Monday, October 27, 2008

Barbary Lane to the Great White Way

By the way, I read recently that Tales of the City is being adapted into a Broadway musical, and while I'm skeptical of many of the musical adaptations I hear about, I actually think that this one has a lot of potential.

For one thing, Tales of the City is a heavily dialogue-based book, and is mostly told as a series of short, two-character scenes. So it's not like Maupin spends pages and pages describing his characters' psychology in ways that would be hard to dramatize. And the book features a wide variety of characters who combine in surprising ways.

For another, the librettist, Jeff Whitty, is best known for his libretto to Avenue Q--another musical about a disparate bunch of characters who live in an apartment building with an eccentric proprietor.

Indeed, the story seems to fit right into the musical-comedy tradition. It could begin with Mary Ann arriving in town and singing a wide-eyed-girl-in-the-city, Thoroughly Modern Millie-style opening number... or maybe the opening song ought to be more of an ensemble piece, introducing all of the characters as they go about their day at 28 Barbary Lane. (That would be a good song title, too--"Lane" rhymes with a lot of things.)

And one of the pivotal scenes has Michael participating in a jockey shorts dance contest--can we say Big Production Number?

The music and lyrics are being written by Jake Shears of the band Scissor Sisters, which I am not familiar with, but is evidently known for a "glam-rock disco sound"--a good fit for the 1970s setting, though disco music tends to be rather slick and shallow and I prefer my theater songs to delve deeper into the characters' feelings...

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