Up and coming on my calendar:
On the other hand, here’s a thought experiment: try to imagine a ballet like George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments
– Commissioning fee paid to Igor Stravinsky by the Boston Symphony in 1930 for Symphony of Psalms: $6,000
– The same amount in today’s dollars, courtesy of Inflation Calculator: $64,828.22
(Source: Stephen Walsh, Stravinsky: A Creative Spring)
“The philosopher and the poet are ‘unbourgeois’ in so far as they preserve a deep and strong sense of wonder, and this fact naturally exposes them to the danger of losing their foot-hold in the everyday world. Indeed it might almost be said that ‘to be a stranger in the world’ is their occupational disease (though of course there could no more be a professional philosopher than there could be a professional poet–for as we said, man cannot live permanently at such heights). Wonder, however, does not make a man ‘able’–it means, after all, to be profoundly moved and ‘shaken.’ And those who undertake to live under the sign and constellation ‘wonder’ (why is there such a thing as being?) must certainly be prepared to find themselves lost, at times, in the ordinary workaday world. The man to whom everything is an occasion of wonder will sometimes simply forget to use these things in a workaday way.”
Josef Pieper, Leisure, the Basis of Culture
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.
“Living in New York is like being at some terrible late-night party. You’re tired, you’ve had a headache since you arrived, but you can’t leave because then you’d miss the party.”
Simon Hoggart, America: A User’s Guide
Here’s my list of recommended Broadway and off-Broadway shows, updated each Thursday. In all cases, I either gave these shows strongly favorable reviews in The Wall Street Journal when they opened or saw and liked them some time in the past year (or both). For more information, click on the title.
Warning: Broadway shows marked with an asterisk were sold out, or nearly so, last week.
– Absurd Person Singular (comedy, PG, adult subject matter, closes Dec. 18, reviewed here)
– Avenue Q (musical, R, adult subject matter, strong language, one show-stopping scene of puppet-on-puppet sex, reviewed here)
– Chicago* (musical, R, adult subject matter, sexual content, fairly strong language)
– Dirty Rotten Scoundrels* (musical, R, extremely vulgar, reviewed here)
– Doubt* (drama, PG-13, adult subject matter, implicit sexual content, reviewed here)
– The Light in the Piazza (musical, PG-13, adult subject matter and a brief bedroom scene, closes Mar. 26, reviewed here)
– Sweet Charity (musical, PG-13, lots of cutesy-pie sexual content, reviewed here)
– The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (musical, PG-13, mostly family-friendly but contains a smattering of strong language and a production number about an unwanted erection, reviewed here)
“Did you ever get to know a man better by asking him questions?”
Arthur Miller, screenplay for The Misfits