re: What a traves-'Tea,' indeed!
Posted by: Chazwaza 10:58 pm EDT 06/22/22
In reply to: What a traves-'Tea,' indeed! - WaymanWong 07:11 pm EDT 06/22/22

Absolutely. The original script/score understood the choices it was making... it wasn't giving more time to Manjiro and Kayama's relationship (let alone Lord Abe) because the piece is not *about* them (hence why there's only one song for them together, and none of the other songs, even the ones they sing, are directly about their relationship as friends or their feelings about it -- the show does track them both as the focal point/anchor, but not exclusively their relationship... their journeys as are much real as they are symbolic), it tells many stories, the stories of the reactions and impact of this major event on the local people of Japan, and uses that relationship as a throughline and stand-in for a larger view of the evolution of Japan and the internal conflict as a nation/culture/people. The style of play they were doing intentionally does not do what Doyle seems to have wanted it to be doing.

And yes, why leave Welcome to Kanagawa which is even more of a comedy song than Chrysanthemum Tea and also shows focuses on Japanese prostitutes and their Madame, which in theory is an even more risky line to walk in terms of who the joke is "on", and in what ways the Japanese are portrayed to American audiences. I think both songs are brilliant, in no way problematic (so to speak) and are both very valid, clever and interesting viewpoints to see as the country responses to this situation of the arrival of the war ships. Cutting one for the reason he gives, but not the other, is silly. I think Tea was just at least twice as long, and that's why.

But yes... is it the show anymore? And how could this be your favorite Sondheim show but cut 40+ minutes from it and 1 of the 11 songs.

And yes... any theater, especially a theater of such note and resources as Signature, producing this show with any non-asians in the cast, let alone an entirely white cast, is a bad idea... I'd be very curious what the intention and concept was, surely there must have been because it's not as if they didn't have the resources to have an asian or even mostly-asian cast. And Eric Shaeffer is not a bad or stupid director - he's not the best, but he's done many excellent productions and had a long run as Artistic Director of that major theater and a long relationship with doing Sondheim shows. I also have to assume Sondheim and Weidman were made aware of this production and didn't shut it down... I have to think there was something being tried that they wanted to explore. But it is so in conflict with the concept and intention of the piece.

I saw it done at NYU when I was in high school i think, and even with a mixed-race cast, it didn't work for me. But I also would like the piece to get done. So I don't know. But at the level of Signature, I do not get it.

I think there's absolutely no chance this upcoming Signature production will have any non-Asian people in it, but who ever knows.

Previous: What a traves-'Tea,' indeed! - WaymanWong 07:11 pm EDT 06/22/22
Next: Doyle's P. Overtures was a travesty - Chazwaza 02:45 am EDT 06/22/22

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