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Monday, February 24, 2014

A Tale Of Two Cities Week {Musical Review}

one of those 'tomorrow' songs :)

The idea for this week started when I felt a need to heighten public awareness of the amazing, gorgeous musical that is A Tale Of Two Cities.  Of course, I decided to broaden out to include the book (which is amazing in its own right) and a movie adaption, simply because I wasn't sure I'd have enough ideas related to the musical to fill the whole week.  However, this week is still very much focused on the musical version of ATOTC (which you can watch here) and I think it was a justified decision on my part.  So many people know nothing about the musical, in comparison to the book, and I think it's a shame because the musical is absolutely wonderful – my all-time favorite after Les Miserables (well, it's actually tied with Cinderella).  I've been waiting until this week to review the musical, so here it is.

I stumbled across the musical ATOTC quite by accident (that seems the common theme with fans of it).  I was searching on Youtube for clips of certain songs from the musical version of The Scarlet Pimpernel and while I was listening to 'Into The Fire', I noticed the link to the full musical on my sidebar.  I hadn't even know there was a musical of ATOTC, but I'd always liked the story, so I clicked on it.  Michael York started off reciting the opening lines of the book, and I was mildly interested, and then the opening notes started and I was spellbound (I think the best thing any musical can do is have a really strong opening number, preferably with strong opening notes, as they're sure to capture the viewer's interest right away).  I watched the whole thing in one afternoon, loved all the songs, and cried bucket loads at the end.  And then turned around and showed it to the rest of my family pretty much the next day.  After that, I did what I always do when I get a new obsession – scour the Internet for anything even remotely related to the object of my obsession.

And besides a few old cast photos and some spiritless reviews from critics (mostly comparing the musical to Les Mis – and not favourably, either) I found nothing.  Boy, was that disappointing.  I couldn't understand why everyone wasn't as obsessed with it as I was.  It had everything!  Based off a classic book (those kind of musicals seem to make it least in some cases), gorgeous songs/orchestration, a satisfyingly emotional ending – what more could you want?  Fans of a musical which has pretty much sunk into oblivion are extremely hard to find, but I was able to convert a couple of my friends to ATOTC musical obsession (and Sierra already loved it).  But mostly it's just been my own little private fandom.  I've listened to both albums – Concept and International – several times (reviews of each coming soon) and watched the musical at least four times.  I've hunted up every single interview, bootleg clip, and alternate song renditions that I could find on Youtube (I'll be showcasing them in a post later this week).

I've noticed that I tend to talk about my feelings/experiences with whatever book/movie/musical I'm reviewing rather than talk about the plot and that, but, in my opinion, that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  If I'm a fan of something, I'd much rather read how said thing made people feel than just get a plot/character overview.  Know what I mean?  And I'm sure everyone knows everything about the plot and characters of ATOTC ;)  But I will talk about each character portrayal (or at least the main ones), what I thought of them, and what my favorite songs were.  That's always fun.

'and from my nearly empty glass, the wasted years stare back at me.  it's no one else's fault i see the man i see.  or that my life is not the way it ought to be.'James Barbour plays Sydney Carton.  From the first moment I saw him on-stage, I was drawn to his performance.  Although the musical's portrayal of Sydney focuses more on his unrequited love for Lucie than any of his faults (at least I think so), I still think James Barbour does an amazing job portraying the Sydney of the book as well as the musical.  He blends Sydney's self-loathing and nobler feelings together in a way that makes me cry every time I listen to/watch one of his solos.  James Barbour has the enviable talent of showing emotion just using his voice (as shown in the original cast recording of Jane Eyre – another sadly overlooked musical) and in the role of Sydney Carton he has ample room to bring all his acting skills to the forefront.  

Simon Thomas played the other male lead role as Charles Darnay, and although I enjoyed his performance, there was something lacking in it.  Like I mentioned earlier, musical Charles isn't as well-rounded as book Charles.  Brandi Burkhardt as Lucie, on the other hand, gave a stellar performance.  She portrayed Lucie as a strong, spirited woman (though not annoyingly so), a devoted daughter, and a wonderful wife.  My favorite version of Lucie ever (even over book Lucie).  Natalie Toro played a frightening, though entirely unsympathetic, Madame Defarge.  Her single solo – 'Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind' – is frighteningly good, in a spooky way.  It's one of my favorite songs in the whole musical, mostly because of Natalie Toro's amazingly strong belting voice.  It's not a beautiful voice, per se, but one that's full of power.


Speaking of favorite songs, I had several.  I pretty much love all of them, but the ones that stick out to me the most are 'I Can't Recall' (gorgeous, gorgeous orchestration), 'Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind' (as mentioned earlier), 'Now At Last' (I'm smiling just thinking about this one – it's even better than 'A Heart Full Of Love' as a love song), 'If Dreams Came True' (the song spans about nine years, all told – it's brilliant and heartbreaking), 'Never Say Goodbye' (sooooo beautiful), and, of course, the finale.  It gives me the same emotional high as the Les Mis finale, which I love, even if I'm crying.  Oh, and there is one little scene in the concert that is probably my favorite.  It's called 'The Letter' on the soundtrack and it's when Lucie reads the note Charles (and Sydney) wrote in the prison and then discovers Charles is sitting next to her.  It's perfect.  I love it.

Well, that's my review of the musical version of ATOTC.  Have you watched it?  If not, I highly recommend you go and do so right now.  You're really missing out ;)



Catie Dunlap said...

I've been wanting to watch the concert version, but my mother wants to know a bit more about it first--mainly, is there any content that would make it inappropriate for, say, a ten-year-old? a fourteen-year-old? It's rather difficult for my parents and I to watch movies together, as I have three siblings who are very difficult to convince to go to bed. :D If you could help me out, I'd be eternally grateful. I've been needing a good cry.

Eva said...

Well, I don't really feel comfortable setting age limits and such for movies I've watched, since every family has different standards, but if you shoot me an email at, I'd be happy to give you a good assessment of the content, so your mom can see whether or not it would suitable for your family. Sounds good?

Caroline L. said...

Your description of your feelings when you discovered ATOTC musical is pretty much exactly what I went through. ;] Oh, all thanks to you for that!

James Barbour. *siiiigh* WHAT an actor. Not that I've seen him do much other than this. But, yes, his voice can carry such immense emotion. And they way he acts with his eyes. No words have I.

Yay for musical Lucie! I was really surprised at how wonderfully-written and played she was! They managed to walk that perfect line between the lovely, gentle girl of the book and enlivening and fleshing her out, without falling into the trap of making her clichedly "independent and strong."

Yes. Jeepers, was Madame Defarge scary! She wasn't quite what I had in mind from reading the book, but was certainly interesting (with an amazing voice).

"I Can't Recall" makes me want to cry. GAH! So perfect for Sydney!

Every part of Sydney with Lucie and/or her child was so touching. Basically either extremely sad or achingly adorable. AND THE ENDING.

Yeah. I love it.

Carlson Chronicler said...

An ardent Dickens' fan here: I completely agree with your estimation of this play - stunning, accurate, beautiful. Just a thought - I think one major reason for the tepid reviews was the evident Christian undertones in the book that were translated beautifully into the play (even though I am not remotely proposing that Dickens was a Christian)

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