BWW Blog: David Nando on the Vienna Production of LEGALLY BLONDE
For blog number 2, I spent a total of €5, or $7ish. How? Standing room (and VERY GOOD standing room!) at the Vienna production of LEGALLY BLONDE (or, NATÜRLICH BLOND).
It was interesting to see this physical and directorial transplant of the Broadway production on a Viennese stage. All the same physical gags and textual jokes are pretty much there, including a Santa/Hannukah one. In general, these very American jokes seemed to go over the audience members' heads, and I was laughing the loudest with my inherent native understanding.
The VBW couldn't have two more different shows in terms of dramaturgy and origin. ELISABETH on the other side of the city is so Austrian in staging and dramaturgy while BLONDE is very NYC. The fast pace, including the snippy overture and the 'big' moments of the self acceptance and dreams, were well done and performed. However something seemed a little off when I remembered I wasn't in NYC, but the much more quiet and slower Vienna.
I think it is so important for art to travel across cultural lines. But, depending on the context and hunger of the local audience, different changes or non changes must happen with that crossover. I often see American pieces seeing no major changes when they move into European and Asian markets, while the reverse is opposite, if the entrance into American markets happens at all. Often, the question of "is it Broadway ready" gets thrown around. But are we asking ourselves if something is "Austrian" ready?
This production of BLONDE is very well performed in spite of low attendance and a cut down on the performance schedule. The usual six shows a week are now at five (Next month, ELISABETH will pick up the slack from six to seven). Elle Woods understudy Marie-Anjes Lumpp turned in a great performance, and was quite affecting in the character's journey.
If we are going to continue having a struggle for crossover (which is not the rule, as MAMMA MIA, WICKED, the 80s mega musicals, etc, have done well all around the world), perhaps new contexts can be created to share across borders. The pressure for the Broadway label to validate a show's quality shouldn't be the be-all end-all, I suppose. Nor should something's seeming foreignness block us from earnestly developing international relationships to talk about shared themes.
At the end of the day, the relatively well attended performance of BLONDE that I saw (Tuesday night, by the way) seemed to strike the audience in some way. Although my reading of their reaction indicates they didn't understand certain American sight gags or jokes (Lord of the Rings geeks, aforementioned Christmas/Hannukah), they did respond with oomph and joy at the end. Perhaps they identified with the search for self acceptance and girl power. Thus, maybe, they needed a different context (theatre, production) to embrace it more fully.
I just think these are important conversations to have- the how, the why, the where. Nothing is a rule. But everything should be thoughtfully considered.
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