Sunday, January 23, 2011

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: The Musical (Belasco Theater)

It has been almost a month since I saw the musical production of Almodovar's film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. The musical has so much happening, I still don't know where to start. Hearing the film was going to be turned into a musical made me ask "how?" And, after seeing the production, I still have to ask "how?" The film is so busy and silly, I couldn't imagine a cast pulling off the jokes and the charm of Almodovar's film. To be honest, they don't pull it off. They kind of create their own manic experience and interpretation of the film. Had I never seen the film, I may have enjoyed the musical more. But, knowing Almodovar's style, I could only be a little disappointed. The directors seemed uncertain of how far to push the camp of the original. Just when it feels like they're pushing it too far, they try and make a serious moment out of the campiness.

Patti LuPone isn't pushed far enough in this production. LuPone's character, Lucia, seems a little too acted. The craziness and desperation of the original character is kind of lost. The audience ends up a little confused at the woman's situation. Without the film as background, one is expected to connect a lot of dots on their own. There are two highlights for LuPone, though. At the end of the first act, LuPone and the rest of the female characters are pulled up on ropes and dance around, twirl around, spin around, a few feet off the ground as they sing 'On the Verge.' It is really the guttiest moment of the show. The only time the show feels it reaches the zaniness of the film. LuPone's "big" moment arrives mid-way through the second act during her number 'Invisible.' 'Invisible' ends up being the only song that stuck in my head after the show ended.

Sherie Rene Scott is a mess in the production. Her acting comes and goes. Her campiness is taken too seriously. Her accent ranges from too heavy to non-existent. Scott has a beautiful voice (see The Last Five Years), but she is going for slapstick here and she is lost in her inability to create a complete character.

Laura Benanti was the scene stealer throughout. She played the dumb model to perfection. Never once out of character- when singing, dancing, acting, or running around. At times, the character was more caricature than personality, but that is alright for this character. Benanti's Candela is only meant as a comedic presence. Benanti outshines LuPone with the humorous 'Model Behavior' during the first act.

The set is pretty basic. The colors not quite bright enough. But a constantly moving foreground and background keeps the audience watching. This is the closest the stage shows comes to the film. Almodovar loves his bright colors and his demand of you to constantly be watching. The back of the stage always has projected images moving left to right, up and down. Never really distracting, but not always necessary. And, at times, used more than needed.

When I heard the show was closing after only a 2 month run, I was sad to think a soundtrack would never be released. But, after doing a little bit of searching, I discovered there is a recording planned for the middle of Spring. Women on the Verge... is certainly not the greatest musical experience. But, it is something fun and unique. The script and songs need a little bit of work. A few characters need to be trimmed down (Brian Stokes Mitchell's Ivan, mostly). I would have recommended the show to those who are fans of the film and interested in seeing a musical in the early stages of its career.


No comments:

Post a Comment