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THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE
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From Todd Haimes - THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE

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As you know, doing a new musical on Broadway is not something that we do very often at Roundabout. But when you see The People in the Picture, I think it will very quickly become clear why I just had to put this show up on our stage. It is so rare these days to come upon a new musical that is totally original, created solely from the hearts and minds and talents of its authors, and that feels like a classic piece from the Broadway of old while telling a story that has never been told before. When I first read The People in the Picture, I knew that it had something powerful to say because not only did the songs linger with me days afterward, but the characters stayed with me as well. These characters had grabbed my attention in a very meaningful way, and it was clear to me that they needed to be shared with a larger audience.

The People in the Picture is a generational story that has a great deal to say about memory, storytelling, and the value that we assign to our past. For Bubbie, the way to keep alive the beloved friends from her time as a Yiddish theater star in Poland is to pass on their tales to her eager granddaughter Jenny. Yet Jenny's mother, Red, is reluctant to let her mother tell these stories of the old days, as she and Bubbie have a decidedly different point of view of what it was like to make desperate choices in order to survive a country headed towards war.


What I love about this show is that I find myself taking different sides each time I examine it, because the questions it brings up are so incredibly potent and so universal. How much do our parents shape us? To what extent do we allow the events of the past to determine our future? Are some things better forgotten? Is laughing through pain a true choice, or is it merely a form of avoidance? This is a show that will have you laughing one minute and sobbing the next. In other words, it looks a lot like life.

Iris Rainer Dart (who you may know as the best-selling author of "Beaches") has crafted a gorgeous book for this piece, which moves us seamlessly between the past and the present. It's a story that is very close to her heart, and I wouldn't be surprised if you can see a bit of Iris in Red. To have both Iris and the songwriting duo of Mike Stoller and Artie Butler is pretty much a dream. These artists have already achieved more than most people could even imagine in their careers, and here they are, writing an original Broadway musical for the first time, and doing it so beautifully. Mike, in particular, is one of the major figures from the Golden Age of rock and roll. To see to the man who (with partner Jerry Leiber) wrote iconic songs like "Jailhouse Rock," "Hound Dog," and "Yakety Yak" compose beautiful Broadway ballads and klezmer-style production numbers is a testament to how deeply talented this team is.

I also feel extremely lucky to have two-time Tony-winner Donna Murphy playing Bubbie (and her younger self, Raisel). Donna is, without out a doubt, one the greatest musical theatre performers we have today, and to see her take on a role with this kind of depth and variety is, for me, a bit of theatrical bliss. Veering from warm grandmother to funny ingénue to stoic leader, Donna has been given a wonderfully meaty challenge with this role, and I can't imagine anyone pulling it off more stunningly than she does.

The People in the Picture is all about making connections, by recalling the important stories of our past, by reaching out to the people in our present, and by putting our loved ones on a path to an extraordinary future. If you're like me, you'll leave the theater wiping your eyes and wanting to call someone close to you. It's a beautiful feeling and one that I think rarely comes from the experience of seeing a musical. I really look forward to hearing your thoughts on this production, and I hope you will send your feedback by emailing me at artisticoffice@roundabouttheatre.org. I am truly eager to get your response to what I think is a very exciting new piece of musical theatre.

I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!

 

Photo Credit: Walter McBride/WM Photos


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