By Robert Viagas
26 Oct 1996
If you thought Rent and Noise/Funk stretched the boundaries of the Broadway musical, wait until you hear the concept album for the forthcoming Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass, which will be released Oct. 29, a week before the musical starts previews at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre.
The CD, being released by Sony Classical, is a studio recording, done this past summer, featuring many members of the original Off-Broadway cast, nearly all of whom will be recreating the innovative music-theatre piece on Broadway.
"It's non-stop music," composer Elliot Goldenthal told Playbill On-Line. "It's a musical-plus, in a sense that the music never stops. The music is both foreground and background. It has a lot of layers, a lot of ramifications. "
He said that while titles are listed on the CD, they're "Not songs in the traditional song form, ABA; they're more 'areas' in the score than songs. Juan Darien is more like an opera. But it's designed to be sung rather crudely. It's not 'pretty-voiced.' Most importantly , it stars an 11 year old boy."
Based on a short story by Uruguayan Horacio Quiroga, Juan Darien uses puppets, masked actors and unusual instruments. to tell -- in the form of a carnival Mass -- a folk tale about the effects of savagery on civilization. Julie Taymor directs, adapted the text and designed the play's distinctive puppets and masks. Goldenthal composed the music.
Juan Darien debuted off-off-Broadway at Music-Theatre Group in 1988. It won the 1989 Richard Rodgers Award for musicals in development, and opened later that year off-Broadway.
Taymor was acclaimed in spring 1996 for her off-Broadway production of Carlo Goldoni's The Green Bird. She's also currently working with Disney to adapt its animated hit, The Lion King for Broadway.
Perhaps because Goldenthal pursued an extensive career in experimental Off-Off-Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre, Juan Darien is the first of his stage scores to be recorded. His film scores are a different story. Goldenthal is one of the hottest of contemporary movie composers. His Interview With a Vampire score is on Geffen Records; Drugstore Cowboy on RCA; Cobb on Sony Classical; Batman Forever, Time To Kill and the current Michael Collins are available on Atlantic.
However, Goldenthal hastens to point listeners to his oratorio, Fire Water Paper, marking the 20th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, recorded earlier this year for Sony Classical. The recording is scored for a full orchestra and chorus, with Yo Yo-Ma soloing on cello.
Despite all this high-profile writing, Goldenthal insisted, "I don't think people know who I am. The average person who has a subscription to Lincoln Center probably hasn't even heard of Stephen Sondheim. Guys like me are sort of in the background, and I hope it stays that way."
The Juan Darien recording was made in July, reuniting members of the 1988 and 1989 Off-Broadway productions, whom Goldenthal said were "so brilliant" he and Taymor pushed to include most of them in the Broadway transfer.
These include Andrea Frierson, who plays the Mother, plus singers Irene Wiley, Ariel Ashwell and Irma LaGuerre. Many musicians have been retained as well.
One prominent performer who will be different on CD and stage is the one playing the title character, an 11-year-old boy. Daniel Provenzano is heard on the CD, but Daniel Hudd will play the role on Broadway, Goldenthal said.
Does he think Broadway audiences will respond to Juan Darien?
"It's such an unusual show, it's hard to know," Goldenthal said. "We were in San Francisco [in 1990] at the Marines Memorial and it certainly didn't seem like a downtown San Francisco show. Cats was playing across the street. When we opened, ticket sales weren't very good. But by time we closed eight weeks later, it was totally sold out. No one knows how to package it. But once people see it, they say [to their friends] 'You've got to see this thing.'"
Previews begin Nov. 6 at the newly refurbished Vivian Beaumont Theatre in Lincoln Center for the piece by Julie Taymor and Goldenthal. Opening night will be Nov. 24, and the production is scheduled to run through early January 1997.
Tickets are on sale through Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200 and through Playbill On-Line.