A Musical: Madame Bovary

Adaptation, music, and lyrics by Paul Dick
Directed by Ed Setrakian
Passajj Productions
Judith Anderson Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Reviewed by Judd Hollander

It's very tricky musicalizing a classic work of literature. In order to succeed, the finished work should be more then the original story. In the cast of A Musical: Madame Bovary (based on the novel by Gustave Flaubert), the idea collapses with a resounding thud.

Set in Normandy, France from 1837-1846, Madame Bovary tells the story of young Emma (aka Madame Bovary), ``looking for love in all the wrong places.'' Married to an older man, she drifts into in a series of ill-fated love affairs, spending her husband's life savings in the process. Drowning in debt, abandoned by those she believes loved her, she is forced to take drastic action.

A scathing morality tale in the right hands, the piece never comes alive, the blame for which must be divided equally between Ed Setrakian's direction and Paul Dick's music, lyrics and adaptation of the original work. The characters are mostly one-dimensional and lifeless. Even the more interesting ones never reveal the demons that drive them. (It would be nice, for example, to know why Emma and Charles got married in the first place.) The other main problem is the music, which often sounds repetitive; none of it really stands out. (Kind of like any work by Andrew Lloyd Webber.)

The one bright spot in the whole affair was the acting. Brett Hamilton as Charles had a fine voice and came across believably as the loyal and unsuspecting husband, while Jennifer Little as Emma managed to convey both the longing romance and the boundless desperation she feels when her world collapses. However, these assets were not enough to raise the play to any level of mediocrity. The rest of the cast (many playing multiple characters) were adequate in thankless roles. Sets (Kaem Coughlin, Jack Mehler) and costumes (Dave Esler) were on a par with the rest of the production.

The show begins with a wedding and ends with a funeral. With the first came anticipation for what was to come; the second brought relief that the dirge had come to an end.

Also featuring David Jordan, Tom Treadwell, Henry Grossman, C. Anson Hedges, Janet Momjian, Heidi K. Eklund, Larry D. French, Coleen T.C. Martin, Alan Gillis; musical direction, Christopher McGovern; choreography, Artemis Preeshl; lighting design, Matthew McCarthy; stage manager, Jessie Onus.

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 2
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1995 Judd Hollander
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