Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Peter Filichia's Review

Here is the full text of Peter Filichia's review of A Million Miles from Broadway as it appeared on Kritzerland.com on 16 November 2012:

Peter Filichia Review


On page 143 of Mel Atkey’s A Million Miles from Broadway, there’s the sentence that encapsulates the thrust of the book: “The Drowsy Chaperone was a love letter to the American musical, but as one Japanese director observed, that letter was definitely postmarked Toronto.” By lumping the United States, Japan and Canada in a comment about one musical, Atkey’s premise is well-substantiated: there is much musical theater beyond Broadway and London.

The author points out that once – but not now -- many countries had inferiority complexes about their musicals; if shows weren’t American, they couldn’t be worthy. “But we just weren’t good at it,” admits Australian Tony (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) Sheldon, when speaking of decades ago. He cites a ‘50s musical of Lola Montez that suffered because the creators were much too much influenced by Paint Your Wagon.

Times change. All right, Manning Clark’s History of Australia: The Musical doesn’t sound like a hit – and it wasn’t – but Atkey points out the merits of The Hatpin and laments its just-missed status. He points out why the Australian The Boy from Oz was a much darker and better show than what we got here. On the other hand, there was that Kookaburra production of Company in which the actress playing June (sorry – April) fell ill and had no understudy. As a result, the director dropped “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” and “Barcelona.” Learn what happened when Sondheim heard about it.

See what Michael Kunze, co-author of Dance of the Vampires, really thought of the Broadway version. Why Mame inspired Anne of Green Gables to change two songs before its London premiere. How a Baker Street writer’s knowledge trickled down to help The Drowsy Chaperone.

If you thought that Evita was forbidden in Argentina, Atkey clarifies the real reason why B.A. has yet to see it. He does tell why Sarafina! was heavily criticized in South Africa and why the The King and I is banned in Thailand. (Did you know that Anna’s original surname was actually Owens, but she added the Leon to the front of it because it was husband Tom’s middle name? Atkey does.)

Who’d expect that former rocker Cat Stevens was a groupie for the 1961 British musical King Kong? Or that the first American musical produced in Buenos Aires was retitled Simple y Maravilloso. (Can you translate or at least infer the title that it had had on Broadway?) As for that all-female Japanese Takarazuka troupe that does American musicals as unlikely as Kean and Ernest in Love, Atkey points out that no two women ever kiss for real on stage. In short, there’s never been a better book for the armchair-traveler-theatergoer.