Monday, June 14, 2010

A Little (Sweeter) Night Music

After Catherine Zeta Jones' abominable performance of "Send in the Clowns" on the Tony Awards broadcast, I made the painful decision to write off the current Broadway revival of A Little Night Music. I've never seen the play, but I know the soundtrack backward and forward and really wanted to see the songs in context. But, oh, how awful was CZJ, whipping her head around, over-dramatizing this subtle, angry song? Yikes! (How she won her Tony is beyond me.)

If you're at all familiar with Judi Dench's rendition from the mid-1990s, it's hard to watch even the most seasoned pro attack "Send in the Clowns." I wasn't expecting Zeta Jones to measure up to Dame Dench, but I expected at least an engaging interpretation. Well, I'll leave it to you to compare - first Zeta Jones (YouTube, shot from TV version - only thing available right now), then Dench. There's about 1:00 of an interview at the head of the Dench video; stick with it, but grab a hankie first.

However, the gods of Broadway decided to smile down upon me. After all, who knows when the next revival of A Little Night Music will come around, eh? Well, Zeta Jones and Angela Lansbury (who is marvelous in the role of Mme Armfeldt, I'm sure) are leaving the show after June 20. The show is closed for a couple of weeks, when - wait for it - Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch take over Desiree and the Mme on July 13.

Sign me up, sez I! And I lucked out with an Orchestra Center/Center seat for . . . July 13. Bernadette Peters. Elaine Stritch. A Little Night Music. I can hardly wait for "Weekend in the Country," "You Must Meet My Wife," and "Every Day a Little Death." Buh-bye, Catherine.


Chris said...

So pleased for you, Mary. Thanks for putting in the Zeta Jones clip - hadn't seen it and now wish things had remained that way! She was truly awful. Did she have a puppeteer controlling her???
I've always liked that song very much, originally by Glynis Johns who was in the first early '70's production and interpretated it very well. Of course, she was also a 'proper', competent actress but nowhere as talented as Judi Dench. After Dame Judi's version she became Desiree in my mind but you'll have to let us all know how Bernadette Peters (someone, I regret, who is unknown to me) plays it.

MaryB said...

Yes - Sondheim wrote Send in the Clowns for Johns, who wasn't a singer, couldn't sustain notes. From one critic: In analyzing the text of the song, Max Cryer wrote that it "is not intended to be sung by the young in love, but by a mature performer who has seen it all before. The song remains an anthem to regret for unwise decisions in the past and recognition that there's no need to send in the clowns-they're already here." Always felt Zeta Jones was wrong for the part of Desiree.

Bernadette Peters, BTW, is one of Broadways "divas" - the list also includes Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley, Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel and a few other women who can command a stage and belt out a tune. Peters is considered one of the leading interpreters of Sondheim. Really looking forward to seeing the show with her as Desiree. (But Dench, well - unbeatable.)

Joy Des Jardins said...

Mary, I can barely see through my tears. There's no comparison..none. Catherine Zeta Jones was just awful. What happened to her voice? Judy Dench was so wonderful...truly magnificent. Thank you for posting these clips. I love that song...always have. Dame Dench did it justice. ~Joy

Anonymous said...

Dorothy Parker pegged Zeta Jones...
"She ran the gamut of emotions
from a to b."
Viva Dame Judi!!!

Liz said...

That's one of our local girls you're so roundly abusing there, mary! But how could anyone compare with Dame Judi?