A new spin on 'Cyrano,' and four other arts events not to miss this weekend

MPR News StaffMPR News

April 14, 2016

Bradley Greenwald's nose for musical theater

Maybe you've seen "Cyrano de Bergerac" before, or one of the many adaptations of the story about the swashbuckling poet and his enormous nose. But if you haven't seen "C.," which is midway through its premiere run at Theater Latte Da, you're missing the proboscis with the most-est.

Cyrano has a beautiful soul but a face he believes to be ugly. He is skilled at wordplay and swordplay and always ready to use them both, such as when he is taunted about the size of his schnoz. He's been in love with Roxane since childhood, but he dares not hope she can see past his nose. Instead, he agrees to help pretty-boy Christian pursue her.

This musical reinvention is remarkable. Bradley Greenwald, who wrote the book and the lyrics to Robert Elhai's music, performs the title role with sensitivity and skill, not to mention a voice that could knock birds out of their trees. He fuses music and story without visible effort.

"We are on this earth," Greenwald's Cyrano says, "to articulate the ineffable." And boy, does he ever.

Toward the end of the first act, when Roxane has stiff-armed the earnest but inarticulate Christian, Cyrano progresses from stage whispers to spoken dialogue to song — soaring, achingly expressive song. As Cyrano improvises the text that will win Roxane's heart for Christian, we see the personification of selfless love — coupled with the crippling effects of a lousy self-image. "My life is complete," he says at the foot of Roxane's balcony, though his life is, at best, half complete.

It's heartbreaking. Go ahead and cry. Be thankful that, with your normal-sized nose, you won't need a handkerchief the size of a bedsheet. At the Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis, with a run that's just been extended through May 1.

Reason to go: Bradley Greenwald.