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Clifton Duncan

Carmen Jones

July 1, 2018

Unlike the musicals "Rent" (an update on Puccini’s "La Boheme"), and "Miss Saigon' (inspired by Puccini’s "Madame Butterfly") both of which had all new music by other composers for their contemporary stories, "Carmen Jones" uses the original Bizet score. However, it is not simply an English translation. Hammerstein has written all new lyrics to place the story in a W.W. II Southern community (possibly North Carolina) and with the characters ending up in Chicago for the denouement. While "Carmen Jones" was a smash hit originally running for 503 performances at the Broadway Theatre during the war years, some like then critic James Baldwin found the dialect that Hammerstein had used for his African-American characters both embarrassing and demeaning, and the show has not had a New York revival until now. Notwithstanding, the first London production in 1991-92 was also a tremendous success at the Old Vic Theatre with a mix of both opera and theater stars in the cast. [more]

Hey, Look Me Over! New York City Center Encores! at 25

February 10, 2018

Writer-performer Bob Martin recycles his sweater-clad disaffected “Man in the Chair” character from his 2006 Broadway musical "The Drowsy Chaperone." The conceit is that he’s a disgruntled Encores! subscriber who has been chosen to pick his selections for inclusion. Mr. Martin addresses the audience to offer commentary, often tells inside jokes and interacts with the cast.  Depending on one’s sensibilities, this is either an inspired or an insufferable device. However, it doesn’t mar the actual production. [more]

‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore

May 6, 2015

We associate Jacobean revenge tragedy with the reign of King James I. Each play’s atrocities seemed to dare the next playwright with an unspoken “Can you top this?” Playwright John Ford continued the genre under the next king, Charles I, coming up with new and even more lurid variations. Red Bull Theater which specializes in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries is offering a staging of Ford’s rarely revived masterpiece "‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore." While artistic director Jesse Berger has piloted a solid production which is a good introduction to this unfamiliar play, it all seems a bit tame when the script seems to cry out for tremendous excesses. As always, however, with Red Bull productions, the diction in this revival is impeccable and totally intelligible. [more]