KPBS AIRDATE: JUNE 9, 2000
The Old Globe is spinning.… In its 65th anniversary year, the venerable lady in the Park has a new lease on life — with two theatrical winners: a drama of subtle secrets and a musical that bares all. In the Cassius Carter, there’s “Old Wicked Songs,” just the kind of play this intimate theater was built for — a small, spare, thought-provoking piece, extremely well written, acted, directed and designed.
Jon Marans’ Pulitzer Prize finalist focuses on a young American piano prodigy, beautifully played (as is the piano) by Peter A. Smith. A recent graduate of the Old Globe/USD MFA program, Smith’s is definitely a face to watch, as is his real-life mentor, director Richard Seer, both making auspicious Old Globe debuts. In the play, the young musician goes to Vienna to re-discover his muse, and is tutored by a craggy, crusty voice teacher, magnificently inhabited by Daniel J. Travanti.
What the pupil learns is that, in music (as in theater — or life), passion only comes from intense experience, an admixture of joy and pain. The tightly crafted play is brilliantly set against the 1986 Austria of Kurt Waldheim, framed by Schumann’s joyfully painful “Dichterliebe,” a song cycle of gorgeous melodies set to poet Heinrich Heine’s angry words. A moving, touching, funny, poignant play and production — this one’s not to be missed.
Now, everyone knows not to miss “The Full Monty.” The new musical version of the 1997 sleeper film was almost sold out before it even opened. And with good reason.
This is the first new, feel-good musical to come around in a long time — it’s endearing, comical and totally captivating. David Yazbek, a musical theater novice, is surrounded by all these heavy-hitting veterans, but he holds his own. His bouncy, light, rock-infused score maybe not be memorable, but it certainly is likable. Terrence McNally’s book is a hoot, and it transplants seamlessly from industrial England to steel-town Buffalo. The women are still cardboard stereotypes, but the guys are a gas. These unemployed, disenchanted workers decide to become strippers to earn some money; when they can’t exactly face the music, they cleverly borrow their moves from basketball — and bring down the house.
SONG EXCERPT: “Michael Jordan’s Ball”
The cast is excellent, and from minute one, they have the audience eating out of their hands… They may act better than they sing or dance, but they’re still irresistible — and yes, they do go The Full Monty (briefly, in semi-darkness; sit close and squint).
Director Jack O’Brien marshals all his forces for a funny, fast-paced first act, though the second act drags and gets overly sentimental. A few nips and tucks, and this body is ready to be shown to the world — starting this fall in New York.
Vive La Monty — long may it (and its various parts) wave!
©2000 Patté Productions Inc