Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
March 16, 2012
Sometimes, you have to step out of your comfort zone; leave your drab, predictable life behind and leap into the unknown, the exciting.
For mousy accountant Leo Bloom, that escape hatch is becoming a Broadway producer. Lucy Honeychurch , on the other hand, doesn’t even know she needs to leave her old life behind – until she gets a taste of what freedom, independence and true passion are really like.
It happens in a Tuscan meadow, where Lucy is impulsively kissed by George Emerson, an atheistic free-thinker at least a class below her in sharply stratified Edwardian England. Though she’s engaged to the uptight, upper-crust Cecil, her life is changed forever by that kiss.
It’s all part of the beloved 1908 E.M. Forster novel, “A Room with a View,” that was made into an award-winning 1985 film. Now, at the Old Globe, it’s a world premiere musical. The look is gorgeous, the proscenium arch framed in Tuscan postcards scenes. The romance, satirically overblown in the book, is comically operatic in the musical, with two actual opera singers nearly stealing the show, as lusty Italian servants and later, inebriated English ones.
Several actors do double duty, Gina Ferrall most successfully. Two old biddies are played with drag stereotype by Will Reynolds and Etai BenShlomo , who fare much better as priggish Cecil and playful Freddy, Lucy’s devil-may-care brother.
As Lucy and George, Ephie Aardema and Kyle Harris are attractive and appealing, but neither has a show-stopping voice. Broadway veteran Karen Ziemba shines, as always, as Lucy’s stiff-necked chaperone.
Jeffrey Stock’s music, while pleasant, is generally unmemorable, except for Cecil’s droll misanthropic ditty, “The Trouble with People,” and the delightful ragtime number, “Splash,” performed in an onstage pond, in the raw. The orchestrations – and the orchestra — are superb.
The lyrics, by Stock and book-writer Marc Acito , are clever and character-defining. Overall, it’s an enjoyable societal skewering, handsomely attired, but alas, not a musical for the ages.
Despite its record-breaking 12 Tony Awards, neither is “The Producers.” The 2001 musicalization of the wacky, 1968 Mel Brooks movie is a screwball romp, including a hilarious dance by walker-using, oversexed octogenarians. When drab, milquetoast Leo Bloom hooks up with flamboyant lothario/impresario Max Bialystock , they set out to produce the worst musical ever, “ Springtime for Hitler.”
Randall Hickman and Douglas Davis, co-founders of Vista’s Premiere Productions, were born for these roles. They’re irresistible together — singing, dancing, cavorting, directing, designing and fundraising – onstage and off. Their first foray into the Welk Theatre, with a cast of 17, is an elaborate affair, though the lush score is taped and the sets are flimsy. Still, this bubble-headed show remains a guilty pleasure.
So spring into the musical season with something new — and something a little bit blue.
Premiere’s production of “The Producers” runs through March 25 at The Welk Theatre in Escondido.
The world premiere of “A Room with a View” has already been extended, through April 15, at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.
©2012 PAT LAUNER