Yesterday I went downstairs from my office to the M.L. Henley rehearsal hall to watch a bit of the big “fight scene” in Romeo et Juliette. It was fun to watch the rehearsal, as the men worked on their sword play and then worked on timing that to the music. Of course, my thoughts went back to the “rumble” in West Side Story, and I enjoyed making the mental comparison of the two scenes which of course is part of the fun, isn’t it, of pairing the two Shakespeare-based works together this fall. This week the gang action features rapiers and daggers; last month it was fists and switchblades; same anger, tension, prejudices, and outcomes.
We don’t often “pair” works in an obvious way – usually I think the concept is too cute or too far-fetched. But I like this pairing of great music theatre works because they represent pinnacles of their composers’ work in the theatre, tell the same story in different but equally moving ways, and relate strongly to Shakespeare’s play but put distinctive, emotional spins on the play, and contain incredibly articulate vocal and orchestral music that speak directly to their original audiences and audiences today.
- James Wright, General Director