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Off-Broadway Review: The New Group’s “Cyrano” at The Daryl Roth Theatre (Through Sunday December 22, 2019)

Off-Broadway Review: The New Group’s “Cyrano” at The Daryl Roth Theatre (Through Sunday December 22, 2019)
Adapted by Erica Schmidt from “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmond Rostand
Music by Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner
Lyrics by Matt Berninger
Directed by Erica Schmidt
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Edmond Rostrand’s play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” written in verse in 1897 is one of, if not the most tragic love story of all time. It introduced the word ‘panache’ into the English language and Cyrano himself remarks about his own “panache” in the play. This of course refers to his skillful swordplay, exquisite poetry, adroit musicianship and finally the hallmark plume in a felt fedora. Of course, what everyone associates with the well-known character is his abnormally large nose that in his mind will prevent him from ever being able to find true love. It is not until he is dying in the arms of the beautiful Roxanne, that he realizes if he had not doubted himself, he could have achieved his dream of capturing her heart.

One would assume that a romantic story such as this, is a great source for creating a lush and lavish musical for the stage, with a full orchestra and arrangements that soar to emotional highs and plunge into tragic darkness. There have been many unmemorable attempts that have achieved very little success. The latest adaption by Erica Schmidt, put to music by Aaron and Bryce Dessner will have no problem falling into the fore mentioned category and the title displays only one word, “Cyrano” which foreshadows the austerity of the production. The nose, swordplay, plume and fedora are stripped from the character leaving him as a naked realist rather than a fanciful romantic. In other words, there is no “panache.” The music is repetitive, has a range of about four or five notes and often sounds like a dirge, which erases the beauty and liveliness of the poetry the play is based upon. Lyrics by Matt Berninger and Carin Besser do not mirror the dialogue and therefore do not support the characters. Choreography by Jeff and Rick Kuperman boils down to some stylized movement that is often strange, out of place and not at all necessary.

In the leading role is Peter Dinklage who gives a realistic and sincere portrayal of Cyrano without the familiar accoutrements to accompany his characterization. He is a fine actor and certainly provides an honest emotional depth to the role. The problem is that it is a musical and although his vocals are pleasant his range is very limited which does not allow his songs to match the emotional spectrum he instills in the character. Jasmine Cephas Jones showcases her vocal prowess as Roxanne but never finds a genuine connection with her love interest. Blake Jenner provides the necessary charismatic innocence and fine vocal but fails to establish a believable character in Christian.

Ms. Schmidt has certainly made some odd choices for this production that seem to work against the power of the story. The staging is quite severe and stagnant which intrudes on the romanticism of the plot. Nothing seems to be spontaneous and appears calculated. Perhaps it would have been a wise choice to listen to Cyrano’s last words, "yet there is something still that will always be mine, and when I go to God's presence, there I will doff it and sweep the heavenly pavement with a gesture: something I'll take unstained out of this world . . . my panache."

Unfortunately, in this production he is unable to take something with him that does not exist.

CYRANO

The cast of “Cyrano” features Ritchie Coster, Josh A. Dawson, Peter Dinklage, Hillary Fisher, Josh Franklin, Christopher Gurr, Blake Jenner, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Nehal Joshi Grace McLean, Erika Olson, and Scott Stangland.

“Cyrano” includes Scenic Design by Christine Jones and Amy Rubin; Costume Design by Tom Broecker; Lighting Design by Jeff Croiter; Sound Design by Dan Moses Schreier; Hair, Wig and Makeup Design by Tommy Kurzman. Casting by Patrick Goodwin, CSA / Telsey + Company. Production Stage Manager is Linda Marvel.

The New Group’s “Cyrano” runs at The Daryl Roth Theatre (101 East 15th Street) through Sunday December 22, 2019 on the following performance schedule: Tuesday-Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Sunday at 2:00 p.m.; with Wednesday 2:00 p.m. matinees on December 11 and 18. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://thenewgroup.org/. Running time is 2 hours and 10 minutes, including one intermission.

Photo: Peter Dinklage and Blake Jenner in “Cyrano.” Credit: Monique Carboni.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Tuesday, December 17, 2019