A comic and high-spirited `Waltz;' a musical play about Anne Frank The Waltz of the Toreadors Comedy by Jean Anouilh, translated by Lucienne Hill. Directed by Richard Russell Ramos. Starring Tammy Grimes, Lee Richardson, Carole Shelley.
| New York
The Roundabout Theatre Company has opened its 20th anniversary season with an exuberant revival of Jean Anouilh's 1952 philosophical farce, ``The Waltz of the Toreadors.'' Time has not diminished the overt ebullience or the underlying poignancy of this absurdist Gallic comedy. To all outward appearances, Gen. Leon St. P'e is a figure of caricature, a preposterous military relic, a chronic and disillusioned philanderer. The general is also a romantic who describes himself as an ``aged youngster'' in fancy dress, ``still waiting to give his all.''
He dreams of recovering the woman he loved and lost 17 years previously because, at the time, he was a young married officer with a career to make. Meanwhile, St. P'e's marriage to a domineering psychosomatic invalid and one-time Wagnerian soprano has degenerated into a battle in which the general is constantly under siege.
Hard on the heels of the latest marital skirmish, the object of St. P'e's youthful infatuation turns up to insist he fly away with her. Ghislaine de Ste.-Euvert has remained a mademoiselle throughout her long wait. She is as fetching a spinster as Carole Shelley can make her, which is very fetching indeed. Miss Shelley's irresistible performance in the role is a model of light comedy expertise. The unexpected arrival begins the series of farcical scrambles in the course of which the general loses Ghisla ine forever, discovers a son of whom he had not been aware, and winds up wistfully where he started.
``The Waltz of the Toreadors'' dances to the beat of Anouilh's comic rhythms. But its heartbeat is equally important. General St. P'e's military bluster and absurd posturings mask the fact that, off the battlefield, he is a cowardly Leon. In his conversations with Dr. Bonfant, Mme. St. P'e's good-humored attending physician, the general reveals the fear and loneliness that haunt him. As much as anything else, it has been the desire not to hurt his wife that has prevented his leaving her.
Lee Richardson plays the old campaigner of battlefields and boudoirs with comic high spirits and an accompanying recognition of the pathos inherent in General St. P'e's predicament. In the several amusing philosophical and metaphysical debates that enrich the play, Mr. Richardson is well matched by Alvin Epstein's Dr. Bonfant, a sensible medico who shuns bromides.
As the relentless Mme. St P'e, Tammy Grimes remains heard but unseen in Act I. Taking the stage in Act II, Miss Grimes delivers the ex-soprano's aria of taunts and recriminations with the fury of an avenging Amazon. The fusillade almost drives the general to an act of fatal violence. But Anouilh is writing farce-comedy, not tragedy, and Mme. St. P'e is spared.
The Roundabout revival, staged by Richard Russell Ramos, sustains the comic stylishness demanded by this combination of Feydeau farcicalities, wry cynicism, and mock romance. The attractive cast includes Eric Swanson as the unworldly secretary to whom the general is dictating his memoirs, Jane Jones and Amanda Carlin as the gawky St. P'e daughters, Elizabeth Owens doubling as the family servant and the local dressmaker, Wyman Pendleton as the priest who springs the plot's surprise, and Whitney Reis in o ne of those tiny roles that audiences remember.
The production has been handsomely designed by Kate Edmunds (scenery), Robert Pusilo (costumes), and Barry Arnold (lighting). ``The Waltz of the Toreadors'' runs through Nov. 10. If only the run could be extended! Yours, Anne Musical play by Enid Futterman (libretto) and Michael Cohen (music). Based on ``Anne Frank, the Diary of a Young Girl'' and the play ``The Diary of Anne Frank,'' by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. Directed by Arthur Masella.
Few Holocaust records have made a more lasting or vivid impression than Anne Frank's eloquent diary. Compiled by the Jewish teen-ager from 1942 to 1944, when she and six fellow Jews were hidden from the Nazis in an Amsterdam warehouse, it has proved a lasting memorial. ``The Diary of Anne Frank,'' Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett's prizewinning 1955 dramatization, plus the original journal itself, now serve as the basis for ``Yours, Anne,'' the unpretentious but caring musical at Playhouse 91.
``Great effort was made,'' states a program note, ``to create a piece that is true to the spirit of the diary and to the young girl who wrote it -- her strength, her desire to survive, her courage, and her faith in humanity and nature.'' The adaptation manifests the sincerity of the effort and the talent that has gone into creating it. In the process, the Goodrich-Hackett version has been condensed and thereby lessened.
Anne's self-awareness as a maturing youngster emerges within the constraints of a shared predicament that imposes its own extraordinary pressures and apprehensions. Responding equally to the demands of the spoken text and the numerous songs, Trini Alvarado creates an appealing portrait of the sensitive, mercurial, and impulsive young diarist.
The adaptation follows a conventional form. Librettist Enid Futterman and composer Michael Cohen alternate dialogues with a mosaic of melodious numbers expressing the joys as well as the tensions of the clandestine group, the bond that is stronger than passing frictions, the fear that assails them, and the courage that sustains them. Act I climaxes stirringly as the Jews light candles and join in singing ``The First Chanukah Night.''
``Yours, Anne'' is ably acted and sung by George Guidall, Dana Zeller-Alexis, and Ann Tallman (Anne's family); Merwin Goldsmith, Betty Aberlin, and David Cady (the Van Daans); and Hal Robinson (Mr. Dussel, the dentist).
The production is well served by Franco Colavecchia's all-purpose setting, Beverly Emmons's fluid lighting, and Judith Dolan's costumes. The performance was staged by Arthur Masella, with musical direction by Dan Strickland.