With yet another world premiere in their season, Theater Latte Da is presenting the new musical, C. at the Ritz. Based off the French play Cyrano de Bergerac, this musical centers around Cyrano (Bradley Greenwald), a witty wordsmith with an unfortunately large nose. When he stops a show he dislikes to create something new out of the possibility of the moment, Cyrano shows his love for poetry and romance and simultaneous causes to theater patrons Roxanne (Kendall Anne Thompson) and Christian (David Darrow) to see each other and fall in love. However, Cyrano is secretly in love with Roxanne and is torn between confessing his love for her and helping her meet Christian. When Christian confesses that he has no idea how to express his love poetically the way Cyrano does, the cunning Cyrano decided to use his words and Christian’s face to woo Roxanne. Needless to say, this doesn’t go well.
When I saw this show on the final night of previews, director Peter Rothstein introduced it by saying that a new song had just been added and many lines had been changed. I felt this a great deal with the first act – the pacing seemed a bit off, lines didn’t land quite right, and it all felt very fresh and raw, as a piece does during workshops. The second act, however, was solid and flowed wonderfully, leaving a strong finish and very moving end. There was a lovely whimsy and magic that amplifies Cyrano’s wordy, romantic streak and the unique world the play inhabits. While the show takes place in France, it isn’t quite the France we know historically. There are many anachronistic elements and modern references thrown in and the costumes and music inhabit a place between the past and now, seeming to reference the 18th century, the early 20th century, and present day. This melds into a fable or fairytale atmosphere that suits both Cyrano’s mindset and the more incredible elements of the story.
Adding to this fantasy nature is the superb set design by Jim Smart and fantastic lighting by Marcus Dillard. Balancing this all out is the gorgeous music composed by Robert Elhai (whose work as music director was recently seen in “Sweet Land” in the History Theatre’s Raw Stages series). With strong highlights of folk tunes throughout the show, the musical scoring wonderfully embraces the audience with something that feels both familiar and strange, classical and brand new. It suits Cyrano, with all his perfections and failings, which Greenwald hits perfectly. Cyrano is full of contradictions – he hates nothing more than a hypocrite, but ends up being one himself. He is beautiful in ways he never sees and ugly in ways he doesn’t think of, layering in the melancholy of a love he cannot reveal and capturing the essence and complexity of being human.
The show has incredible cast including Bear Brummel, Caleb Fritz Craig, John Middleton, Grace Lowe, Kim Kivens, James Ramlet, Janet Hanson, Evan Tyler Wilson, and Max Wojtanowicz (who helps orchestrate the wonderful Musical Mondays the first of each month at Hell’s Kitchen – which if you’re not already going to, you should be) and has an amazing band including Sarah Burk, Luke Pickman, Matt Riehle, and music director Jason Hansen. One of my favorite parts of this show is the inclusion of the band as members of the cast, using them as characters and music present in the moment rather than just accompaniment. As a former pit musician, I adore this beyond words.
This show may be more accessible to people familiar with the original play, the film with Gerard Depardieu, or the its adaptation in Roxanne with Steve Martin (my favorite version), but the story is clear enough for those knowing nothing about the source to enjoy. I really wish I could see this show again to see how it all falls into place because once the new parts become comfortable, it’s going to be incredible. This show really brings out the romantic in me and I couldn’t keep from crying at its beauty.
C. is directed by Peter Rothstein, with book and lyrics by Bradley Greenwald and music by Robert Elhai. It opens April 2nd and runs through April 24th at the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis. Ticket prices and information can be found on Theater Latte Da’s website.