Review – C – Theater Latte Da

Rift MagazineBev Wolfe

April 8, 2016

Theater Latté Da’s C:  A Promising New Play-With-Music

This past weekend, Theater Latté Da presented the world premiere of C, a play-with-music, at the Ritz Theater in Minneapolis.  The show was developed for Theater Latté Da by both Bradley Greenwald, who wrote the book and lyrics, and Robert Elhai who composed the music.  It is part of Theater Latté Da’s NEXT 20/20 initiative to develop and bring to production 20 new musicals or plays-with-music within the next 5 years.  This production, under the sharp direction of Peter Rothstein, is a promising start to the goal of contributing to the future of musical theater.

Greenwald’s play is an adaption of Edmond Rostand’s1896 play Cyrano De Bergerac.  Rostand’s play is loosely based upon the life of a poet and dualist who lived during the first half of the 17th Century.

The first professional production of a play that I saw as a teenager was the Guthrie’s world premiere of Anthony Burgess’ translation and adaption of Rostand’s play.  The theatricalism of that production had a lasting influence upon my life-long interest in theatre.  This current adaption, with the addition of music, makes a similar impact.

Cyrano is a poet, duelist, and member of a military regiment in France.  He is renowned for his swordplay and his nose: an extremely large schnoz which he believes renders it impossible for his beloved Roxane to reciprocate his feelings.  Roxane is a beautiful and intelligent heiress who is desired by a local married nobleman.

When Roxane requests a secret meeting with Cyrano, Cyrano hopes it is to confess her love for him.  In preparation, he writes an impassioned, poetic love letter and signs it “C.”  But his hopes are dashed when she confesses her love for a man named Christian who is joining Cyrano’s regiment.  Christian is so good looking that even Cyrano finds him to be beautiful.  When Cyrano learns that Christian also loves Roxane, he puts aside his feelings and allows his letter to be sent to Roxane on behalf of Christian.

We soon learn that Christian is a dolt when it comes to speech and poetry.  So Cyrano keeps writing beautiful, poetic letters to Roxane on Christian’s behalf and continues to sign them with a “C.”  This charade continues to the point where, in the balcony scene, Cyrano speaks and sings couplets and poetry to Roxane while hiding in the shadows so it appears that Christian is the speaker.

After a hasty marriage between Roxane and Christian, both men are sent to war where Cyrano continues the charade by sending daily letters to Roxane on Christian’s behalf and often without Christian’s knowledge.

Greenwald’s production seeks to translate the poetry of Rostand’s play into words set to music.  Initially, the songs seem to be more separate from the spoken word, but by the mid-way balcony scene climax, the spoken word and music often flow together interchangeably and sometimes soar.

The play-with-music term is an apt description because this is a production where you appreciate the music underlying the words rather than one where audiences will be humming show tunes after the show.

Greenwald’s portrayal of Cyrano gives great depth to this role of a man who is master of many things and, yet, is personally very insecure in matters of love.  David Darrow as Christian does a remarkable job playing a love struck young man who grows to resent the fact that Roxane appears more in love with Cyrano’s poetic soul than she is with him.

Kendall Anne Thompson does a superb job of playing Roxane as a strong and captivating woman making it understandable that her character is the object of the affections of many men.  Finally, Janet Hansen is both hilarious and memorable in the role of Sister Claire, Roxane’s companion and teacher.

Music director Jason Hansen takes Elhai’s music and makes it sail seamlessly in and out of scenes.  Scenic Designer Jim Smart creates a theatrical aura around his design of a 17th century French town with a multitude of glass jars with lighted candles flowing across the front of the stage.

C is a production that still requires some fine tuning in places, including the need to trim about 15 minutes off the show’s running time.  But Theater Latté Da should be commended for fostering the development of this original production.

Theatre Latte Da The Ritz Theater 345 13th Avenue NE Minneapolis, MN 55413 Box Office: (612)339-3003 March 30 – April 24, 2016