The Playgoer: Revival or Revisal

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Revival or Revisal

WSJ offers a helpful primer on the increasingly common practice--unique to musicals--of calling something a revival when in fact the script has been significant rewritten and even the score (or at songlist) may be altered.

I don't like to be too hardline a purist about these things.  And I don't want contemporary directors and producers to be completely straitjacketed about how they handle a classic text.  Still I find myself sympathetic too Miles Krueger's quoted indictment:

"Imagine 'Aida' with a few other Verdi favorites. Imagine 'Gone With the Wind' with scenes from a few other Clark Gable movies. New generations think they can bring an extra dimension or perspective perhaps overlooked by the creators. But the creators are the ones who did it, for God's sake. They did it. Adding songs is an admission that the original work isn't good enough to present as it was originally presented. It negates the whole point of the revival."
Seeing alternate versions is always nice.  And yes, the original "book" is often published.  But unfortunately the "revisal" may be the only version of certain musicals that we get to see fully realized on stage.


cgeye said...

Back in the pre-OKLAHOMA! days of Broadway, 'twas ever thus. Musicals were patchwork quilts of songs introduced elsewhere. Heck, the Freed Unit of MGM did the same -- you've heard the songs in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN before, but not in that glorious combo. Frankly, musicals of any sort weren't tamped down until the Original Cast Album and film versions made it easier not to change things when they were so profitable, as they were.

That changed, I think, with Sondheim -- obsessives went to out-of-town tryouts, recorded songs on the sly, basically treated his back catalog as the Grateful Dead's.

THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN is also in that process of revisal; when I saw it a year ago, they didn't go far enough in representing Mrs. Brown's complexity, and the more interesting truths behind her marriage.

Unknown said...

Lee Breuer, with his adaptations LEAR and GOSPEL AT COLONUS, makes a useful solution: alter the play's name, signifying the merging of the new with the familiar.

Unknown said...

The Dallas Theatre Center is reviving It's a Bird... It's a Plane... It's Superman with a completely new book and probably some new songs; hence, they are advertising the show as a "World Premiere."