Despite its starry Broadway cast and Oscar-nominated source material, Women on the Verge concludes its Broadway run three weeks prior to its scheduled closing date of Jan. 23, 2011. The production, which was billed as a limited engagement, played 30 previews and 69 performances at the Belasco Theatre.
Critics were cool on the musical based on Pedro Almodóvar's Oscar-nominated 1988 film, which was adapted for the stage by Tony Award-nominated Dirty Rotten Scoundrels collaborators Yazbek (music and lyrics) and Lane (book).
The technically ambitious work, helmed by Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza), opened Nov. 4 after previews that began Oct. 8. Early previews were delayed in order to allow the creative team and cast to work on the cinematic transitions and to clarify the story. Almodóvar's original film cuts to scenes across Madrid in the late 1980's as numerous plot lines intermingle.
Sher spoke with Playbill.com on opening night about translating a beloved film to stage. "It feels cinematic but it's totally theatre. The difference between theatre and film is that [in theatre] we do all of it in front of everybody in real time, so you have the experience of cuts and shifts and changes in front of everybody. It requires a whole different way of thinking about how things are ordered and how they come together and all that. The challenge with this one was, even more so than South Pacific and Light in the Piazza, it had enormous quick changes and shifts and tiny scenes. So we spent months and months and months developing a way of having the thing transition and shift on a dime. As complex as it is, it should feel as light as a feather, so you never feel the pressure of anything, but it moving beautifully," he said.
The Tony-winning director also touched on opening Women on the Verge in New York without the benefit of an out-of-town try-out. "I think the thing I love about New York audiences is how tough they are," Sher said. "They're not gonna bullshit you. They're gonna be right there. You hear it immediately, you live inside of it. They are really strong-minded, but they know their work, and you need the audience to learn what you need to do. It takes a lot of fortitude to do it, because it's a very exhausting and very labor-intensive thing, but I think I feel very lucky to be able to do it and I feel very privileged to be able to have New York audiences to do it in front of. And yeah, it was cold and yeah, it was crazy, but, you know, I think we made a great thing and it just went down to the wire. That's how it often happens. Often, the very best things happen at the last minute, and that was true here, too." Among the songs penned for the musical are "Madrid," "Lie to Me," "Lovesick," "Time Stood Still," "Model Behavior," "My Crazy Heart," "The Microphone," "Island," "On the Verge," "Mother's Day," "Invisible" and "Talk to Me."
Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell (Kiss Me, Kate, Ragtime) is the musical's virile catalyst, Ivan, who sets off an emotional rollercoaster that causes the women in his life (and beyond) to toe the line between sanity and mental collapse. His fellow leading men include Tony nominee Danny Burstein (South Pacific) as a flashy taxi driver and Justin Guarini ("American Idol").
The Women on the Verge are played by Tony nominee Scott (Everyday Rapture, The Little Mermaid) as Pepa, the abandoned girlfriend; Tony winner LuPone (Gypsy, Evita) as the scorned ex-wife, Lucia; Tony winner Benanti (Gypsy, In the Next Room) as the high-strung best friend Candela; as well as Tony nominee de'Adre Aziza (Passing Strange), Tony nominee Mary Beth Peil (Nine, Sunday in the Park With George) and Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Seussical).
|photo by Paul Kolnik|
The Women on the Verge ensemble includes Julio Agustin, Alma Cuervo, John Carroll, Murphy Guyer, Rachel Bay Jones, Nina Lafarga, Yanira Marin, Sean McCort, Vivian Nixon, Luis Salgado, Jennifer Maria Sanchez, John Schiappa, Samantha Shafer, Phillip Spaeth, Matthew Steffens and Charlie Sutton.
Women on the Verge has choreography by Christopher Gattelli, musical direction by Jim Abbott, sets by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Catherine Zuber, lighting by Brian MacDevitt, sound by Scott Lehrer, projections by Sven Ortel, aerial design by The Sky Box, special effects by Gregory Meeh, wigs and hair by Charles LaPointe, make-up by Dick Page, orchestrations by Simon Hale, and additional orchestrations by Jim Abbott & David Yazbek.
Here's how LCT bills Women on the Verge: "Both touching and hilarious, it's a story about women and the men who pursue them... finding them, losing them, needing them, and rejecting them. At the center is Pepa (Scott) whose friends and lovers are blazing a trail through 1980s Madrid. And why do they all keep showing up at her high-rise apartment? Is it her gazpacho? Along with Pepa, there's her missing (possibly philandering) lover, Ivan (Mitchell); his ex-wife of questionable sanity, Lucia (LuPone); Pepa's friend, Candela (Benanti), and her terrorist boyfriend; a power-suited lawyer (Aziza) plus a taxi driver (Burstein) who dispenses tissues, mints and advice in equal proportion. Mayhem and comic madness abound, balanced by the empathy and heart that are trademarks of Almodóvar's work. And of Bartlett Sher's too."