Review: Bloomington Playwrights Project's 'The Truman Show' musical

February 9, 2013
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

I love the fact that Bloomington Playwrights Project has gotten into the brutally difficult business of incubating new musicals.

Crafting such a show isn't just about writing a good tunestack to go with solid source material. As with a child, a musical has to find its voice--not the voice of its individual creators but a voice of its own. And that voice doesn't always come with its birth, but can transform as it finds its feet.

I missed "Kissing Frogs," the musical crafted by IU alumni Schonfeld and Nicole Parker (she of "Mad TV" note) that took early steps at BPP in 2011. So I didn't want to miss Alex Gemignani and Brad Bauner's "The Truman Show," the latest BPP-produced new musical (Feb. 1-10). 

Famliarity with the material seems to be assumed: Even the show's poster isn't worried about spoiler prevention. As those who have seen the film know, Truman is a man raised from birth in an elaborate, live reality show. The rub is that he isn't aware of it, naively buying into his world as the real thing. But cracks begin to show, not everyone in his universe buys into the morality of this manipulation, and Truman begins to believe that his life isn't as real as he once thought. 

The movie requires an enormous suspension of disbelief (even these days with TV shows getting closer and closer to this kind of audience indulgence). The musical needs even more--and not just because, in this production, the roles, regardless of age, are played by college students).

Yes, we accept characters stepping out of reality in conventional musicals to belt out a telling tune and perform choreographed dance routines. But the musical numbers we see on stage aren't really a part of Truman's reality or the reality of the unreal real characters in his life. They are musical conventions and they muddy the lines in a story that, at its core, is anchored in the subtle differences between one reality and another. 

One strong sign of hope for the material lies in in a second act song where the manipulative show producer sings instructions to the earpiece of one of Truman's "friends" and that character sings them to Truman. It's a unique duet that gives the show musical layers that don't exist elsewhere, despite the earnestness of the production.

As it stands, though, the big leap--the kind that led the "Wicked" and "Les Miserables" creative team to throw out most of their source material--hasn't been made. As represented here, the show stands, wobbly, in the camp with "The Wedding Singer" and "9 to 5"--adaptations that aren't quite sure, theatrically, why they've been adapted to this form. 

Driving back to Indy, I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if Truman's "show" actually did feature choreographed dances, if his fake-life frinds did sing balads, and if his neighbords greeted him musically every morning. What would happen if that was the reality this guy grew up with, believing from a young age that people sing and dance their feelings. Wouldn't is reality include trying to find his own musical voice in order to fit in?

Now that might be a musical. 

Your thoughts?

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this blog

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
  1. Those of you yelling to deport them all should at least understand that the law allows minors (if not from a bordering country) to argue for asylum. If you don't like the law, you can petition Congress to change it. But you can't blindly scream that they all need to be deported now, unless you want your government to just decide which laws to follow and which to ignore.

  2. 52,000 children in a country with a population of nearly 300 million is decimal dust or a nano-amount of people that can be easily absorbed. In addition, the flow of children from central American countries is decreasing. BL - the country can easily absorb these children while at the same time trying to discourage more children from coming. There is tension between economic concerns and the values of Judeo-Christian believers. But, I cannot see how the economic argument can stand up against the values of the believers, which most people in this country espouse (but perhaps don't practice). The Governor, who is an alleged religious man and a family man, seems to favor the economic argument; I do not see how his position is tenable under the circumstances. Yes, this is a complicated situation made worse by politics but....these are helpless children without parents and many want to simply "ship" them back to who knows where. Where are our Hoosier hearts? I thought the term Hoosier was synonymous with hospitable.

  3. Illegal aliens. Not undocumented workers (too young anyway). I note that this article never uses the word illegal and calls them immigrants. Being married to a naturalized citizen, these people are criminals and need to be deported as soon as humanly possible. The border needs to be closed NOW.

  4. Send them back NOW.

  5. deport now

ADVERTISEMENT