About This Blog

I really like theatre, and I like writing and talking about it.

This blog is mostly about my relationship with theatre, the moments that make me fall in love with this art form, and the times when we don't always get along.

I'll be writing about things that I like, that I think are good and interesting and want to share. I will probably also write about things that I don't quite get, or think are wierd. I may also write about things that aren't theatre, strictly speaking, because it's my blog and I can.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It Was A Show

The title of this post was how I answered my roommates when they asked me "How did you like Dangerous Beauty"?

I'm a big fan of the 1998 feature film starring Rufus Sewell and Catherine McCormack; it's a beautiful film about women's right to autonomy set during the Italian Renaissance. It's very sexy and romantic, and has a strong female lead. For those who don't know the story, it's about Veronica Franco, Venice's most famous courtesan. Unable to marry her love due to lack of a dowry and social position, Franco was forced to learn the trade of the courtesan in order to support her family. While wives were possessions, courtesans were respected as equals, and were the only women allowed to be educated. Franco was valued as much for her intelligence skills as a poet as for her romantic companionship, but was eventually charged with witchcraft by the church.

So the film has been turned into a musical, which is now running at the Pasadena Playhouse, and I went to see it last week, while it was in previews. And like I said, it was a show. It had a script, and songs, and actors and sets and costumes and lights. But I never quite felt like everything came together. There were some nice songs, but none particularly memorable. The costumes (by Soyon An, and Emmy winner for "So You Think You Can Dance") are beautiful and creative, will many modern fashion-runway touches. However it's very clear which costumes they spent all their time on, so they look out-of-place next to the ones that were rented or pulled from stock.

I eventually realized that the reason this show didn't charm me as much as the film (despite having the same writer) was that the show's pacing and the director's emphasis. The thing that sets Dangerous Beauty  apart from other love stories is that Franco isn't any weepy heroine--she's in a very unique position, as she can have any man she wants, she just can't marry him. As long as he can afford her. But the show rushes through the complex social issues, and spends too much time dwelling on the "I love you but we can't be together" stuff.

Interestingly, I found myself most drawn to the character of Maffio, played by Bryce Ryness (Broadway's Hair), a man in a position similar to Veronica's--he's low-born, and survives by his art, as long as the nobles continue to find him entertaining. He is charmed by Veronica and asks her out, but she turns him down on the basis of "neither of us can afford to do this for free". He is bitter at the rejection, and turns first to drinking and antagonizing Franco, then joins the church and becomes the villain of the show's climax.

This was the most interesting dramatic arc in the show. I actually have to say the musical handles his transition a little more deftly than the film did. His pain and bitterness is more palpable, so I really felt for Maffio, but also realized he could not be redeemed.

Bryce Ryness, James Snyder and Megan McGinnis
Photo by Jim Cox, Pasadena Playhouse

Jenny Powers
Photo by Jim Cox, Pasadena Playhouse

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