The Woman In What Now?

Tonight I had the inestimable honor of seeing Andrew Lloyd Weber's newest theatrical endeavor "The Woman In White."

If I believed in God I would have prayed to have this abomination struck from the face of the Earth with a fury not seen since Sodom and Gomorra were obliterated.

This show, in the simplest terms is BAD. The songs are boring. The acting is overblown and melodramatic. The set is ill-conceived. The plot is barely discernible. The characterization, where it exists at all, is inconsistent and the character choices are illogical. The single best thing in the show is (I shit you not) a white rat who performs tricks during one of the songs. The rat doesn't come on until Act 2, so if you get tricked into seeing the show don't leave during intermission, even though you'll be tempted to, because you'll miss the rat. I promise you, you'll want to see the rat after sitting through Act 1.

This appears to have been adapted from the Victorian era novel by Wilkie Collins, but from reading articles on the book it seems that all the good stuff went out the window. Gone are the comedic characters of the nurse and the maid, gone the detail that one of the sisters about who this story centers, the smart one naturally, is supposed to be gargoyle ugly, and the other pretty, but dumb as a bag of hammers. Also gone seems to be most of the plot. What we are left with is, unfortunately an idiot plot that could have been cleared up early in Act 1 if either of the girls had thought to press their uncle for information on the title character.

The set. I applaud innovation in scenic design, and theatrical presentation. Really, I do. The scenographer responsible for this set conceived a set of semi-circular moving walls that could reconfigure and revolve around the stage. 99% of the scenery is computer generated and projected onto these walls. This allows for movement within the scenery, almost instantaneous shifts between location, and would seem to give the opportunity for dramatically different looks for each location since the only limits would be the imagination of the artist doing the computer renderings. In reality the whole thing looks like something artistically on par with the first generation of Doom type games (and I was really wishing I had my shotgun). It looks doubly bad when very realistic furniture and costumes are put in front of it. There were also inexplicable oddities in the renderings. Why for instance would a designer choose to render some of the objects grossly out of scale with the people on stage? Occasionally the audience was confronted with fireplaces that were 12 feet tall, and books on shelves that were 3 feet tall. One scene played out in front of the exterior of a pawn shop for no reason that I can figure out. Being outside made the dialogue seem forced and unrealistic, and in the end the scene didn't make sense. They had to render both the exterior and interior of the shop. It would have cost them nothing to play the scene "inside" why not do it?

The most annoying thing about the show was the blocking. (The movement of the actors for those not familiar with the jargon.) The center of the stage was a revolve, (a circular floor that "revolves," get it?) and the walls were roughly circular, making the whole show seem like it was happening inside a hat box. All this circular stuff meant that the actors spent an awful lot of time running... in circles. I could not begin to count the number of times that the actors, singularly or in groups, literally jogged in circles around the stage. Or walked. Or danced. Or (again, I shit you not) skipped. In circles. I get it, we were supposed to be, metaphorically, watching the show through a zoetrope, the Victorian equivalent of animation, but it would have been SO much more satisfying and affective if the director could have figured out a way to break the pattern and work both within and against the shape of the set.

I won't speak directly to the songs, or the singing, or the acting because I don't really have the authority to do so, being neither a director or a singer. Other of course than saying that I didn't enjoy them. I will say this: you know that you are in trouble when at the pivotal moment of the performance, when the audience should be most enraptured and absorbed... they giggle.

This show cost $8.5 million. I'd have given them a better design for half that.

1 Response to "The Woman In What Now?"

  • OMWO Says:

    >I will say this: you know that you are >in trouble when at the pivotal moment >of the performance, when the audience >should be most enraptured and >absorbed... they giggle.

    Mostly true, but not always. Sometimes they are just idiots :)

    I saw Shakespear's Pericles in what was a touching performance at the Globe. As Pericles collapses in sorrow over Marina's "death", the whole audience was visibly touched...except for a bunch of american teenagers who crossed the ocean just to make fools of themselves by giggling uncontrolably.

    I felt like executing them on the spot >:-|

    But of course, when the whole audience does it, either the show is very bad...or too good :)