A couple of stage productions overseas have been getting some attention. Mike Poulton's adaptation, directed by James Dacre, is running in Northampton right now before embarking on a national tour; What's On Stage gives it a good review here. (By the way, those who enjoy reading plays as much as I do can buy a copy of that adaptation here!) Meanwhile, a very different version called A Tale of Two Cities: Blood for Blood, by Jonathan Holloway, ran at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last month. Though I don't like the sound of some of the changes they made to the story, it does sound like it would have been interesting, at least!
I wasn't kidding about there being a lot of musicals based on A Tale of Two Cities!The cast album for 1969's Two Cities, which had a brief run in London, will be re-released June 24. It had lyrics and music by the father-and-son team of Jerry and Jeff Wayne, and starred Edward Woodward, Kevin Colson, Elizabeth Power, and Nicolette Roeg. The new release will include demos of songs that were cut from the production. Go here for more information, and go here to pre-order.
Of the making of musical adaptations of A Tale of Two Cities, there is no end. Another one, with book, lyrics, and music by Wendy Kesselman, will have a reading at New York's York Theatre Company tomorrow. BroadwayWorld has the details.
The reviews are in for Scott Carter's The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discordin Washington, D.C.! The Washington Post calls it "a funny and hyper-literate play of ideas . . . featuring a trio of able comic performances." DC Metro Theater Arts says, "The play may be a little short on humanity, but it is theologically, philosophically, and historically rich indeed." Broadway World says the play is reminiscent of George Bernard Shaw's works, and DC Theatre Scene calls director Bill Largess's treatment of the play "witty and imaginative."
Poemsby Charles Dickens (Alma Classics Ltd., 2013 edition).
This is a reprinted edition of a collection first published in 1903, "edited with commentaries by F. G. Kitton." It consists mostly of song lyrics and light verse taken from Dickens's plays, librettos, and books, along with a few "political squibs" and one or two poems written for friends. Kitton's commentaries are interesting and informative, although rather limited in scope -- one can't help wishing that as long as Alma Classics was reprinting the volume, they could have added some updated material on the poems, along with the new biographical sketch at the end.
As for the poems themselves, they are, well, average. The rhyme and meter are fine, the word choices are fine, and the political poems in particular are flavored with the biting wit that social and political issues tended to bring out in Dickens. But it's deeply ironic that, for a writer whose prose was often so lyrical and beautiful as to seem downright poetic, Dickens proved to be merely adequate at the task of writing actual poems. Despite the occasional flashes of cleverness or insight, there's little here that is truly inspiring or memorable. The collection is worth reading for the Dickens completist, but ultimately it has to be admitted that, as a poet, Dickens was one heck of a novelist.
Joanna Robinson, director of a recent London production of Dickens's play Is She His Wife?,has put a video of the show on YouTube. I haven't had the chance to watch it yet, but I did see a production of the play at the Chicago Dickens Fellowship conference a few years ago and can say that it's a fun one!