Q: You last directed The Baker’s Wife in Concert for us last season. Welcome back to TMTC! What inspired you to join us again?
I enjoy the philosophy of the theatre, that it looks at the more unusual music theatre fare. I also love the fact that no matter what the show may be, the size of the theatre demands that you take a chamber approach. The audience is up close and personal which demands that the director and actor concentrate a lot more on truthful acting. It’s a wonderful intimate space.
Q: What drew you to directing Do I Hear a Waltz?
I was in college when the show opened on Broadway, and I remember being totally captivated by the title song. In fact, I staged it as one of my directing finals. The show was not a big success on Broadway, but for all these years I’ve been fascinated because I could never figure out how three of our most illustrious creators of music theatre — the great Richard Rodgers, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents created a piece that didn’t land. I believe Rodgers should have followed his first intention, which was to create a chamber musical. Instead, they populated the show with a singing and dancing chorus with not much for them to do. I want to clear things away so that you can see the lovely and somewhat sad story of American secretary Leona Samish looking for love in Venice.
Q: What is the beginning of your process when you start reading a script? Do you envision the characters? The setting? Both at once?
First and foremost I am attracted to the characters that have been created by Arthur Laurents, the book writer. In this particular show, I love the mix of the Italians and the Americans, and especially as it plays out and you realize the enormous differences in the way the two different cultures view life and love. I also believe the characters are a product of their environment. I try to see and touch everything they do in the play. Waltz? was a treat, because I am Italian and I have visited Venice three times. I consider it the most beautiful, magical, mysterious city in Western Europe, just as our leading character describes in the musical.
Q: What were the first steps you were inspired to take after reading Do I Hear a Waltz?
I wanted to go back and look at the evolution of the piece. I read the original play The Time of the Cuckoo by Arthur Laurents, watched the film Summertime with Katherine Hepburn based on the musical, and I listened to the CD of the revival of the musical at Pasadena Playhouse a few years ago. I read everything I could find about the show, especially Sondheim’s critique of the collaboration with Richard Rodgers. It was quite an adventure for all of the original artists who worked on the production. Through all of this, the characters, the storyline, the music — many, many things shone through and it made me determined to do everything I could to make the show work. We are doing the original version from the Rodgers and Hammerstein library.
Q: What do you hope audiences take away from TMTC’s Chamber Musical presentation of Do I Hear a Waltz?
I would love it if I heard someone say at the end of the performance, “Wow. What a lovely musical. Funny, sad, beautiful, touching. I had no idea this was such a good musical!” This show has such a fantastic pedigree. Who could ever imagine any less than a thrilling musical by Rodgers, Sondheim, and Laurents? I can’t. And that’s what I want to prove to our audience. Do I Hear a Waltz? deserves our attention.