Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Doctor Zhivago @ The Broadway Theater

Doctor Zhivago is based on Boris Pasternak's novel and its 1965 film. It takes place in Russia during the Russian Revolution of 1917 through the beginnings of World War 1. The aristocratic Zhivago is a doctor and a poet, who is thrown into the war as he becomes torn between his wife and childhood friend Tonya and the mysterious Lara, whom several men also pine for. The story is a romantic epic, throwing the audience directly into the warzone, experiencing its tragedies and moments of tenderness along with the characters. The book is by Michael Weller (Ragtime), music by Lucy Simon (The Secret Garden), and lyrics by Michael Korie (Grey Gardens).

The moment you walk into the theatre you are immediately transported into another world. The stack of chairs piled high center and the black and white checkered floor gave just a tease of the spectacular scenery that was to come, while setting the tone of Czarist and revolutionary Russia. Each place in the show was distinct, thanks to the amazing use of the sike - which utilized various multimedia to really set the locations. Video imaging on the sike and large set pieces on either side of the stage wee used to transform the space into lavish mansions, Russian streets, the countryside, war lines, etc. all with beauty and ease. 

I was absolutely enamored by the spectacle the entire show, both in set and performances. My focus was captured constantly, as I wanted nothing more than to see how the lives of these characters would unfold. While the show is dense and dark, and has a running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes (incl. intermission) it didn't feel long or dragging. Something was consistently happening to keep you invested in the action. The story is the pure definition of epic, with explosions and tremendous journeys taking place. It is not light-hearted, though it has its sweet romantic moments, Doctor Zhivago is not afraid of handling its heavy material, and does so in a manner that is riveting and affecting. The only reason I ever wanted a break was so I could talk with my fellow theatregoers about the wonder that was occurring on the stage.
Tam Mutu and Kelli Barrett were wonderful as the two leading lovers. Zhivago's internal struggle of what kind of man he wants to be was touching and gripping, as Mutu's resounding voice carried the show's beautiful tunes and captivated the audience's attention every moment he was on stage (which was a majority of the night). 
The standout performance came from Paul Alexander Nolan as Pasha/Strelnikov. His vocals soared, and Nolan got to show off his impressive dancing skills in one of the show's most fun and unexpected numbers- "It's a Godsend". Nolan wonderfully traversed Pasha's tragic journey, from the enthusiastic young lover of Lara who only wants equality in Russia to a hardened commander and killer. He was absolutely enthralling, and I intend to follow Nolan's career, as he was a wonder.

You do not need to be a fan of the original novel/film, or even familiar with it (as I went into this show completely fresh) to be invested in the action. Adding to the cinematic feeling are the titles that appear above the stage, identifying the time and place that the upcoming scene is happening. This allows everyone to know exactly what is going on at all times. If you are a longtime fan, it is amazing to see how this story is transformed on the stage, and for newcomers it is just as amazing to see the epic unfold.

One word of discretion: There are postings when you enter the theatre warning about realistic gun shots and explosions. They mean it. The show is littered with the booms (helpfully and stunningly adding to the gruesomeness and violence of the times) but some can be quite startling. Along these lines, there is an abundance of blood and gore (and vomit at one point), so those with weaker constitutions should use discretion and sit further away or know when to look away.

Overall, I left the theatre absolutely amazed by the majesty I had just seen. The story was riveting, the sets and effects spectacular, and the performances beautiful and overflowing with talent. It was so filled with passion and glory and was a moving piece that transported me back in time. This truly was an epic night of theatre that I cannot stop talking about. So Doctor ZhivaGO see this show.

Review By: April Sigler
Photos By: Sara Krulwich

CredSara Krulwich

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