Theatre Matters

Contemplations on the dramatic arts from a national perspective

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Steven Oxman has contributed to such publications as the Los Angeles Times, American Theatre, Stagebill, and, most frequently, Variety, for which he has written over 300 television and theatre reviews.

Monday, November 15, 2004

"Highest Yellow" Highs and Lows

Peter Marks in The Washington Post reviews Michael John LaChiusa's new musical about Vincent Van Gogh. It reads like a classic fair-minded assessment, with a thoughtful consideration on what keeps the show from taking off:

"The excitement [Marc] Kudisch [as Van Gogh] generates in the part is a valuable commodity, because little else in this noble effort musters anything like it. LaChiusa -- creator of such art-house musicals as "Marie Christine," a modernized "Medea" and "The Wild Party," which sets to music the Jazz Age poem of the same title -- does not have a problem conveying emotion in his compositions; although often written in tight rhymes, they express feeling in a cascading, stream-of-consciousness sort of way. The difficulty arises in the undifferentiated manner in which the characters sing to themselves and to one another. In 'The Highest Yellow,' the sense of a cast of seven performing in one voice traps the enterprise in an all-too-uniform emotional orbit. "