Streaming Musicals (streamingmusicals.com) launched its debut production on Thursday, October 3.* Their first production Emma, has book, music and lyrics by Paul Gordon (Tony®Award nominee – Jane Eyre, Daddy Long Legs). Based on Jane Austen’s classic novel, this musical has been given a mid-century modern reworking at the Westside Theatre, where it was filmed this past spring. The format is a hybrid between a film and a stage musical. The show was staged in a theatre, but they shot it like a film with 3 cameras. Kent Nicholson directed the show for the stage and Tim Kashani for film. The look doesn’t exactly feel like a live show, but more of an intimate reading with basic costumes, minimalistic set, choreography and lighting. Alice Brooks, director of photography cuts the men’s faces off while they are singing. A lot of the shots just seem odd and at wrong angles. It doesn’t capture the intimacy of a live theatrical experience.
The whole show seems to showcase Kelli Barrett (Broadway’s Doctor Zhivago, Wicked) who plays Emma and the score by Mr. Gordon. Both come off exceedingly well. The rest of the show, however does not. The production design by Dara Wishingrad has kept this show looking drab and Benjamin Weill’ lighting design doesn’t help. Some of this might have to do with Ally Rice ‘s editing.
Another part of the problem, is that anyone who knows or loves the story of Emma wants to see it set in the 19th Century, not a mid-century modern version. It takes away from the lushness and the romance of it all. We want the sets, the costumes, the hair, it adds to the appeal. The script though written well, just seems out of date in this context.
I have actually long been a fan of theatre on film starting with Mary Martin’s Peter Pan, or Leslie Ann Warren as Cinderella. I even saw all of the shows produced by The American Film Theatre. I would say these all shaped my love of theatre, but they were filmed exceedingly well.
It was wonderful to hear this wonderful this score, but streamingmusicals.com needs to take lessons from Lincoln Center Library or Broadway HD whose fabulous filming of Indecent is a marvel. Hopefully Rooms will be next and it can be saved for posperity.