Turn Off the Footlight

Once again, Edmond Rostand’s enduring comic tragedy Cyrano de Bergerac has been adapted into a musical. Writer and director Erica Schmidt—who was responsible for last season’s thrilling adaptation of Mac Beth—has rid the famous wit of his elongated nose. Instead, Cyrano (Peter Dinklage) is simply less attractive that his fellow cadet, Christian (Blake Jenner), and it is pride far more than self-loathing that prevents him from confessing his love to Roxane (Jasmine Cephas Jones). When Christian comes to him for help writing love letters to the shared object of their affections, Cyrano says, “I will make you eloquent and you, you will make me handsome.”

Unfortunately, the musical never hits the high notes of comedy and tragedy; the jokes are mostly ineffective and the second-act switch to melodrama isn’t quite earned. We haven’t spent enough time living and laughing with these characters, and as a result I found myself rather indifferent to their wartime woes.

To exacerbate Cyrano‘s troubles, the songs, with music by Aaron and Bryce Dessner and lyrics by Matt Berninger and Carin Besser, are entirely rote and forgettable. “Have you ever wanted something so badly you cannot breathe, / Have you ever loved someone madly?” Cyrano sings in a typical example of Berninger and Besser’s romantic banalities. Furthermore, Dinklage is no singer, and his casting reeks of marketing gimmickry. I was unsurprised to hear the name “Tyrion Lannister” floating around the audience, as if television celebrity was enough to guarantee stage success. It is not, and our theater will continue to suffer so long as we pretend otherwise.

Cyrano runs through December 22nd at the Daryl Roth Theatre.  101 E. 15th Street  New York, NY.  2 hours 10 minutes.  One intermission.

Aaron Botwick

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