Monday, February 20, 2012

Not a Review - Giant

The Dallas Theater Center and (I don't have my program in front of me) producers from New York have collaborated on bringing Edna Ferber's sweeping Texas novel to the musical stage.  (There is, of course, a classic film version.)

The sprawling story almoooost fit.  It's a lot of plot and a lot of characters, so Giant's run time naturally stretched a bit past the amount of time an audience can sit comfortably on the DTC's newly padded seats... but only just.

I have mixed feelings about this production.

On the one hand, I'm rootin' for DTC to create new works and for this Texas story in particular.  I loved and was touched by the scene and song at the beginning of the first act.  I liked most of the cast, and enjoyed the songs.  The production values were great, of course (a couple quibbles).  Loved the very clever and effective set and lighting.

Image of the Dallas Theater Center's Giant, borrowed from Arts & Culture

But on the other hand...  (Isn't there always a but?)

I think, though the team has done miracles in compressing this story, that they need to cut the length further.  The songs are all good, but no one song stands out as the hum-on-the-way-home number or stands alone.  Maybe the storyline of the Mexican cowboy off to war ought to be cut to improve the show's length, but I see exactly why it's still in - it strengthens the Hispanic theme greatly and has the snappiest song, sung by one of the most appealing actors, and the scene has both needed emotion and verve.  The second act gets a bit bogged in too many settings and plot points.  Even the set gets cluttered in the second act, until the beautiful spareness of the desert scene.

I wanted to like Giant more than, honestly, I did.  But I think there's a great show in there somewhere.

The quibbles?

1) A show about Texas at the Dallas Theater Center with almost no Texans in it?  When I saw it, the (Texas) understudy played the role of the Uncle.  Played it well.  But otherwise, very few locals.  And this, perhaps, contributed to the occasionally shaky Texas accents.  Also, when a character is meant to be a young Texas country stud of menacing (hetero)sexuality... sorry, but to me he sounded NY and (metro)sexual.  The inflection on certain words I think. Great pipes and energy though and looked the part.
2) The beautiful clarity and simplicity of the set (not to mention the plot) gets a bit lost as the second acts hops from place to place.  I know that's in the text, but simplicity would be better here, I think, if it can be found.
3)  I've heard complaints that the Stetsun hats' shapes/creases are not period correct.  I'm not expert enough to know about that, but I did catch the out-of-period Neiman Marcus bags.  Really guys?  You're the DTC with, like, a gadjillion dollar budget and a props staff of thousands (okay, more than one).  Couldn't you make the right bags?  There were only two.

Like I said, quibbles.  The bigger problem is that, though all together a just fine production... for me it's just... fine.  Not yet great.  But it can be!

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