B-level work of A-level artists can be more interesting and successful
than the A-level work of B-level artists.
Hammerstein's 1953 musical is not among their best, but by any
standards but their own it is a thoroughly entertaining light musical
typical of the period, and this sprightly fringe production shows off
all its virtues and limits.
actually wrong with Me And Juliet, just the sense that both creators
were in a minor artistic slump. Hammerstein's book (one of his rare
originals) essentially just moves the plot of Oklahoma to a theatre's
backstage - chorus line girl chooses stage manager nice guy over
stagehand bad boy, and bad boy gets very angry. The structure and
lyrics to the opening song, 'A Very Special Day', come out of the same
perky-heroine cookie cutter as 'Cockeyed Optimist' and 'It Might As
Well Be Spring'.
song in the score, 'No Other Love', is set to a melody Rodgers wrote as
background music to a TV documentary two years earlier, and some of the
other tunes, notably for 'The Big Black Giant' and 'It Feels Good',
sound like Carousel out-takes.
Love' is a good song, the pastiche numbers for the musical
the musical (the one the characters are putting on when not involved in
their romantic triangle) are witty, and it's all quite pleasant in its
modest, somewhat generic way.
that may be the
biggest disappointment 1953 audiences felt - the show ran a year, which
by R&H standards amounted to a flop - the sense that this was a
generic little musical that anyone could have written.
generic quality is evident in this production, with none of the
performers able to give more than type-characterisations or to put
their individual stamp or personality into the roles or songs. Everyone
is fine and no one is memorable.
do go to
director Thom Southerland for inventively fitting the musical
(originally with a cast of 74) into the Finborough, and for generating
a nice sense of the on- and offstage division in the characters' lives
- it is fun, for example, to see them stand chatting in the 'wings' and
then turn on the flashing smiles as they go 'onstage'.
credit also to
choreographer Sally Brooks, who creates pocket versions of big
production numbers for the inner musical that evocatively hint at a
cast of 74 while never seeming cramped on the tabletop-sized stage.
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