About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 Theatre, Pt 2

The most recent shows I saw were Mojo, a play from the late 1990s finally getting a full DC production at the Studio's 2nd Stage, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, an unsuccessful transfer from LA's Center Stage/Kirk Douglas and NYC's Public, which closes this weekend.

Mojo was an energetic and well-acted production of a play that isn't so hot, you ask me. Some seedy club, some two-bit singer who might be signing with another club, a dead body of one of the club owners. Important unanswered questions hang over the stage. Lime, how will staying in the club overnight and not reporting the body help the current manager to keep the club Why is this two-bit singer important? All ending on a very strange note of drift. Well, it's worlds better than the inert Parlour Song, also written by Jez Butterworth, but still not good. Butterworth also co-wrote with his brother the rather more successful script for the movie Fair Game, and a newer play of his Jerusalem opens on Broadway in 2011 after an acclaimed run in London. By and large, I don't yet see why Butterworth is considered quite the big thing,but maybe Jerusalem will surprise by being good as it is supposed to be instead of being Enron, which I shall talk on below...

But first Andrew Jackson, which got lots of good reviews during it's run at the Public and which I certainly enjoyed, but at the same time very easy to see why it couldn't cut it on Broadway. Essentially, it's a 100 minutes Schoolouse Rock on President Jackson, only the songs aren't as catchy as Conjunction Junction. We learn lots of good things to know about Jackson, with lots of spoonfuls of sugar to make the medicine go down. As an example, a lot of information about Jackson is relayed by a narrator who rolls on stage in one of those scooters used by disabled people. She gets annoying, so Jackson shoots here, but she isn't actually dead and comes back a bit later, then Jackson goes after her again and she returns, and she may actually be dead the final time she comes on stage, and in the midst of summarizing historians' reactions to Jackson, not as favorable as Jackson might have wished, tells him "you can't shoot history in the neck.". If you have to dump info this is the way to do it! Broadway, so the action is good, Benjamin Walker especially so in the lead role. The set design stretches into and engulfs the audience, though I could have done without the concert style lights directed into the audience that go off way too often and only serve to temporarily blind the audience and keep us from looking at the stage which we have paid even at discount a decent Broadway price to see. Propulsive and energetic rocking songs.

So why didn't this have the decent run of an earlier youth-oriented transfer, the Tony winning Spring Awakening? I think Spring Awakening had heart, while Andrew Jackson is more about history. And Andrew Jackson has rock style music, while Spring Awakening has music that just totally rocks. Kind of like Sondheim, in that you maybe can't sing entire songs, but at least rich songs that stand repeat viewing and I can hum a few bars. Te songs in Andrew Jackson, they're lively and good and fun, the update of Ten Little Indians is a nice one. But I can only hum the concept of the song, and not the song itself, which exits the mind about as quick as it enters. Not totally successful, but I am intrigued by the idea that Alex Timbers (writer) and Michael Friedman (music & lyrics) might do 40 of these to cover all the Presidents. Because I did learn a lot, and was entertained doing it. Doesn't replace a full biography, but as a good entry level survey that raises questions for further study...

A quick word on Enron. What were the British thinking? This was quite the rage in the UK. It had some clever concepts like giant on-stage raptors in honor of Enron's special purpose entities of the same name, and a good visualization of how they were able to nest little ownership stakes inside of little ownership stakes to mask things, but it just wasn't very good. Closed almost immediately upon opening on Broadway.

The other show I saw in London this year was Jersey Boys. That is fantastic. The first act is full of music with enough background along the way to make the slightly more plot heavy second act succeed. The music is great, of course, one classic song after another. I liked the show so much that I was kind of ready to go out, buy tickets, and come back for the next performance. What I need is for some client to come to New York with a desperate urge to see, so I can have an excuse to go again.

But not Wicked, which I saw in Sydney. It was by no means as bad as I feared it could be, I could even admire it professionally as it does a good job of filling in the background of the fantasy world, which is something real fantasy writers need to do when they write their prequels. But it wasn't my cup of tea. At least with this I could kind of figure why some do find it their cup of tea. But Enron? What were the British thinking.

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