It's been a long time since I worked at the Theatre Development Fund. But as a Dramatist Guild member, I still get discount tickets through them. So Wednesday night I went to see "110 in the Shade" with two actor/singer friends (one of whom is a devoted and much appreciated reader of this blog!). The three of us did not go to school together, we have completely different training. And had fairly different reactions to the show.
I thought Audra McDonald was simply amazing. I'm not surprised she's won that many Tonys at her age. John Collum (who I'd seen on stage before, but never in a musical) was incredible. He does what every really great actor does- he makes his work look absolutely effortless.
I grew up with a lot of Jones & Schmidt music around me. I sang songs from "Celebration" for voice lessons; auditioned for multiple productions of "The Fantasticks"; I studied with a man who directed a production of "Philemon"; and my parents has the original cast album of "I Do, I Do" which I listened to frequently.
Now, I have a greater appreciation of libretti, and in particular this one. N. Richard Nash wrote the libretto for "110 in the Shade," based on his play "The Rainmaker." I'm trying to think of another playwright who's done that, adapted their own straight play into a libretto, and off the top of my head can't think of one. I sat through a lot of scene classes in school where someone was doing the Starbuck/Lizzie scene. In my youth, I dismissed it as incredibly hokey. But I don't believe that now. I think that Nash put his finger on something very important about being a woman in this culture, in the scene where Starbuck tries to get Lizzie to say she's pretty. I've seen incredibly assertive actresses dissolve into tears while working on that scene. It was by far the most moving scene in this production.
I suspect that even the beautiful Audra McDonald has a critical voice in her head telling her that she's not really that pretty. I suspect that we all do.