TT: Magic in miniature

Today’s Wall Street Journal drama column is devoted to a pair of small-scale off-Broadway revivals that I loved, the Peccadillo Theater Company’s Room Service and the Irish Repertory Theatre’s Meet Me in St. Louis:

“Room Service” is a hard-charging farce about a fast-talking Broadway producer with a heart of brass who can’t raise enough cash to pay his hotel bill. Written by John Murray and Allen Boretz, it opened on Broadway in 1937, ran for 500 performances and was sold to Hollywood as a vehicle for the Marx Brothers, who filmed it the following year to modest comic effect (it wasn’t exactly their kind of show). The Peccadillo Theater Company, an Off Broadway troupe that specializes in “forgotten American classics,” has brought it back to town for the first time since 1953. Farce is the trickiest of theatrical genres to pull off–it requires on-the-nose timing and cocksure bravado–but this production, directed with zany aplomb by Dan Wackerman, is funny enough to take your mind off anything short of a death sentence….

As the producers of “High Fidelity” learned to their dismay, few coups are harder to carry off than turning a popular movie into a successful stage show. Vincente Minnelli’s “Meet Me in St. Louis,” among the half-dozen best film musicals ever made, was adapted for the stage by Hugh Wheeler and brought to Broadway in 1989. It closed its doors seven months later–not a bad run, but not a good one, either. Now the Irish Repertory Theatre has slimmed it down to Off Broadway proportions and given it a revival so stylish that I can’t help but wonder why the original production (which I didn’t see) failed to ring the bell….

No free link, so pick up a copy of this morning’s Journal, which will also give you the opportunity to peruse the paper’s brand-new and much-discussed redesign. Alternatively, go here to subscribe to the Online Journal, which will give you instant access to my review, plus the rest of the Journal‘s weekend arts coverage, which is soooo not for billionaires only. (If you’re already a subscriber, the column is here.)

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TT: That laugh could cost you

In my next “Sightings” column, to be published in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, I look at two seemingly unrelated court cases that turn out to have a great deal in common. One is the fast-brewing imbroglio triggered when the director, choreographer, and designers of the Broadway production of Urinetown publicly accused two regional theater companies of stealing their ideas. The other is the decision of a London judge to award forty percent of the copyright of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” to the organist who played on the original Procol Harum recording–even though he didn’t write the song.

Are these cases watershed moments in the ongoing redefinition of intellectual property rights? For the answer, pick up a copy of tomorrow’s Journal, where you’ll find my column in the “Pursuits” section.

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TT: Almanac

“To have a large audience is not obscene. To want one is.”

Ned Rorem (quoted in W, Oct. 10, 1980)

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