You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

A Room With a View

E.M. Forster's 1908 "A Room With a View," detailing a battle under the Tuscan sun between Edwardian-era repression and the life force, is revealed as remarkably amenable to musicalization at the Old Globe.

Lucy Honeychurch - Ephie Aardema
George Emerson - Kyle Harris
Charlotte Bartlett - Karen Ziemba
Cecil Vyse - Will Reynolds

E.M. Forster’s 1908 “A Room With a View,” detailing a battle under the Tuscan sun between Edwardian-era repression and the life force, is revealed as remarkably amenable to musicalization at the Old Globe. Librettist Marc Acito distills the narrative into salient incidents with reasonable effectiveness, while the struggle between sensuality and starch deftly plays itself out in Jeffrey Stock’s attractive score. Tuner will satisfy audiences craving a heaping helping of passione with their dramatic pasta, though helmer Scott Schwartz’s choices drain the piece of subtlety and interest.

Forster, by all accounts a lonely, closeted gay man for most of his long life, knew well the paralyzing effect of social strictures on one’s natural instincts. Note the clash of sweet and sour in the very surname of heroine Lucy Honeychurch (Ephie Aardema). Her war with herself is demonstrated by the affinity for Beethoven’s thunderous piano works that keeps peeping out from between her simpers, blushes and swoons.

Deepening the conflict, Forster has it that the Honeychurch fortunes can only be repaired through an alliance with the wealthy, supremely snobbish Cecil Vyse (Will Reynolds), even though the siren songs of Florence — not to mention the charms of poor but vital bohemian George Emerson (Kyle Harris) — are ever beckoning.

There’s never much doubt as to how it’ll all turn out, as this production stacks the deck toward la vita bella, beginning with designer Heidi Ettinger’s ravishing, picture-postcard-inspired collage backdrops under David Lander’s limpid lighting. Only a churl could be immune to this setting’s romance. At one jaw-dropping point, a groundcloth is pulled out to reveal the field of violets in which George will give Lucy her first taste of honey (though Schwartz, typically, overstages the kiss).

Stock, remembered for 1997 succes d’estime “Triumph of Love,” excitingly weaves Forster’s literary themes into his melodic ones. The oompah self-satisfaction of anthemic “Dear Britannia” nicely contrasts with the gorgeous aria “Non Fate Guerra,” while a gramophone introduces the American ragtime “Splash” to signal the twentieth century spirit a-knocking. (Tune also underscores the full-monty restaging of the 1986 Merchant-Ivory movie’s iconic bathing scene; big points for boldness there.)

Yet Schwartz evidently doesn’t trust all this physical and musical extravagance to do the job, so he steers his cast into absurd, ludicrous cutouts of upper-class behavior. The women constantly squeal as if mice were underfoot, the men tromping about as the silliest of John Bulls. This cartoon parade is as unthreatening as it is boring, for how can you stage a tug-of-war when one side won’t even grab the rope?

Exceptions to the overdone acting notably include Harris — a powerful singer/actor and a real find — who incarnates George’s transition from despair to hope in one of Stock’s best numbers, “Something Tremendous.” Etai BenShlomo is fresh and engaging as rascally brother Freddy, and Gina Ferrall brings distinction to two roles she easily could have caricatured.

But by going the stock, imperious Lady Bracknell route, Karen Ziemba completely misses chaperone Charlotte’s terror of impropriety which is supposed to set the main plot complication in motion. Two gents in drag turn Forster’s gracious old-school matrons into idiot biddies. With Acito unwisely conflating two clerical characters into one, Edward Staudenmayer must strain to juggle an impossible dichotomy between affability and bigotry.

The love story is even less well served. Lucy lacks dignity and mystery. Panting and dashing as if off her Ritalin, Aardema can barely scrape up a single emotionally authentic moment, while Reynolds bestows a palsied tic on Cecil in case his inappropriateness as Lucy’s intended isn’t obvious enough. Never for a second do we feel she is forced to this marriage socially, psychologically or financially; she seems downright demented for even considering it.

“A Room With a View” is beautiful, but this first production does itself in by its refusal to raise the stakes and treat traditional authority’s power as something to be taken, and confronted, for real.

A Room With a View

Old Globe, San Diego, Calif.; 604 seats; $93 top

Production: An Old Globe presentation of a musical in two acts with book by Marc Acito, based on the novel by E.M. Forster. Music and lyrics by Jeffrey Stock. Additional lyrics, Acito. Directed by Scott Schwartz.

Creative: Sets, Heidi Ettinger; costumes, Judith Dolan; lighting, David Lander; sound, Jon Weston; orchestrator, Bruce Coughlin; musical arrangements, Stock; music director, Boko Suzuki; musical staging, Michael Jenkinson; stage manager, Anjee Nero. Opened, reviewed March 10, 2012. Runs through April 15. Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.

Cast: Lucy Honeychurch - Ephie Aardema
George Emerson - Kyle Harris
Charlotte Bartlett - Karen Ziemba
Cecil Vyse - Will ReynoldsWith: Glenn Seven Allen, Etai BenShlomo, Gina Ferrall, Jacquelynne Fontaine, Edward Staudenmayer, Kurt Zischke. Musical numbers: "Preludio," "Dear Britannia," "Dear Britannia" (Reprise), "A Room With a View," "Good to Have a Guide," "My George," "La Vera Italia," "Something Tremendous," "Ludwig and I," "Dearest Lucy," "A Carriage and Driver," "Non Fata Guerra," "Finale Act One (Let It Rain)," "Prelude Act Two," "Sixes and Sevens," "The Trouble With People," "Splash," "I Know You," "Departures," "Frozen Charlotte," "There Is a Yes," "Finale Ultimo."

More Legit

  • Dear Evan Hansen

    Broadway Cast Albums Find Fresh Footing With Hip New Sounds, Viral Outreach

    Mixtapes. YouTube videos. Dedicated playlists. Ancillary products. Viral marketing. Epic chart stays. These are things you expect to hear from a record label discussing Cardi B or Beyoncé. Instead, this is the new world of a very old staple, the Broadway original cast recording. Robust stats tell the tale: Atlantic’s “Hamilton” album beat the record [...]

  • Ali Stroker Oklahoma

    Ali Stroker on 'Oklahoma!': 'This Show Doesn’t Follow the Rules and That Is So Who I Am'

    Ali Stroker is no stranger to rewriting history. With her 2015 Broadway debut in “Spring Awakening,” she became the first actor in a wheelchair to perform on the Great White Way. Three years later, she’s back onstage in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” as Ado Annie, the flirtatious local who splits her affections between a resident [...]

  • Hadestown Broadway

    'Hadestown': Inside the Musical's 12-Year Odyssey to Broadway

    “Hadestown’s” 12-year journey to Broadway was an odyssey in its own right.  Singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell’s buzzy musical, a folk-operatic retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus, a musician who ventures to the underworld to rescue his fiancée, Eurydice, was in development for more than a decade before arriving on the New York stage. The show [...]

  • Elaine May in The Waverly Gallery

    Playwright Kenneth Lonergan on the Genius of His 'Waverly Gallery' Star Elaine May

    When Elaine May agreed to be in my play, “The Waverly Gallery,” naturally I was ecstatic. I had admired her as a director, writer, actor and sketch comedian since high school, when my friend Patsy Broderick made me listen to the album “Nichols and May Examine Doctors.” I didn’t know then that I had already seen Elaine’s [...]

  • Lisbeth R Barron Investment Banker

    Investment Banker Lisbeth R. Barron on How She Became a Broadway Deal Specialist

    If you want to get a deal done on Broadway, call Lisbeth R. Barron. Barron is a veteran investment banker who launched her own shingle, Barron Intl. Group, in 2015. She has brokered a slew of deals throughout her career — which has included stops at S.G. Warburg and Bear Stearns — involving companies and [...]

  • The Lion King Frozen Disney on

    Disney Theatrical Celebrates 25 Years on Broadway

    The Disney brand is known worldwide for its family-friendly entertainment with a flair for magic, music and spectacle, but when its adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” hit Broadway in 1994, success wasn’t guaranteed. Variety’s positive review by Jeremy Gerard noted, “It will almost certainly be met with varying levels of derision by Broadway traditionalists.” [...]

  • The Prom Broadway

    'The Prom': How the Little Show That Could Found Its Way to the Tonys Dance

    Does a Broadway musical still count as an underdog if it’s got über-producer Ryan Murphy in its corner? It does if it’s “The Prom,” the labor of love from a team of Broadway veterans that’s carving out a place for itself as an original story on a street full of familiar titles and well-known brands. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content