Nick & Nora and musical theater necrophilia

Apr 05

<i>Nick & Nora</i> and musical theater necrophilia

The greatest crime the musical Nick & Nora seems to have committed in its ill-fated 1991 debut was not being nearly as good as it should have been and not being nearly the catastrophe everyone had imagined. The notorious musical is based on Dashiel Hammett's final novel, The Thin Man from 1933, which was turned into the more memorable series of Thin Man movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as soigné sophisticates Nick and Nora Charles, who also solve crimes.

Nick & Nora has not been fully produced since its Broadway demise (72 previews and only a week of performances following the disastrous reviews), which is why we love 42nd Street Moon, the company that dusts off the flawed, forgotten and factious musicals of old and allows a contemporary audience to see what's actually there.

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Emily Skinner waltzes away with Moon’s Waltz

Oct 06

Emily Skinner waltzes away with Moon’s <i>Waltz</i>

A love letter to Emily Skinner...

Dear Ms. Skinner,I had the pleasure of seeing you perform in 42nd Street Moon's production of Do I Hear a Waltz, and I was completely captivated by your Leona Samish, the lonely American tourist who travels to Venice for a taste of life. I have fond memories of Moon's 1998 production back when they were doing staged concert productions with actors holding their scripts. That was my first encounter with Waltz, a 1965 Broadway curiosity that matched three musical theater masters – Richard Rodgers , Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents. The show, by all accounts, was a misery to create, primarily because Rodgers, lacking confidence in his abilities in the wake of Oscar Hammerstein's death, was a miserable and stubborn collaborator

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SF Symphony soars through magnificent West Side Story

Jun 28

SF Symphony soars through magnificent <i>West Side Story</i>

It's hard to imagine but it's true: the music is so glorious you barely even miss the dancing. The San Francisco Symphony concludes its season with the first concert presentation of the full score for West Side Story, and it's simply mind blowing. For the original 1957 production, composer Leonard Bernstein apparently made concessions in the orchestrations based on what was available to him at the Winter Garden Theatre. Then, when the chance came along to re-orchestrate for the movie in 1961, orchestrators Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal (under Bernstein's supervision) went big but perhaps too big. According to Symphony program notes, Bernstein then worried that the work had become "overblown and unsubtle."

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West Side represent!

Oct 28

<i>West Side</i> represent!

To quote one of the Jets, “Dig this and dig it the most.” The most compelling drama at Wednesday’s opening of West Side Story wasn’t happening on the stage of the Orpheum Theatre. It was a few blocks away at the giant theater known as AT&T Park, where the Giants were routing the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of the World Series.

The Orpheum stage crew thoughtfully announced the score before the show started and then shared the news of the Giants’ win before the show resumed after intermission.

The Giants delivered an impressive score Wednesday night, and so did West Side Story. Under the baton of John O’Neill the 19-piece orchestra conveyed the irresistible pulse of Leonard Bernstein’s music and gave the entire evening the sort of dramatic heft and unbelievable beauty that only occasionally appeared on stage.

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Just play it cool, boy! The enduring sound of West Side Story

Oct 25

Just play it cool, boy! The enduring sound of <i>West Side Story</i>

What is it that makes West Side Story so incredibly intoxicating, even 53 years after its premiere? There's no denying the power of Jerome Robbins' athletic and gorgeous choreography or the simplicity and (occasional) corniness of Stephen Sondheim's lyrics (his first for a Broadway show). And Arthur Laurents' book, which puts a 1950s spin on Romeo and Juliet, is about as solid as Broadway books come.

But it's the music, Leonard Bernstein's astonishing music that elevates West Side Story to legendary status. Combining classical with jazz with show tune, Bernstein concocted a highly original sound that has yet to be bested on the Broadway stage. This is a score for the ages, one equally at home in the symphony hall as in the high school auditorium. How many scores can fit as comfortably in both spaces? Aside from Bernstein's own Candide (which he was working on in tandem with West Side Story), not many.

We'll have the chance to revisit the score this week as the most recent Broadway revival comes to town as part of the SHN/Best of Broadway series.

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