Lots of music possibilities this week. Here’s hoping you get a chance to check out any or all of these.
“Nancy and Beth”
What is/are Nancy and Beth?
It’s the musical partnership of actresses Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt. And what may have seemed like a gimmick on paper (country, rap and Fosse-style dancing?) has turned into a successful touring duo that has played venues from the Grande Ole Opry to the Newport Folks Festival to, this week, the Cabaret.
Don’t expect bantered tales from the set or “Will & Grace” or “Friday Night Lights” The two actresses commit to their characters in their cabaret show.
And that’s okay. I say that because the first time I registered Mullally’s name was after seeing her as Rosemary in the mid-90’s revival of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Talk about a triple threat elevating a production. Mullally made Rosemary as ambitiously fun and fascinating as leading man J. Pierpont Finch. And “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm” transformed into a show highlight.
So, yeah, the woman knows a bit about making a character come alive on stage.
April 24 at the Cabaret.
“The Mystery of Edwin Drood”
I’ll have more to say about this one in an April 27 piece in the Indianapolis Business Journal (remind me to link it here when it goes online, okay?) Suffice to say for now that this is really “Drood 2.0,” a tightened version of the original that won a Tony Award back in its day. It’s a musical hall-style take on Charles Dickens’ novel–the one he didn’t finish after dying of a stroke. The conceit is that the musical isn’t finished either, leaving it up to audience voting on whodunnit and more . April 27-May 13 at the Studio Theatre.
“Good Morning, Baltimore.” “The Nicest Kids in Town.” “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now.” “I Can Hear the Bells.”
If you’re going to win over an audience, that’s a very good way to start. Those are the first four songs in “Hairspray” and they are far from the only good musical stuff therein. Suffer through “Miss Baltimore Crabs” and you’ll come out on the other side with such gems as “(You’re) Timeless to Me” and the rousing “I Know Where I’ve Been.” Rare is the new musical with as strong a set of songs. Couple that with fun characters and a positive message and you have a show where a smile is difficult to resist (unless, as in the case of the movie, you miscast the distracting John Travolta–CGI another actor in there and it could be wonderful).
The show gets a revival here courtesy of Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre April 27-May 12 at the Tarkington.
The witch is back.
In hindsight, of course, the success of “Wicked” may seem inevitable.
But let’s not forget what what a radical notion it was to begin with. First, when it opened in 2003, composer Steven Schwartz hadn’t had a Broadway hit in over 25 years (since “Godspell”). It’s stars, Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth were hardly box-office names. And the idea of a revisionist take on a beloved classic–even one as famous as “The Wizard of Oz”–was hardly a lock. Sure, the novel had done well, but this take ran as much of a risk of bugging the novel’s fans as it did of pleasing them.
And, when it came down to it, “Wicked” was the story that said that our surface assumptions about good and evil–and, yes, our perception of the intentions of people of color (in this case, green)–could be seriously misguided.
Not your typical Broadway fare. And as much as I wish the show had undergone a bit more tweaking before its book and song list were set in stone, I still think it’s strong by mega-hit standards, certainly offering more of interest than “Phantom of the Opera” or “Cats.” And I still get chills during “When I Meet the Wizard.”
April 25-May 13 at the Murat.