Hilton Theatre, New York • 30 March 2007 • 8pm (preview)
Book by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Richard Maltby, Jr. Music by Schönberg. Lyrics by Boublil, Maltby, Jr. and John Dempsey.
Directed by Frank Galati. Musical Staging by Graciela Daniele. With Stephanie J. Block (Grace “Grania” O’Malley), Hadley Fraser (Tiernan), Linda Balgord (Queen Elizabeth I), William Youmans (Sir Richard Bingham), Marcus Chait (Donal O’Flaherty), Jeff McCarthy (Dubhdara)…
This is only a preview, so I don’t want to make definitive comments… but The Pirate Queen reminded me of Martin Guerre on so many levels. Big, epic, loud… with a desperately straight storyline and a few occasional flashes of grace.
The most outstanding elements of the production are Eugene Lee’s brilliant scenic design and Kenneth Posner’s magnificent lighting… which contributes to make the whole show lean more towards a big amusement park spectacular than towards legitimate musical theatre. But I have a feeling that, like Wicked, this show might become popular with audiences.
And maybe it deserves to: the sore, which leans heavily towards the Irish vernacular, definitely has its moments; the story, although cartoonish, is reminiscent of some lavish Hollywood pirate epics; and the acting is mostly good — even if I’m not quite sure what to make of Linda Balgord’s… well, strange… impersonation of Elizabeth I.
Of course, two prerequisites for enjoying the show are an interest in Irish jig (which I confess to lack) and an ability to get over appallingly trite lyrics. But it can be done.
What a surprise to see Julian Kelly in the pit! I’ve seen him musical direct more shows — especially Sondheim shows — than I can remember, mostly at the Leicester Haymarket in the UK but also in London. Going from Sondheim to Schönberg while crossing the Atlantic must be quite a change…