Wagner’s Ring Cycle, aka Der Ring des Nibelungen, is a complicated, four-opera series dealing with the struggles to acquire a ring that provides the power to dominate the world. Characters including a human hero, demigod woman, King of the Gods, nasty dwarf and many others are part of the action. The entire opus lasts fifteen hours and has been the source of numerous parodies.
Broadway Close Up
Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center
December 9, 2019
Behind the Scenes of Broadway
One of the many delights of Transformations, the final concert of this year’s Broadway Close Up series, was to hear …
This program, subtitled “a 100-year survey of gay and lesbian writers and characters on Broadway from the 1920s to 2020,” was just as good musically but more emotionally-charged than similar “Broadway tributes” at this venue. The outpouring of feelings was probably due to the subject matter—the work of gay and lesbian music makers— along with coming out stories and brief, but necessary, references to the AIDS crisis. Even though this was the second performance, the emotions felt entirely genuine and often brought cheers from the audience. The program was designed to examine the history of closeted writers and coded imagery while detailing how more open and explicit the classification became starting in the 1970s.
Tony nominee and Emmy Award-winning singer and actress Liz Callaway hosted the evening, delighting the audience both with her presence and her acknowledgement that all of the evenings’ shows were written or co-written by women. Charming, unpretentious and funny, she launched into You Don’t Own Me, a 60s shout-out to women’s lib (although the movement didn’t hit its stride for another decade.)
Technically The Hello Girls were the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit, telephone switchboard operators who were sworn into the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War I. The corps was formed in 1917 by General John Pershing in hopes of improving the state of communications on the Western front. Over 7,000 women applied but only 230 of them, many former switchboard operators, all bilingual, actually went to France.
If you’re going to take a tour of Broadway musical theater numbers, you could find no better guide than Sean Hartley. Hartley, the host of the performance, is the director of the Theater@Kaufman, the musical theater division of Kaufman Music Center. He knows the history and entertaining ins and outs of the genre and presented them with insight and wit. On top of that, he can sing as he ably demonstrated in Anyone Can Whistle from the show of that name by Stephen Sondheim.
Emilie du Châtelet was born in Paris in 1706, in an era when women were raised to be ornamental wives and mothers. Luckily for her and for the ages, she was educated by her father, a high official in the court of Louis XIV, and showed a strong interest in and an aptitude for science and mathematics at a young age. The play centers on the difficulties of being a woman intellectual in a time when being a wife—and often a mistress—were what counted. We see Ėmilie and Voltaire, her lover, in various situations as well as Ėmilie and her husband, the Marquis du Châtelet, who was conveniently absent a great deal of the time due to his position in the French army. Ėmilie also dallies with Pierre-Louis Maupertius, in actuality a scholar although portrayed here as a young courtier.
The nicely slimmed-down production of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever at Irish Rep is a tidy delight. The show has been revived numerous times since originally opening in the fall of 1965; along the way it has lost several songs (with good reason—they were terrible) and had several interpretations including one by The Vineyard Theater at Vassar College’s Powerhouse Theater that changed the female lead to a gay male. Other versions have added or subtracted characters who weren’t central to what has to be called the “story line.”