Retro is in for musicals these days: The past week brought news about shows that time travel back to the latter half of the 20th century, when the camp value (and the hair) was higher.
Let’s travel to 1957 Connecticut for the new musical adaptation of Far From Heaven, which opened last weekend at the Williamstown Theater Festival. With Broadway treasure Kelli O’Hara in the Julianne Moore role, a score by the songwriting team behind Grey Gardens, and direction by Rent‘s Michael Greif, the ’50s weepie has had musical freaks salivating in anticipation.
Word from Williamstown, however, is decidedly mixed: Heaven “has several scratch-your-head ‘What were they thinking’ moments… As it exists now, it is a play about mood rather than character”" says The Troy Record. The paper criticized Richard Greenberg‘s book for being “almost slavish about recreating the film on stage,” a complaint raised by several other critics. The Hartford Courant echoed another common sentiment: “The material may be better suited as an opera, where the thematic luridness, interior passions and private angst can really let loose.” A few songs were marked as soaring and haunting stand outs.
Regardless, O’Hara receives her usual deserved praise, as does the rest of the cast, with the Bennington Banner proclaiming, “O’Hara, it is undeniable, is reason enough to attend.” All critiques agree that the musical is workable. Since the Williamstown run is a precursor to a New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons next spring, we’re hopeful the show’s producers will rework Far From Heaven into something closer to musical paradise.
Soil has been broken on another musical revisiting mid-century culture clashes: an adaptation of the 1960s farmland sitcom Green Acres. The series featured a Manhattan lawyer (Eddie Albert) who dragged his glammed-up Park Avenue wife (Eva Gabor) out to the boonies to raise livestock in Hooterville—much to her five-carat chagrin.
Honestly, we’ve heard worse ideas for a musical, and this could deliver some old-school, splashy Broadway fun. (We can already hear a deliciously diva-ish showstopper for the snooty Gabor character.) Written by Richard L. Bare, who directed 165 episodes of the original sitcom, the story will take off as if it’s just another episode of the series…except two-and-half-hours long. With an intermission. And packed with songs.
Currently in development, Green Acres: The Musical still needs a composer and lyricist. Any musical geniuses who were raised on Nick at Nite reruns might want to look into it. [Playbill]
MACHO, MACHO MEN
Fast-forwarding a decade or so, we put on our platform shoes and zodiac medallions and check in with the rumored Village People musical edging towards the Great White Way. One of the troupe’s creators, French songwriter-producer Henri Belolo is spearheading the show, which centers around how he and co-creator Jacques Morali arrived in Greenwich Village in the ’70s and concocted disco’s greatest macho, mustachioed all-male sensation.
In a world of ABBA, Queen and Billy Joel musicals, you’d think a show that includes arena staples like “Y.M.C.A.” and “In the Navy” would be a sure-fire hit. But after a reading a couple months back, word is that the writers better “Go West” and buckle down for some rewrites. The songs have audiences jiving in their seats, but the book had all the style of tattered bell bottoms washed ashore in Fire Island. Since Broadway musicals attract gay men and women, the writers should whip this guaranteed crowd-pleaser into shape. [NYPost]
SHE’S A MANIAC
Every other ‘80s pseudo-movie-musical has been given a glitzy live makeover, so why not Flashdance? It’s the latest in the line of dubious London stage imports, following Dirty Dancing and the soon-to-disappear Ghost. A late-summer workshop helmed by director/choreographer Sergio Trujillo will rework the material for North America, with a tour expected to launch in January. We’re confident the film’s famous seated water dousing will remain intact, but we’re not sure that will save it from becoming another Footloose or Fame. One has hopes, though. What a feeling! [Playbill]