Starting today you can watch Pint of Wine Theatre’s podcast which for the next fortnight will be looking at Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Carousel, surely a must for all who love musical theatre. Director Joe Bunker (Rags, Wasted, The Rink and My Fair Lady) will lead the discussion with director Jo Davies and actors Keith Higham, Alex Young and Molly Lynch. Higham was in Davies’ Opera North production and Young and Lynch in the production staged at the English National Opera.
People love musicals but often the love what they saw first time round, and this discussion will focus on how one can treat them as all classic theatre should be – not as something set in stone which can only be done one way, but how it can be presented in a way relevant to today without losing what made it great in the first place; whether there are elements that simply do not fit today’s view of what marriage should be – for a start the heroine is in an abusive relationship with the man she marries for a start – which might be changed without damaging the heart of the work. It happens with Shakespeare all the time.
Rodgers and Hammerstein were breaking new groun with their plots which tackled themes previous musicals had not attempted – but times do change and what was daring or accepted fifty years ago may seem very different today.
The next show to be tackled on 4 May will be West Side Story, another show which will be seen in a new film version directed by Steven Spielberg later this year and was on Broadway in one directed by Ivo Van Hove which took a fresh look at it which did not please all the fans of the original movie. The Spielberg film will, it is said, be closer to the book of the original show rather than the 1961 movie directed by Robert Wise and it too has roused some worries among those who see it as perfection.
For years musical revivals simply went by the book and what seemed revolutionary over half a century ago or longer had begun to look tired. Audiences at musical theatre can be tempted to almost close their eyes and float along happily on the melodies and that is worth challenging. It happens – years ago I sat watching John Hanson, a fine singer but no actor, in The Student Prince and wondered what was that strange sound as he sang his heart out, only to realise it was the audience, oblivious to what it was doing, humming along to the melodies.
The podcast promises to be a stimulating two part affair lasting 2 hours, and is free.
It can be found on Facebook @piecebypiecepodcast and www.anchor.free/piece-by-piece.
Opera North Production photograph: Alistair Muir