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Posts Tagged ‘burton rascoe’

I moonlighted as a theater reviewer for years and loved doing it. But even if I hated a particular show, I worked hard to find some aspect to praise. People had to read between the lines for the criticism. I really felt for the actors.

The critics of yore had no such scruples, and as I laugh out loud, I can’t help being a little jealous of their freedom.

Yesterday my husband dug out some reviews of the 1945 Broadway show Polonaise. He had read an obit about the star, who just died at age 99. As there are few shows he hasn’t heard of, he was stumped and went straight to the “critical quotebook” Opening Night on Broadway.

The show’s creators had decided to use the music of Chopin, a Pole, for a story about another Pole, a man who volunteered in George Washington’s army. The two Poles had nothing else in common.

Reviewer Luis Kroneberger wrote, “The best I can say for the thing as a whole is that it appalled me enough at times to keep me from being bored.”

Burton Rascoe noted, “The playbill says that the Alvin Theatre is perfumed with Prince Matchabelli’s ‘Stradivari.’ There was not enough of it used to overcome the odor of dry-rot and mothballs that emanated from the book, the lyrics, and the production of Polonaise.”

And Willela Waldorf must have been hanging out at the Algonquin with Dorothy Parker too much. She let it rip: “It is about time somebody started a League for the Defense of Dead Composers. It is disturbing that some of Chopin’s finest¬† works, ‘adapted’ for the occasion, should be carelessly flaunted on the Broadway stage in a futile attempt to add luster to a stupid, inept, often embarrassingly ludicrous spectacle. …¬† The concert pianist hired to play Chopin’s Polonaise in A-flat while the ballet stormed the Royal Palace, not only performed with vigor at the pianoforte but spoke his one line of dialogue clearly and as if he knew what it meant. Maybe what Polonaise needs is a few more concert pianists in some of the other roles.”

Today there is plenty of harsh talk in the media, but I would venture to say it lacks the literary flair of the critics of 1945.

Photo of Chopin: Bisson, c. 1849, via Wikipedia
He looks troubled. Is he foreseeing the future Broadway show
Polonaise?

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