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Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by Gmerchant123 2013-01-23 13:23:03

Found out today that in my English class we will be reading Tale Of Two Cities soon.My English Teacher recommended that we get familiar with the diction and historical background of the book before we dive into it,so I thought why not just watch the musical,I have heard it is BAD,and I know it flopped but it would be a fun way for me to get familiar with the book,does anyone happen to know where I can find a copy of the full musical filmed?

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by philly03 2013-01-23 13:32:56

The musical is not "bad," It's a very faithful adaptation to the source - dramatic, comical, ironic. I always found the styling of it to be old (ie Mega-musical follow up to Les Mis). Didn't help that it opened at the peak of the global recession.

Its available through PBS (or it was) and Amazon, or order through Tale's website (below). Its just concert recording - no full recording, but it is the majority of the musical (in costume with some props) with a narrator to fill in missing scenes/characters.

Very good performances, particularly from James Barbour (who IMO was robbed of a Tony nomination), Natalie Toro and Brandi Burkhardt.

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by ErinDillyFan 2013-01-23 16:19:51

Yeah, people weren't too fond of James Barbour at that time as he just finished his sentence for statutory rape. So, I don't think voters (mostly producers) were particularly interested in giving him accolades in front of a national audience at that point. And bringing negative attention to broadway.

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by philly03 2013-01-23 16:46:30

^^Agreed since he was nominated across every other NY critic nominations.

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by Nickhutson 2013-01-24 02:21:00

There's also this musical version that played in London last year:

Any musical of this will always seem like a poor man's Les Misérables, sadly. But that's just how the blade drops....

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by The Distinctive Baritone 2013-01-24 07:09:54

I enjoyed the Broadway production, and Barbour was indeed fantastic and robbed of a Tony nomination because of his previous exploits with a then-underage actress who rumor has it, has gone on to do pretty well for herself. However, I only paid like, $27 for my ticket and am glad I didn't pay much more. It's a great story and I enjoyed the 1990's nostalgia of its style, but truthfully the score and especially the book just weren't strong enough for a Broadway production. Watch the PBS concert though.

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by bdn223 2013-01-24 09:13:05

For me a major issue with the musical was that it over simplified the plot. Sydney Carton(Barbour) became the Eponine of A Tale of Two Cities. Meaning that like Eponine in Les Miserables although Carton is a major player in the book, he is not the Main character,. The main character is split equally between Lucy, Dr. Mannette, Charles Darnay Everemonde, and in the final few chapters, Carton. The book is written like a "soap opera"/novella, in which the central character changes when s/he interacts with another of th central characters. The book also has a true love between Darnay, Lucy, and Carton, with Carton realizing Lucy is better off with Darnay, which is why he switches places with him in jail the night before Darnay's execution, which is little if at all mentioned in the musical.
Another peice the musical misportays is the Revolution. Unlike in Les Mis where you are supposed to feel for the citizens who are revolting, in A Tale of Two Cities you are initially supposed to sympathize as you see the horrid nature of the elites, but that quickly turns to disgust, as you see the revolutionists are just as corrupt and even more blood thirsty than the monarchs. The revolutionists start sending people to the guillotine. It becomes a made house of paranoia and fear. and for just Dickens rarly if at all portrays the revolutionists as noble, in truth he almost always portrays them as savages.The musical does not show this except for Madame Defarge in the middle of the second act. The show is supposed to be about TWO CITIES, LONDON and PARIS, but the musical only focuses on Paris. If the musical actually depicted London citizens, it would better show how savage the citizens of Paris were.

Although I understand a musical cannot contain every peice of the original book, the musical streamlined it to the point where it was the James Barbour show. Like many of the reviews of the musical stated, the show seemed to be written like a fan fiction obsession with Sydney Carton, rather than a stage adaptation of the book.

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by little_sally 2013-01-24 09:42:07

I don't care what anyone says, I loved this show. Saw it three times.

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by WOSQ 2013-01-24 09:43:18

A Tale of Two Cities has been filmed without music many times. Since your assignment is to examine diction and the historical period, why not find one of these?

The structural problem with the musical is that the not-entirely-memorable songs keep getting in the way of the wonderful story. Stick with a non-musical rendering.

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by CurtainPullDowner 2013-01-24 09:54:44

I agree, stick with the non-musical adaptations.
I thought the musical was terrible and Barbour was just posing and strutting around.

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by bdn223 2013-01-24 11:03:04

If the book were to be successfully adapted to the stage as a musical, it would likely need to be done in 3 acts, with Act 1 being a combination of Book the First: Recalled to Life and Book the Second: The Golden Thread. The Second Act would be the first half of Book the Third: The Track of a Storm, through Charles Darnay's second trail, ending with Charles Darney being revealed to be to be the Nephew of Marquis di St. Evermonde. The Third act would start with Madame Dufarge reading Dr. Mannette's letter found in the Bastille revealing herself to be sister of the family killed and raped by the Marquis, through the Carton's execution with the possible epilogue, showing the how his sacrifice was for the better. The third act, unlike the first two acts, would be about the internal conflict of the love trial between Carton, Lucy, and Darnay. The final act would truly set A Tale of Two Cities apart from Les Miserables by having the main plot motivation be about love and avenging lost lost, rather than a game of cat and mouse (Javert and Val Jean).
Although Three Act musicals and plays for that matter are scarce on Broadway, with the last NEW three act play or musical being August: Osage County in 2007, due to the longer runtime equating to a much higher running costs. The show could have a 7 performance weekly schedule though, to keep the costs down, which is what the current production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is doing.

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by mamaleh 2013-01-25 11:56:50

I also loved TALE, especially James Barbour's heart-rendering performance. And what a voice! For my money, he's got the best baritone on Broadway. His performance was Tony-worthy, but I can understand why the Wing would have been hesitant to make his name prominent at the time. I saw the show on election night 2008, surrounded by lots of people jazzed about possible outcomes. But then came Barbour's sad post-show announcement from the stage about their imminent closing, to many cries of "No!" and "Ohhhh" in disapproval, mine among them. I liked this show much more than MEMPHIS or ONCE, for that matter. It got a raw deal.

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by henrikegerman 2013-01-25 12:06:33

bdn, you seem to want to faithfully replicate the novel Masterpiece Theatre style in musical form. Would that necessarily be successful?

If Les Mis, a much more sprawling and episodic epic novel, can be a successful two act musical, why not Tale of Two Cities?

I also don't understand an objection to Carton as the clear protagonist of a musical. The character's celebrated cynicism-to-generosity through-love arc and ultimate sacrifice seem well suited to a character who grounds and carries a libretto.

CAVEAT: I didn't see the show and I don't doubt it had many problems.


Gmerchant, I'm not quite sure how one would begin to examine diction in an 1859 English novel set in Paris and London in the years surrounding 1789. My best bet would be to study the use of dialect and syntax in the novel for each of the characters, high born, professional class and servants, French and English-speaking, how Dickens conveys character through these rhythms and choice of words, and how his choices resonate with the historical events he is describing. For instance:

Jerry Cruncher: If you must go flopping yourself down, flop in favour of your husband and child, and not in opposition to 'em. If I had had any but a unnat'ral wife, and this poor boy had had any but a unnat'ral mother, I might have made some money last week instead of being counterprayed and countermined and religiously circumwented into the worst of luck.

What does the mixture of extravagant language, malapropisms (circumwented) and improper usage ("a unnat'ral") say about Cruncher as a worker, as a man leading a double life, about how he sees and presents himself, about a time of social mobility, social climbing and class conflict?

Miss Pross:
On him our hopes we fix, God save the King!

Consider the use of ten words all mono-syllabic. Does this reflect a sing song jingoism or an admiration of patriotic simplicity? How does the choice of these and other tough and zealous phrases by Pross reflect the author's feelings about Pross's dogged loyalty and her acceptance of her social role as a servant and a subject?
Why is this significant in the context of revolutionary social unrest portrayed in the novel?

Sydney Carton: It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.

How does the double use of "far, far" - not the easiest phrase to utter - reveal Carton's state of reflection and resolve to action at the end of the novel. Why has the sound of these words repeated twice made such an important contribution to pop culture? How does the famous double repetition of "It is" compare to Dickens's equally famous and repetititve use of "it was" in the opening passage of the novel? How does Carton's resolved assurance of who he is and what he is doing contrast with the famous use of opposition and ambiguity in the opening passage? What if anything is Dickens saying about the collective character of an era as opposed to the specific character of an individual as revealed by the opening and closing passages?

I don't see how watching 20th century film adaptations, let alone the 21st century musical, would help you explore the way Dickens treated diction in the text. However, it might be fun and could helpfully lead you in the right direction back to the text itself. To watch Edna Mae Oliver and Ronald Colman - two masters of diction - explore Pross and Carton on film might lead you to an understanding of how they saw the characters and what they took from the text to develop the characters, as reflected in the dialogue given them in the novel (dialogue sometimes but not always repeated verbatim in the film).

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by newintown 2013-01-25 12:59:17

Not that I'm a great fan of Les Miserables, but Tale of Two Cities felt like an extraordinarily cheap and amateurish attempt to copy Les Miz. With a bit of tweaking, however, it could possibly be presented as a camp spoof.

"I also loved TALE, especially James Barbour's heart-rendering performance."

I'm sure you probably meant "heart-rending," but "render" might actually be more appropriate, particular in its definitions "to treat so as to convert into industrial fats and oils or fertilizer," or "to apply a coat of plaster or cement directly to."

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by himself 2013-01-25 13:21:25

AS you can see from the succession of posts following yours, the judgement passed on a musical is purely personal, so never listen to ANYONE, good or bad in their opinion. You must form your own.
The problem with every musical adaptation of any book is that it's impossible to put all the detail of a book into a 2 hour show that needs to be approximately 60-70% music.
And taking into account the fact that Dickens was paid by the WORD you begin to see the problems inherent into a reasonable translation.
Choices must be made.
In the many, many versions that preceded the Broadway the show went through a hundred the Broadway prod. the funniest number in the show was cut in rehearsals. I thought the casting was great. The voices were great. The set was so interesting and the costuming was beautiful.
It's a tough story to portray in the time frame. If you're looking for a shortcut (and you KNOW you are, LOL!) go to Cliff Notes and catch up on the story. But be sure to read chunks of the original because you will never get the flavor of the book in any other way.
It was a short ride but exciting!

Tale of two cities the musical
Posted by darquegk 2013-01-25 14:02:24

Lucy Simon, creator of Secret Garden, wrote a few songs for a musical version of Two Cities that featured as a Les Mis standing in the Martin Short/Mara Wilson film "A Simple Wish." They were better than the real musical years later.