Colette's life as a musical - sketchy, but the songs are fetching; Colette Collage Musical Comedy with books and lyrics by Tom Jones, music by Harvey Schmidt. Directed by Fran Soeder.
New York — Colette Collage. Musical comedy with book and lyrics by Tom Jones, music by Harvey Schmidt. Directed by Fran Soeder. The musicalized autobiography of French writer Colette has been a long time a-borning. It began several years before 1970, when librettist-lyricist Tom Jones and composer Harvey Schmidt began toying with the idea for such a musical.
After they had abandoned the project as hopeless, Elinor Jones (Tom's wife) took off in a new direction with a stage adaptation of ''Earthly Paradise,'' the Robert Phelps collection of Colette's autobiographical writings. With incidental songs by Jones and Schmidt, ''Colette'' had a successful Off Broadway run with Zoe Caldwell in the title role and Mildred Dunnock as her mother, Sido.
In 1977, Jones and Schmidt returned to their original idea. Four years later, it became a full-fledged musical, starring British star Diana Rigg, but it closed last spring in the course of its out-of-town tryout.
Now, a simplified and altogether more modest version has been mounted by the intrepid York Theatre Company, under the title of ''Colette Collage,'' in the little theater at the Church of the Heavenly Rest.
If the libretto is inevitably sketchy, eliminating many as
pects of Colette's personal history, the musical treatment at least attempts to compensate. The best things about the show are its fetching its songs.
The singing assignments are well handled by Timothy Jerome as the scoundrely Willy, Joanne Beretta as Sido, George Hall as Willy's secretary and later Colette's music hall partner, and Steven F. Hall as Maurice Goudeket, the younger man with whom Colette enjoyed a happy marriage. Jana Robbins is a good-looking actress with a strong, hard voice and a no-nonsense Broadway manner. But she does not evidence the style and charming femininity to go with Colette's valor.
The absence of a sufficiently European flavor mars the production, staged by Fran Soeder within James Moran's simple but ingenious setting.
Notwithstanding all their dedicated efforts over the years, the talented Jones and Schmidt have failed to discover a viable treatment for their challenging subject. As an attempted tribute to a distinguished French woman of letters, ''Colette Collage'' turns out to be a creative miscalculation.