Monday, June 23, 2014

Underrated Musical Gem


 book by Joseph Stein,  music and lyrics by Marc Blitzstein
 based on the play Juno and the Paycock by Sean O'Casey

Twenty years ago Dublin's Gate Theatre came to Chicago for the International Theatre Festival.  I still remember attending their production of Juno and the Paycock.
  It was one of the high points of the festival which entertained Chicago several times during the 1990s.

Yesterday I was fortunate to attend the musical Juno directed by Nick Bowling and produced by TimeLine Theatre Company in Chicago.  The musical is based on O'Casey's play with music and lyrics by Marc Blitzstein.  While the musical was first produced on Broadway in 1959 this was the first production in Chicago.  This may be due to the poor reception the musical received on its debut when it lasted a mere sixteen performances.  The recording of the original score (see photo) survived and is considered some of Blitzstein's best music.

The TimeLine production was superb with particularly good performances by Marya Grandy and Emily Glick as Juno and Mary Boyle, respectively.  The book followed the original play closely and it was perhaps the darkness of the ending that may have contributed to the poor response from audiences in 1959 (It was also up against a little play from Lerner and Loewe called "My Fair Lady").  It is a very Irish play and the music benefits from reference to Irish melodies.  In all the romance was touching, the comedy uproarious, while the tragic events and overtones of Irish troubles brought a touch of realism that made the action of the musical, like the play it was based upon, universal in character.
The result was a wonderful afternoon of musical theater.


Brian Joseph said...

Very interesting that it was turned into a musical.

I would want to hear lot of Irish melodies in the music.

James said...

Thanks for your comment - you would have liked the rousing choruses.