Saturday 17 August 2019

Love Interest

As I was (not) saying re that love interest in an imagined musical version of The Alchemist . . .
Once we get past the Prologue--containing the business about the writer and his book--we get into the story proper: about a young shepherd boy, tending his flock of sheep. According to his father, the boy's career choices were shepherd or priest, and the boy wanted to travel. So here he is, herding his sheep over the countryside.
They learn his rhythms, more a case of him learning theirs. He tells them about the weather, what's on his mind today, what he's seen. Lately, he's been telling them about the girl, the wool-shearer's daughter, whom he's about to meet again . . .

Tuesday 13 August 2019

A Page of Reading

I got to the end of the first page of The Alchemist (by Paulo Coelho, trans. Alan Clarke) and saw a musical. The speaker in the novel expresses the theme: I never "wavered in my vision" and "in the end, I realized . . .". Imagine the musical of which that is the synopsis.
"Well, every musical every made," you might reply, dear Reader. Yes, so it's not the them, it's the details that have to sell the show.
In the case of The Alchemist--to be confirmed once I finish reading it--the details include a writer whose first book, published twenty-five years ago, "no one noticed." Other characters would be a bookseller, a publisher, and the single customer, who buys the book twice.
Somehow the book itself would be the focus of the opening song, a montage involving all who carry it. 
As for love interest . . .

Wednesday 7 August 2019


The more famous the show tune, the less we remember its context in the show. "Cabaret," for instance. Here it is, the wonderful Kander/Ebb song, aced by Liza Minelli in the '72 movie.

In the play, Sally Bowles--the Kit Kat showgirl, I think meant to be far less polished than Minelli--ignores the rise of the Nazis in pre-war Berlin. Let others resist or, like her American (in the play) British (in the movie) boyfriend, flee. She'll stay working at the club. In fact, she's due at a rehearsal right now.

Politics don't matter, she believes, even when the nightmare looms. They're throwing bricks through windows of Jewish sympathizers, lovers are torn apart, Sally's had an abortion . . .

So in the play she comes on stage and does the song and says her piece. More than a call to seize the pleasures of the moment, the song expresses her fear, defiance, hope, cowardice, fate, force, innocence, blindness, strength.

One measure of how big this song became outside of the show is that later productions moved it to the top. In its original spot, near the Act Two climax of the piece, the song takes us to the heart of the character at the moment of greatest crisis.