Thursday, June 04, 2009


You think of words like "uncompromising" and "integrity" as you watch Stephen Merritt's musical of the enormously popular children's tale. The score's strange, angular melodies as primarily played on a single tinkling keyboard, the casting of mature Jane Houdyshell as the adventure-seeking nine year old heroine, the avoidance of anything that smacks of gratuitous crowd-pleasing: a unique artistic vision has been rigorously followed and realized. But it's hard to feel anything besides detached appreciation for the show's uniqueness: despite a uniformly wonderful cast and many isolated performance moments that tempt the imagination, the production is curiously remote and short on the inventive theatricality that would showcase the very special material to advantage.

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