Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ein Kleine Ferschluggener

We got a look at the Broadway revival of A Little Night Music last night.  It's had mixed reviews and I must say I join the non-fans.  It has its moments and its successes, but it has a few pervasive and disabling liabilities.  Mainly the diction, the articulation: you can't understand a word much of anybody is singing.
  • I don't think it is just me here.  I listen to (watch) a fair amount of complicated stage work and I can usually stick with it.  Even here, I know quite a bit of the text--after all these years, who doesn't?--but I sure wouldn't have been able to guess it on my own.  I can think of two possibly overlapping reasons here:
  • One, poor diction coaching.  Shakespeare companies these days spend a lot of time these days making sure they will be understood.  I suspect it never occurred to anybody that they needed to do it for a show like this one.
  • And two: dreadful miking, or an overall dreadful sound system.  Everything on Broadway is done at full volume any more.  I gather the techies don't necessarily want it that way: loud is good.  Put loud together with inadequate audio devices and you wind up listening to a show that sometimes sounds like it's being performed in some sort of nightmarish wind tunnel.   It was particularly egregious with Elaine Stritch: she seemed to be taking cues through an earpiece and you could sometimes just a bout hear the cues.  But it wasn't just her: just about everybody got the wing wangs some of the time.
I'd never actually seen LNM before, though I had seen both the movies--Bergman and Woody Allen--from which it derives.  And heaven knows I was familiar with a lot of the music: if we all had a nickel for every time we've heard "Send in the Clowns," we'd be rich as Barbra Streisand.  I was favorably disposed: I liked what I'd heard, and I take it is an article of faith that Sondheim at or near the top of the list of American stage composers.  But after an hour or so of this, I found myself looking at my watch, and realizing that the show, like Bergman and  Allen  before it, really does have its longeurs.  With the right hands, this can turn into a mode of leisurely affability. With a chorus that yells at you all the time, it gets to be a bore.

No comments: