The projected FLAMES. And did I mention The FIREY FLAMES?