Curtainup Founder & Editor Elyse Sommer's Epilogue -- I've passed the torch for reviewing and editing new theater productions on and off-Broadway and elsewhere. However, I'll continue to sound off here with my take on Live and Onscreen Entertainment. As for Curtainup's extensive content since 1996-- it's all sill available at www.curtainup.com

Monday, March 20, 2023

PBS and Broadway Reboot Golden Oldies

PBS Makes Reboot of TV Golden Oldie, All Creatures Great And Small, into a  Feel-Good Screening Hit with Characters You Like and Admire 

--  By Elyse Sommer

We continue to be barraged by deeply disturbing events close to home as well as far away. Consequently, many of us, yours truly included, often turn it all off for a few hours of escape from  reality with enjoyable, soothing entertainment.  

As always, PBS Masterpiece has provided us with just what we need, at the right time: A Masterpiece  reboot of All Creatures Great and Small. The hugely popular stories written by British veterinarian James "Alf" White under the pen name of James Herriot were previously published as books, filmed  and televised.

While I'm old enough, I did not see the All  Creatures TV adaptation that aired between 1978 and 1990, nor did I read any of the Herriot books. But previous familiarity is not needed to tap into all the  pleasures of this long-ago favorite. If you never knew the three veterinarians around whom the stories  revolve, this latest permutation stands on its own with its smart blend of proven old pleasures plus a  full awareness of the times during which we are watching it now. 

That present is actually deepened and enriched now as the reboot smartly allows a darker mood to  nudge its way into Christmas dinner during the Season 3 finale. In short, this is exactly the right way to make a new version of an established hit fresh and successful again.

The gorgeous cinematography, script and performances won the first two seasons of seven episodes  each enough enthusiastic new fans to seed two more seasons. By the time, Season 3 ended, I too was  hooked. I can't wait to see what happens at Skedale House when Season 4 arrives next year, especially  after Season 3 nudged this update towards the more problematic aspects of the veterinarian household, the farmers' reliance on their animals' well being and the actuality of the Second World War bringing its painful memories and uncertain futures. The chief reason you don't need to be familiar with the original series is that in order to let some more painful events to darken the constantly feel-good subplots, the  characters needed to be reinterpreted. That is especially true of the women, who are very important here and add strong emotional resonance.

And so, we do know some of what to expect next year: Ben Vanstone, head writer and executive producer, is again in charge and the same outstanding cast will be back on board. That's the fictionalized James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph), Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West), Siegfried's brother Tristan (Callum Woodhouse), Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley), Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton) and Mrs. Pumphrey (Patricia Hodge). Hodge replaced Diana Riggs, who died, and thus added another touch of sadness to blend with all fun and positivity. Tristan took off for active duty at the end of Season 3 and while we know he survived, we don't know how the war might have changed him.

If watching the series has made you curious to know more about its history, you can spend some time  with Herriot on the page as the books have never gone out of print. The digital edition I borrowed has a biography of the author that alone is worth a look. The 1978-1990 TV series is available on BritBox.

On Broadway, Golden Oldies Productions Often Feature Far Less Likeable Characters

Naturally, there are plenty of grittier stories to watch on screen courtesy of Netflix, HBO and other  streaming platforms.  And Broadway is doing its utmost to lure audiences back to theaters.  

Unsurprisingly, the re-openings on Broadway include some golden oldie revivals. The most common  lure back to live theater means a musical. Yet, when it comes to golden oldies here, the lead characters   are often not nearly as likeable as the Masterpiece reboot. Unlike the veterinarians in All Creatures   who always do the right thing, some of the most popular shows count on ear-pleasing tunes and ticket-selling stars to fill the seats, even if their characters are hardly kind and caring.  

Thus, the murderous Sweeney Todd is back. The ultra immersive Here Lies Love, about Imelda Marcos, the wife of the corrupt Philippines president, has finally made it to Broadway (ironically, a real Marcos  is actually back in power). The dishonest Professor Hill of The Music Man does reform, but it's Hugh Jackman, not his character's do-the-right-thing DNA, that will secure the show's ranking with golden-  era classics. For me, the one musical that also has consistent depth and fresh relevance whenever you  see it  -- not to mention its musical riches -- is Fiddler on the Roof. In fact, another way to pass the time meaningfully and enjoyably is to watch the wonderful documentary about that show, which is still  available to Thirteen's Passport members: Fiddled on the Roof--Miracle of Miracles.

Before I leave, a word about the first names of the Farnon brothers in the All Creatures Great and  Small that I highlighted in my blog post: Yes, their father was a Wagner opera enthusiast!

Sunday, March 12, 2023



PBS  makesk reboot  of TV Golden Oldie, All Creatures Great and Small ,  Into  a  Feel Good  Screening  Hit. . .On Broadway,  Golden  Oldiies Feature  Far  Less  likeable  Characters

--  By  Elyse  Sommer


  As  we ontinue  to  be  barraged  by  deeply  disturbing  news   close  to  home  as  well  as  far  away, many  of  us,  yours  truly  included,  have   often turned  it  all  off for  a  few  hours  of  escape  from  reality  with  enjoyable,  feel-good entertainment.  Thanks  to  a  terrific  reboot,  the  PBS   All Creatures  Great  and  Small  pleases   on  many counts:  It's  a  visual  treat,  rich  with  characters   who  always  do  the  right  thing   in  an  interesting  way.  And  yet,  for  all  its  nostalgic  pleasures  and  frequent  humor,  this   reboot   manage to   bring  the  reality  of   hard  times  and  an  approaching  war  into  the  world  of   the  Fannon  Brothers and  James  Herriot.

That  said,  Broadway  theater  producers  are  set  to get  back  to  normal   And  normal  has  decidedlyalways  meant not  just  new  shows  but  golden  era  hits  that  in  the  case  of  musicals  .rely  on  less  than  honorable  characters  to  rely  on  great  songs   to  fill  the  th  seats.. For  the  upcoming  such  revivals  include   the  murderous Sweeney  Todd ,  the  duplicitous  Music  Man  and  the  politically  corrupt  Ferdinand  Marcos's  wife  Imelda  in  the  hyper-immersive . Here  Lies  Love..