Tag Archives: State University of New York at Purchase

Nr 404: Kiss of the Spider Woman

21 Mar


Kiss of the Spider Woman (1992)
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Book: Terrence McNally, baserad på Manuel Puigs roman El Beso de la Mujer Araña (Spindelkvinnans kyss) från 1976.

Toronto 1992
West End 1992, 390 föreställningar
Broadway 1993, 904 föreställningar

Luis Alberto Molina, a homosexual window dresser, is in a prison in a Latin American country, serving his third year of an eight-year-sentence for corrupting a minor. He lives in a fantasy world to flee the prison life, the torture, fear and humiliation. His fantasies turn mostly around movies, particularly around a vampy diva, Aurora. He loves her in all roles, but one scares him: This role is the spider woman, who kills with her kiss.

One day, a new man is brought into his cell: Valentin Arregui Paz, a Marxist revolutionary, already in a bad state of health after torture. Molina cares for him and tells him of Aurora. But Valentin can’t stand Molina and his theatrical fantasies and draws a line on the floor to stop Molina from coming nearer to him. Molina, however, continues talking, mostly to block out the cries of the tortured prisoners, about Aurora and his mother. Valentin at last tells Molina that he is in love with a girl named Marta.

The prison director announces to Molina that his mother is very ill and that Molina will be allowed to see her on one condition: he must tell them the name of Valentin’s girlfriend.

Molina tells Valentin about a man he loves, a waiter named Gabriel, who does not return his feelings, and the two men cautiously begin to bond.
Only a short while afterwards, Molina gets hallucinations and cramps after knowingly eating poisoned food intended for Valentin. He is brought to the hospital ward.
As Molina is brought back, Valentin starts suffering from the same symptoms, also from poisoned food. Molina is afraid that Valentin will be given substances that might make him talk and so protects Valentin from being taken to the hospital. As Molina nurses him, Valentin asks him to tell him about his movies. Molina is happy to do so; Valentin also shares his fantasies and hopes with Molina.

Molina is allowed a short telephone conversation with his mother, and he announces to Valentin that he’s going to be freed for his good behaviour the next day. Valentin begs him to make a few telephone calls for him. Molina at first refuses, but Valentin persuades him with sex. Molina is brought back the next day, heavily injured. He has been caught in the telephone call, but refuses to tell whom he has phoned. The warden draws his pistol, threatening to shoot him, if he doesn’t tell. Molina confesses his love to Valentin and is shot.
The scene then shifts to Molina in a heaven like world, where all of the people in his life are watching his final ”movie.” The Spider Woman arrives and gives her deadly kiss as the curtain falls.

Vet inte riktigt vad jag tycker om den här musikalen. Den har både fantastiskt bra sånger och sanslöst tråkiga. Den utspelar sig på flera olika plan samtidigt, dels i en klaustrofobisk och skitig fångcell och dels i Molinas Technicolorfärgade, paljettfyllda fantasifilmvärld. Här finns tortyr, sex, våld, glamour, död, musikalspektakel, latin-amerikanska rytmer, intimitet, kärlek, hopplöshet och inte minst Chita Rivera men på nått sätt så tycker jag inte att bitarna faller på plats och bildar en gripande och engagerande helhet. Jag blir aldrig berörd.
Faktum är att jag trots all dramatik, show och våldsamhet mest blir lite uttråkad.

Men smaken är som den bekanta baken delad och den gick bra på Broadway och har satts upp vid ett flertal tillfällen i Sverige också så många gillar den.
Kanske såg jag en dålig uppsättning? Och kanske hade jag hoppats på mer ”trallvänlig” och minnesvärd musik från männen bakom såna favvisar som Cabaret och Chicago.
Jag vet inte.
Ta och lyssna på den, kära läsare och avgör själv. Kan nog vara att det här är ett sånt där verk som man antingen älskar eller hatar. Och ett antal örhängen har den, så gillar man en Kander/Ebb musikal så kommer man hitta en del pärlor i alla fall.

West End: Föreställningen vann en Laurence Olivier Award för bästa ljusdesign.
Den vann även en Evening Standard Award som Årets Musikal.
Broadway: Föreställningen vann 7 Tony Awards: Bästa musikal, bästa libretto, bästa score (dvs musik o sångtexter), kvinnliga huvudroll, manliga huvudroll, manliga biroll och bästa kostymer.
Den vann också 3 Drama Desk Awards: outstanding musical, outstanding actor in a musical, outstanding actress in a musical.

Föreställningen började sitt offentliga liv  i en workshop på Performing Arts Center, State University of New York at Purchase 1990. Den var en del av New Musical projektet som Universitetet skapat och vars mål var att skapa och utveckla 16 nya musikaler under en fyraårsperiod.
Eftersom det var så många stora och kända namn inblandade i just den här showen (förutom Prince, Kander & Ebb så var koreografen Susan Stroman med) så var mediaintresset stort. Prince bad New York-tidningarna respektera att detta bara var en workshopproduktion och att  de inte skulle komma till Purchase och recensera provföreställningarna. Men tidningarna respekterade inte den önskan och skickade dit sina bästa recensenter, bl a Frank Rich på The New York Times.
Recensenterna gillade inte vad de såg, de sågade showen totalt och resultatet blev att man helt slutade utveckla och jobba med den. Alla inblandade  drog sig tillbaka för att slicka sina sår och det skulle dröja nästan 2 år innan man fortsatte jobba på den.

Den fick till sist sin världspremiär i Toronto 1992. Därifrån flyttade den till London och West End där den finslipades innan den så småningom fick sin Broadwaypremiär 1993.
Vid det laget hade det gått drygt 2 år sedan recensenterna sågade verket i Purchace och deras negativa åsikter hade glömts. Nu gillade de vad de såg – ja, lite mer än förut och det gällde en del av dem i alla fall.

John Rubinstein som spelade Molina i workshopversionen spelade titelrollen i originaluppsättningen av musikalen Pippin på Broadway 1972. Han är även son till den berömda konsertpianisten Arthur Rubinstein.

Från den förödande workshoprecentionen
If anything, the tragedy of ”Spider Woman” is that New Musicals … has not allowed the work to develop slowly in a laboratory staging, as nonprofit, Off Broadway companies have helped develop adventurous musicals like ”A Chorus Line” or ”Sunday in the Park With George.” Instead, ”Spider Woman” arrives already burdened with the full, and in this case crushing, weight of Broadway extravagance. It is as overproduced as other seriously intentioned Prince musicals of the past decade…

The show’s potential virtues are being held hostage by a staging so overgrown that major esthetic reconsiderations, as opposed to cosmetic nips and tucks, are already foreclosed in this production. Though the musical’s story is fundamentally an intimate one about two people … it is often difficult to find Molina and Valentin within the bloated trappings.

… the lengthy movie-musical sequences of Molina’s fantasies have only a nominal and repetitive relationship to his jail-cell reality. … the glitzy routines of ”Spider Woman” detract from, rather than enhance, the work’s dramatization of fascist repression.
Though Mr. Kander and Mr. Ebb have written some typically amusing parodies for their movie musical, even their better numbers are defeated by the routine choreography of Susan Stroman …

The casting of Molina and Valentin is even more damaging.
… Mr. Rubinstein (Molina), not a natural comedian, pushes himself so hard that he crosses the line into retrograde gay caricature. Worse, his singing range is now so narrow that he cannot be given the big emotional arias that his character must have

By evening’s end, when Molina and Valentin are supposed to be achieving a redemptive symbiosis, the male stars hardly seem to have met each other.

It’s all frustrating because somewhere in ”Kiss of the Spider Woman” is the compelling story its creators want to tell, which is nothing less than an investigation of what it means to be a man, in the highest moral sense, whatever one’s sexual orientation. That story begins with two men in a tiny room, and if the creators of ”Kiss of the Spider Woman” are to retrieve the intimate heart of their show, they may have to rescue it from the voluminous web in which it has so wastefully become ensnared.
– Frank Rich, The New York Times

Om Londonversionen:
Audiences are falling in love with Kiss of the Spider Woman although the web the new musical weaves is not without holes.

While there’s no disputing the power of the story or the high level of production values, the show is not without other problems.

Molina’s fantasies are acted out in numerous song and dance numbers. They do provide a strong contrast to the characters’ traumatic jail experiences. However , often the sequences seem interminable, detracting from the strength of the story.
– Karen Murray, Variety


Om Broadwayversionen
The musical does not meet all the high goals it borrows from Manuel Puig’s novel. When it falls short, it pushes into pretentious overdrive (a ”Morphine Tango”, if you please) and turns the serious business of police-state torture into show-biz kitsch every bit as vacuous as the B-movie cliches parodied in its celluloid fantasies. Yet the production does succeed not only in giving Ms. Rivera a glittering spotlight but also in using the elaborate machinery of a big Broadway musical to tell the story of an uncloseted, unhomogenized, unexceptional gay man who arrives at his own heroic definition of masculinity.
– Frank Rich, The New York Times


“Kiss” will undoubtedly divide critics and audiences alike — as it has in London — with fans applauding Harold Prince’s bold take on the brutal subject matter and detractors pronouncing it a camp travesty of the 1976 Manuel Puig novel.

…the musical … reduces the revolutionary Valentin (Anthony Crivello) to a moody, brutish dope while expanding the role of the movie star Aurora (Chita Rivera) into a creation of epic kitsch. Rivera, looking like an LSD-inspired vision of Carmen Miranda…

The music is awful and tasteless, Kander scoring lots of clanging chimes and thumping percussion that frequently sounds like a Balinese gamelan tuning up for the Monkey Chant. There are a few sweet ballads thrown in to keep everyone off guard.
Under Prince’s direction, the show unfolds seamlessly, though there is nothing very original in the work of two choreographers, Vincent Paterson and Rob Marshall.
“Kiss” has an intriguing look, but not intriguing enough for three hours.
– Jeremy Gerard, Variety


Tony Awards
Making The Musical featurette
Opening Night TV-special 1993
Press Reel pt 1
Press Reel pt 2
Her name is Aurora
Gimme Love


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