This one was programmed to be a success.
It was produced by the Menier Chocolate factory (La Cage, The Producers), co-directed by Harold Prince (Cabaret, Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, Funny Thing happened…, Fiddler on the roof, 21 Tonys) and Susan Stroman (Oklahoma!, The Producers, 5 Tonys), it was created after a novel by Joseph Roth (1002nd night) and the music comes from Johann Strauß.
Amongst its cast: Mandy Patinkin, who (I hear) isn’t the easiest person to work with, but certainly one great actor. Turns out – he was the only tiny ray of light in an otherwise cruelly bad performance.
Because it was horrible. A drab piece of bad dialogue, horrible lyrics and a convoluted story that doesn’t transfer well from the beautifully written novel onto the small stage of the Chocolate factory. The costumes looked awkward, the stage crowded, the band too small for Strauß’ powerfully orchestrated waltzes. And then they took “Wiener Blut” (already used in a pretty operetta that’s fairly well known and had been a huge success when it was first shown on stage in Vienna) and added the lyrics: Feeling good in order to describe a masturbation scene.
During intermission people just left.
I held on for dear life and watched the longest second act in the history of theatre (oh, wait, it wasn’t that long after all, it just felt like it!) before I fled into a taxi and off to my hotel.
This is supposed to go to Broadway. Well, good luck with that.
Oh, and Mandy Patinkin? In the first half he had to sing in a squeaky voice (as he was the eunuch) but as soon as he abandoned that to gain the strength to cope with more demanding musical phrases, he sounded fantastic. He and the rest of the cast tried their damnedst to lend life to this stillborn piece of whatever it is supposed to be. But without the help of any decent lyrics or characterization I’m afraid they were doomed from the start.
I so wanted to like this play. But it was wrong on so many levels, I almost felt violated by it.