Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Doctor Zhivago

Dr. Yurii Zhivago is on an epic quest.  This first Broadway production directed by Des McAnuff is nothing short of one descriptive word.  Urgent.  This tale of a Russian doctor and poet who falls in love and is caught up in the Russian revolution in the first few decades of the twentieth century is a massive, urgent, prolific, and passionate tale told by a cast of dozens.  Scenery flies in and out frantically.  Musical numbers all contain giant crescendos.  Time is fleeting.  Lives will be lost.  Will Doctor Zhivago and his true love triumph?  You will only find out if you visit the Broadway Theatre and witness this audacious undertaking unfold in just under 3 hours.

Newcomer to Broadway, Tam Mutu (Yurii Zhivago), brings passion and conviction to Yurii.  His voice is as powerful as his looks are good.  Equally as good if not more so is his nemesis, Pasha Antipov / Strelinikov (Paul Alexander Nolan).  With a set of pipes on him that quite literally made the house rumble and the roof shake, he is nothing short of vocal perfection and a significant foil to Mr. Mutu.  There are also darling little children who portray various characters in their youth (Jonah Halperen, Sophia Gennusa, and Ava-Riley Miles). The ensemble is just as frenetic as the leading characters and the story - dancing classic Russian dances, twirling flags, firing guns, and battling a revolution.  One might compare this to its French equivalent, Les Miserables, and at several points it uses similar theatrical tactics (a floating rotating disk, battle scenes, and revolutionary flags).

Did I mention this is an epic journey?  Even the stage is purposefully pitched at an angle to give the allusion of depth, cavernousness, and struggle (upstage is really up).  This musical could only have been more grand if we saw a 35 piece orchestra in black tie plucking and tooting away with wild abandon.  The massive and numerous sets and fly space in the Broadway theatre allow for an incredible number of moving and flying parts from both the sides and the top.  This only serves to enhance the urgency Mr. McAnuff attempts to convey along this journey of love, war, and conflict.

 Costumes are certain to get a Tony nom (Paul Tazewell) and Scenic Design if for nothing other than the quantity will certainly be recognized (Michael Scott-Mitchell). Lighting was a massive undertaking that succeeds greatly (Howell Binkley).  Not to be left out of an epic production are the  projections (rain, background, portraits on the curtains) and most certainly will be recognized (Sean Nieuwenhuis).  Now, why it was always raining and not snowing is a bit of a disconnect to the marketing materials the show put out, but that's a small point out of 100's of perfectly hit notes in this production.