This month, we checked in with Peter Rothstein from Theater Latté Da about their upcoming Spring premier of C., a past NFNM Writers Residency Grant Recipient, written by Bradley Greenwald and Robert Elhai.
How did C. find its way to Theater Latté Da?
I have long been interested in adapting Cyrano de Bergerac into a piece of innovative music-theater. Bradley Greenwald, who is one of the Twin Cities’ finest singer/actors, was working with me on the world premier of Steerage Song, a musical about the American immigrant experience. He expressed interest in doing more work as a writer. I had experienced Bradley’s impressive work adapting operas for Theatre de la Jeune Lune. He has the natural ability to take classical work and make it contemporary, immediate and bold.
What sort of development have you done on the piece?
We did a two-week workshop of C. in our NEXT Festival in 2013. The audience response was most enthusiastic. We followed up with a week-long workshop in collaboration with the Guthrie/University of Minnesota BFA program.
The show uses music in a unique way, can you tell us more about how the music is used to tell this story?
As Bradley and I began to work on the adaptation, he pointed out that there was a logical presence of music in each act of Rostand’s play — street musicians, a theater band, liturgical music… One thing that Bradley has always found somewhat frustrating as a performer of musical theater and opera, is that the conductor is essentially the one driving the train, at least where the music is concerned. He wanted to create a musical where the characters single-handedly propel the story. Robert Elhai, who has a prolific career as a film composer and orchestrator, was intrigued by this idea and joined the project. With C., Robert has composed music that has its own logical presence in the world (this would be referred to as source music in film). For example, in the final act a female chorus is singing evensong in the chapel adjacent to the monastic gardens where the scene is set. The offstage voices serve as the orchestra and the characters “spontaneously” sing counter-melodies to the extant music. Each act has a different orchestration determined by the organic music present with each setting.
In terms of the show’s development, why is now the time for it to get on its feet and into a full production?
Because of the innovative way music works in this show, we now need to realize it in three dimensions in order to move the work forward. The arc of the story, the character development and the thematic ideas are in place; it’s now time to invite audiences into the collaboration.
How does C. fit in with the larger mission of Theater Latté Da?
Bold experimentation with the intersection of music and theater is part of our DNA. I have never seen a musical or opera that utilizes music in this way. And while C. is based on a 17th century comedy the work has been reimagined for a contemporary audience. Latté Da is celebrated for our ability to reimagine work from the canon and to create new musical theater that challenges us to thinking deeply about the world in which we live.
Why should people come to Minneapolis this spring to catch C.?
Well, spring in Minnesota is much better than winter. This new adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac has all of the romance, wit and profundity of Rostand’s great play, but it is also a bold new piece of music-theater. The Twin Cities is a community rich with actors and designers. C. is a wonderful opportunity to see some of the best in Twin Cities talent.