Rome the Musical

July 28, 2008 at 1:52 am | Posted in Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see Paul Jenden and Gareth Farr’s third in a series of musical inspired by historic events, on at Circa Theatre. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it looked worth a go. I didn’t go to Troy the Musical or The Monarch the Musical, but based on this work, I will try to catch them next time.

July 23, 2008 by


Musical Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

This was really a modern opera – what is the difference between an opera and a musical anyway ?

The musical compresses the struggle to be Julius Ceaser’s successor into a single dinner – on the evening of 15th of March 44BC. There is a high body count – very high! The musical is historially accurate – as far as a I can tell from wikipedia after the show – with a few extra bodies thrown in at the end to lead into the political commentary finale. Otherwise the first 90% of the musical is about the struggle between Ceaser (Kingsford-Brown), Brutus (Wood), Mark Anthony (Kennedy), Octavian (Wilson), and Cleopatra (Cusiel). Most of the action is set after dinner; Ceaser’s wife, Calpurnia (Kinane) and a house slave (Solino), keeps the food and refreshments flowing while the bodies stack up!

I found the first 30 minutes hard to get into: lots of characters being introduced and me trying to integrate them into my fading knowledge of Roman history. It might have been better if I had had no knowledge of the Romans. I became more engaged when Cleopatra arrived – her solo gave me the zip I needed. Who can wrestle with the work at an intellectual level when you get lyrics like ‘I don’t look like Elisabeth Taylor” or “My tongue is my best appliance” being sung in lovely seductive voice! Not thinking about Roman history certainly made the last three quarters more enjoyable and accessible.

I kept wondering why the performers weren’t wearing togas. It was revealed at the end, when the general political commentary was revealed. Octavian is actually stands in for all of the charismatic democratic leaders down in the last 100 years. The set was very simple and the symbolism had a definite fascist feel to it – the Roman eagle was more symbolic that anatomically correct and the Roman courtyard had a Reichstag and Brandonberg Gate feel to it

The musical used live musicians, and cleverly introduced them in a parade at the beginning, before hiding them in a stoa; and placed the ‘voice over /commentary’ singer on stage as the soothsayer (Lineham) – who warns Ceaser about the Ides of March – to direct the muscians.

Overall, quite good: definitely worth going to. It was a very intellectual work, that engaged my analytical side more than my emotional side. I thought Lineham (the soothsayer) and Cusiel (Cleopatra) stood out in terms of the singing.

The best death scene award goes Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, who played Mark Antony’s wife, with a very exaggerated death flop.

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