It’s Friday, and I’m in The Wall Street Journal, reviewing Sweeney Todd, See What I Wanna See, and Cathay: Three Tales of China. I’m out of town and computerless, but OGIC has been kind enough to post this week’s drama-column teaser:
The greatest musical of the past half-century has returned to Broadway in a staging of the utmost force and originality, an event theatergoers will be talking about for years to come. John Doyle’s single-set version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd,” in which the ten-person cast doubles as the on-stage orchestra (yes, Patti LuPone really can play the tuba), is as far removed as possible from the all-encompassing splendor of Harold Prince’s 1979 production. Instead, it’s modest and intimate, so much so that you’ll feel as though the murderous barber of Fleet Street is personally giving you the closest of shaves.
Michael Cerveris gives the performance of a lifetime in the title role, one all the more potent because of the production’s bare-bones simplicity. With next to no scenery to distract you–not even a barber’s chair–it’s easy to lose yourself in the mad intensity of his demonic stare. Mr. Cerveris, whose head is as smooth as a cueball, looks like an apostate monk on the prowl, and when he proclaims that “they all deserve to die,” you know he means to slit every throat within razor’s reach….
I had to toss a coin to decide whether to lead this column off with “Sweeney Todd” or “See What I Wanna See,” Michael John LaChiusa’s new musical, which opened Sunday at the Public Theater. It’s his strongest piece of work to date, a little powerhouse of a show whose sheer intensity will knock you flat–and make you think….
His stagecraft is sure, his edgy, pop-flavored score commandingly individual (if not conventionally tuneful). Like Adam Guettel, Mr. LaChiusa is thinking hard about the future of the post-Sondheim musical, and in “See What I Wanna See” he has gone a long way toward showing us what it will look like….
It is with a mixture of amazement and horror that I must report the utter unsuitability for viewing by children of “Cathay: Three Tales of China,” a puppet play produced by Ping Chong & Company and performed by China’s Shaanxi Folk Art Theatre.
The New Victory’s season brochure explains in small type that the show is appropriate for children nine and up. I’m not a father, but I can’t even imagine taking a nine-year-old to a show that contains graphic portrayals of violence (including a hanging so vivid that you can hear the breaking of the victim’s neck), explicit mentions of rape, and a smattering of language this paper will not print. I heard gasps from some of the kids at the performance I saw, and I expect some of their parents were gasping as well….
No link. To read the whole thing, of which there’s even more than usual (the Journal gave me extra space this week to write about Sweeney Todd and See What I Wanna See), buy a copy of this morning’s paper, or go here to subscribe to the Online Journal, the best deal in Web-based mainstream-media journalism.
UPDATE: The Journal posted a free link to this review while I was out of town. Read the whole thing here.