Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Woman in White

Wilkie Collins' novel The Woman in White is the original mystery, the first novel about crime investigated and solved. There is a strong love sub-plot which makes it eligible for musical treatment. The show requires three young English women who must look similar and sing reasonably well. The plot depends on mistaken identity, which I thought worked extremely well.

My theory--I always have a theory--is that Andrew Lloyd Webber had been listening a lot to the King and I--specifically Tuptim's song and the King's soliloquy--just before he started writing The Woman in White. That is the problem with composing. How do you get all those other people's tunes out of your head? Sometimes the answer is you don't.

In this show only the actors are live theater--everything else is a movie projected onto large moving screens rather like Cinerama. Some of it is a kind of "Over Hampshire" film of English countryside. You get two for the price of one--stage show and movie. Am I giving it away if I tell that the villain gets it in the end by being run over by a film of a train bearing down on the audience?

Projections are a current fad in opera productions where they frequently interject irrelevant subject matter into the drama. In this musical they were used instead of sets, making for a uniquely varied and highly relevant setting.

I didn't cringe, except over the singing. This is what microphones do for us. Nobody bothers to learn to sing well, and if they did, would you be able to tell? Or would the distortion of the overamplification make everyone sound bad?

If I were giving it a thumbs up or thumbs down, my thumb would be a bit above horizontal.

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