Friday, July 11, 2014

Whistle Down the Wind

The 80’s were a strange time for American Musical Theater. While American artists suffered crisis after crisis producer Cameron Macintosh and composers Andrew Lloyd Webber and  Boublil and Schönberg brought their hits from the West End to Broadway and settled in for long, franchise building runs. Later in his career Webber tried a hand at some smaller scale stories with mixed results. 

The novel and film of Whistle Down the Wind focused on precocious children in Lancanshire. The musical gave us sultry teens in Louisiana. When your leading lady has to believe Jesus is in her barn, and you cast a sexy 18 year old woman in the role, you are begging for camp. Maybe she was kicked in the head by a pony.

Review quotes:

Near the end of "Whistle Down the Wind," the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that had its world premiere last night at the National Theatre, we finally get the Big Snake-Handling Number. Performing "Wrestle With the Devil" in a diabolic red light, the singers writhe and sweat and spin and grimace and shake rubber snakes and dance frenziedly and fall into ecstatic trances with their feet twitching. It's all pretty embarrassing, but at least the evening momentarily comes to life. Rarely has a show needed a jolt of bad taste more. Lloyd Webber is often accused of vulgarity, but that's not the problem here. "Whistle Down the Wind" is just dull.

"Whistle Down the Wind," in its premiere here at the National Theatre, may be the most spectacular miscalculation in Andrew Lloyd Webber's long and phenomenal career…. The script… scuttles everything.

The Guardian (2006)
But, although Bill Kenwright's new production is infinitely superior to the over-inflated original, I still can't warm to a musical that asks me to believe six impossible things before suppertime.

Song clips:

Sarah Brigthman singing the title song accompanied by Webber.
No Matter What - Children giving gifts to Jesus in the 1996 production.
Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts - Jeremy Jordan and Ashley Spencer in 2012. The song goes to the sexy biker teens who betray the convict's hiding place.

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