Posted by: rvs 08:20 pm EST 02/09/24
In reply to: re: I would've loved to have seen what they started with - AlanScott 06:14 pm EST 02/09/24

Thanks, I deeply appreciate your extensive response. And thank you for the link.

I didn’t have any real problem with the set, either. It went with the initial concept that this was a show about young people. Except it really wasn’t, it was about Hal Prince’s take on what happens to us when we get older.

I can’t remember which review mentioned it, but one of the initial reviews of Company said “middle-aged mean” was a refreshing take for a musical. By the time Follies opened, people responded with, “Oh, it’s middle-aged mean again.” By the time they got to Merrily, Sondheim and Prince had become the leaders in middle-aged angst which bothered me terribly, because (I was 26 at the time) I really expected Merrily to be a show that said something about my age group.

I agree the cast had no problems playing the older characters. While Beth’s parents may not have actually been cast with the two youngest in the cast, it was the only time when two kids in the company were playing Old People, with grey hair and “I’m playing Old.” Which I found effective.

I didn’t mean to start a whole debate about Sondheim songs that changed hands, I just meant it struck me as the one time a song was taken away from one character and handed to another late in previews. You wouldn’t take “Ladies Who Lunch” away from Joanne and hand it to Sarah.

David Loud describes very well in his memoir how roles (including his) were cut down or taken away, so that the show could focus on the six central characters. The stage manager said to him, “I’m going to miss you at the end of Opening Doors. A piece of advice? Count your blessings, not your wounds.”

He writes about how he arrived at the Alvin for the first time, went up to his dressing room and found his dressing-room-mate seated at the mirror. The dressing room mate said, “Darling, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time getting settled in here. Thanksgiving isn’t for weeks, but I smell turkey.”

This is reminiscent of the story Louis J. Stadlen tells about “Minnie’s Boys.” After the first readthrough, the five young actors playing the Marx Brothers went out to lunch together. “Sitting in Thanos coffee shop three hours later, Danny Fortus, who really was fifteen and a half and had been acting professionally since he was seven, took a bite of his egg salad sandwich and remarked, ‘I don’t know about you guys, but I smell a bomb.’”

David Loud goes into a great deal of detail about the swimming pool and how and when it was cut.

I had no trouble with Sally Klein, I liked her performance of “Not A Day Goes By.” If the powers that be were that unhappy with her singing, they may have been hesitant to recast because, after seeing Weissenbach replaced, dropping another lead might have been too much for the young cast. Just a guess on my part. (By the by, the Hirshfeld drawing wonderfully captures how skinny she was.)

If Walton wasn’t as believable as the others, it might have been because he really wasn’t an actor, he was a song-and-dance man. He later had the great good luck to replace Lee Roy Reams in 42nd Street.

I’m not sure they ever really figured out what the show was meant to be. The problem might be summed up in the liner notes on the LP cast album: “What follows can either be seen as taking place in the older Frank’s mind, against the backdrop of the kids, the bleachers and the lockers, or as the cautionary tale of his life acted out by the students.”

I can’t think of any Sondheim show that could be summed up as “You could think of it this way or that way, whatever you want.” Compare that with the glorious liner notes from “Company”: “It’s a comedy, of course. How else can you treat marriage, its principal subject? …. But it’s about something else, too, something hard to state, something like the real, essential aloneness of each person, and what happens to people when they try to lose that painful independence via mutual consent, love, sex, vows and a contract. Some make it work. Some don’t. Many only lose themselves in the emotional mix.”

That’s digging deeper, not giving you a choice of how you might want to read the material.

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