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THAT CERTAIN "SOMETHING"
29 April 2013
Tonight, after dinner, Walt said he was glad I had been able to make a visit to Davis. I told him I thought it was a nice little town and I hoped I would be able to spend more time here.
Yes, tomorrow I'm on the road again, to take my mother back to Kaiser to have her TB test read a second time. Fortunately I have two things to do in San Rafael. I never got my I.D. faxed to the medical secretaries and, as my mother's appointment tomorrow is 12:30, they will be there and I can prove that I am who I say I am at that time.
Then it will be over. I hope.
Last night we went to the world premiere of a new musical, The Little Princess, based on the book of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who also wrote The Secret Garden.
I've been following Hollywood and Broadway and all things concerned with both places for it seems most of my life. I think my love of celebrities and movies and stage shows was fostered by both my mother, who loved listening to radio soap operas and reading movie magazines, and my grandmother, who had been a chorus girl in Vaudeville and periodically took my mother to a stage show in downtown San Francisco.
Because I read a lot of stuff about things going on around Broadway, I know that occasionally you'll read about this fabulous new play or musical that is in out of town tryouts. You get all excited because it has a stellar cast of big name talent involved and you're sure that it's going to be a big hit.
But then you don't hear much about it and then you find out that it closed out of town.
Or it might open in New York and close after a day or a week.
I've always wondered how that can be, when you have top production values, big name stars who have proven themselves able to do well on the stage. What goes wrong?
Well, I kind of had a taste of that with The Little Princess last night. We were several scenes into the show before I realized that we really didn't have a plot going yet. A thin plot eventually developed, but I was sitting there through the first act wondering why, with good music, a great cast, and everything else going for it, I couldn't get into this show, which should be the sort of show I would LOVE. A favorite kids' story and lots of schmaltz.
At intermission, one of the other critics came and sat with me and we compared notes. He had the person he had brought to the show had been saying the same thing. There seemed to be no "there, there."
I had hope that the second act which, according to the program, seemed to be much shorter than the first, would kind of begin to take all the disparate elements we saw in the first act and bring them all together.
However, it was the fourth (of seven) songs before we got a song that actually fit into the thin plot developed in the first act. The show eventually reached its conclusion and had me weeping because I'm a weeper and it was a tender ending, but I still felt that the show was missing something big that I couldn't define.
The critics got together in the courtyard after we left the theater and I was happy to see that everybody shared my feelings, and we all agreed that whether the writers intended it to or not, they had borrowed heavily from other musicals. In fact, one number in Act 2 was so like "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast that I found those lyrics running through my head.
When I encounter a show like this, I like to check out the internet and find out what critics in other towns thought, but though there have been several musical version of the Burnett book written for children's theater, this particular version is brand new.
I checked Amazon and found that the original book is so old you can get it free for the Kindle, so I ordered it and have been reading it this afternoon.
Surprisingly, the musical follows the book faithfully, but what is missing in the musical is Burnett's descriptions of what is going on with Sara (who is 7 in the book and 13 in the musical), her thought process and a lot of the descriptions of the interactions with other girls at the school in which she has been enrolled.
I could see, reading this, how the authors tried to do good by the book, but, as one of my fellow critics said when we were doing our recap together (which we almost never do, by the way), was "Well, I guess there is a reason why they have been shopping this show around for 20 years. You don't usually open a big new musical in a town like Sacramento."
I'll be very curious to see what the other critics have to say about this show.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
The Little Princess
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