Monday, July 18, 2005

Smiths Musical: "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others"

The New York Times has the story:

Rock's conquest of the West End here, and of Broadway, has arrived largely in the form of unchallenging oldies: familiar songs that mimic the recorded hits and are attached to revue vignettes or a cobbled-together storyline. Queen, Abba and Billy Joel are among those whose songs have found that kind of afterlife, and a John Lennon musical on Broadway is now in previews.

The Smiths - a band from Manchester, England, whose singer and lyricist, Morrissey, taught a generation-wide cult how to mope with melodramatic self-consciousness - are getting an entirely different treatment in "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others," a music-theater piece based on Smiths songs; the band lasted from 1982 to 1987.

..."Some Girls" seeks the spirit of the Smiths' songs by transforming them. The arrangements are not for rock band, but for string quartet with electronics. Morrissey's heartsick legato croon is reassigned to four women and two men, who deliver anything from keening, primal unaccompanied wails to swing-era harmonies. The Smiths' lyrics were proudly defenseless and unguarded: "I know I'm unlovable/ You don't have to tell me." Yet the staging doesn't wrap them in obvious scenarios. The show is an allusive, surreal, ever-mutating fantasia on love and sex, family and control, violence and death.

..."What I wanted to make was a world that was recognizable but somehow changed, very 'Alice Through the Looking Glass,' " said Andrew Wale, the director. "You go through this mirror, and it's somehow different, although you recognize all the elements. What I also wanted to do was to try and get a group of performers who would treat this very strange, dislocated and adjusted world as their normality, so that we could sit there and then go, 'Well, maybe we'll look at our own world and realize the abnormalities in that a little bit more strongly.' "

....The team hopes to take the production to New York. Many English reviews for "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" have been mixed or hostile. The Independent praised the music but called the staging "bewildering and frequently toe-curling." But the production has one thing in common with more conventional pop musicals: it can draw on the band's fans. More than 90 percent of the ticket sales have been online, rather than the usual 50 percent, suggesting a rock audience, said the show's producer, Glynis Henderson. Obvious Smiths fans began showing up during previews at the end of June. "I had put all that to the back of my mind," Mr. Wale said. "But when I saw them, I realized: 'This is scary. What on earth will they think?' "
I don't have much to say about this. It seems pointless, but a lot of pointless things turn out great. I don't know how the Smiths feel about all this, but I hope they enthusiastically endorse the project.

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