A Tale of Two Cities
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Jill Santoriello
Based on the Novel by Charles Dickens
(A Tale of Two Cities, The Novel)
Al Hirschfeld Theatre
302 West 45th Street
Featuring: James Barbour, Craig Bennett, Brandi Burkhardt,
Kevin Early, Gregg Edelman, Michael Hayward-Jones,
Miles Kath, Aaron Lazar, Katherine McGrath, Les Minski,
Catherine Missal, Natalie Toro, Nick Wyman
Directed and Choreographed by Warren Carlyle
Music Supervision and Direction by Kevin Stites
Scenic Design: Tony Walton
Lighting Design: Richard Pilbrow
Costume Design: David Zinn
Sound Design: Carl Casella, Dominic Sack
Special Effects: Gregory Meeh
Hair Design: Tom Watson
Orchestrations and Arrangements: Edward B. Kessel
Add. Arrangements: Bob Krogstad, Wendy Bobbitt Cavett, Kevin Stites
Music Coordinator: James Neglia
Production Supervisor: Kim Vernace
Assoc. Choreographer: Parker Esse
Conductor: Kevin Stites
Casting: Barry Moss CSA, Bob Kale
Fight Director: Michael Rossmy
Exec. Producers: Ron Sharpe and Barbara Russell
Marketing Director: Sharon A. Fordham
General Management: Town Square Productions
Production Supervisor: Christopher C. Smith
Press: The Jacksina Company, Inc.
Promotions: Margery Singer Co.
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 24, 2008
Some plays begin Off-Broadway and later make it to the Big Stage. A Tale of Two Cities, by Jill Santoriello, should eventually make it the Small Stage, and it would be a huge success. This over-miced, scaffold-filled, red-black, atonal extravaganza has pockets of exquisite acting and singing, staging and pathos, that would be wonderful to experience Off-Broadway. However, in this production, to which I coincidentally wore a red and black outfit and matched the color-coded motif more than I wanted, smoke and scenery not only flash with ear-crashing reverberations, but the mirrored guillotine is held by one actor in such a way as to literally blind the audience with searing light.
Jill Santoriello, writer, composer, lyricist, collaborated with Kevin Stites on music and Warren Carlyle on direction and choreography. The audience arrives knowing the plot and ending, as the Dickens novel, on which this show is based, is a staple in school and a renowned dramatic tale. There is nothing elegant or pleasant about the French Revolution, but a recent play and film about Marie Antoinette took the historical theme to a literary and entertaining level, without graphic violence, without non-stop foreboding of horror. Tony Walton, David Zinn, Richard Pilbrow, Carl Casella, Dominic Sack, Gregory Meeh, and the rest of the technical staff seemed intent on creating a larger than life, tourist-attracting spectacle, rather than a poignant musical. And, the shame is, this edgy, grating show has potential for a poignant musical, with charisma, gravitas, and character development. It even has potential for some memorable music phrases, but just potential.
The vocal, theatrical potential especially lies with James Barbour and Brandi Burkhardt, Sydney Carton and Lucie Manette, with Mr. Barbour riveting the audience early on (“The Way It Ought to Be”, “I Can’t Recall”), and Ms. Burkhardt finally opening her vocals later (“Without a Word”). Gregg Edelman, Dr. Alexandre Manette, involved in a convoluted plot, that should have been synopsized in the program, rather than “sung in detail” onstage, seems burdened with the enormity of his history in the Bastille and his destiny with Madame Defarge. Natalie Toro, Mme. Therese Defarge, who incessantly knits the names of the soon to be guillotined into her woolens, is cloned by the female cast, all knitting and plotting, a devilish image. Aaron Lazar, as Charles Darnay, has a pleasant, but unpersuasive voice, and he was low on theatrics, high on stage presence. He plays the classy character, replete with morality, who rejects his heritage for conscience and love, but somehow I kept imagining a new end to this tale, one for Lucie and Sydney, fool that I am. With the mob scenes so raucous and over-produced, it was this sparkling, sophisticated duo that wove a sterling lining into a tarnished spectacle.
Cast of "A Tale of Two Cities"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg
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