You won’t want to miss this
By Kim Edwards
A music theatre icon quietly strolled into Melbourne this week for a few modest and intimate performances at this year’s Melbourne Cabaret Festival. With a simple entourage of an accompanist and a vocalist, the two-time Tony winner joked gently about his failure to bring sequins or spectacle for the festival, but for his fans a piano, a guitar, a stool, microphones and the man himself were all we wanted. Grandson of the legendary Richard Rogers, performer, environmentalist, and lauded composer-lyricist in his own right for some of the most daring and dazzling musicals you’ll ever hear – and nowhere near enough people know his name.
Adam Guettel is the musician’s music-theatre maker: his rich, complex songs and lush, romantic arrangements won his 2005 musical The Light in the Piazza the Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Orchestration, and the chance to hear him personally debut new material and perform old favourites is an irresistible one for all musical lovers.
My prolonged love affair with Guettel’s work began with a chance encounter with the ethereal and enthralling song cycle Myths and Hymns, and then an abiding fascination with his extraordinary musical Floyd Collins. Emotion drives all his music: there is no sense that he thinks up a melody and tries to fold it into plot or character. First there is a sweeping, encompassing feeling, and then his songs strive to capture that illusive, complicated human experience in music and lyrics. There is the contrary simplicity and sophistication of poetry to his work, and a wonderful playfulness and experimentation with how the voice might express ‘impossible’ experiences, from the joyous opening number of Floyd Collins where the protagonist sings with his own echo to create the immensity of an underground cave he is exploring to Light in the Piazza‘s ‘Say it Somehow’ duet as the young lovers try to describe an embrace with their vocalisations.
Guettel’s love for giving voice to characters who struggle to express themselves is glorious, from the immobilised Floyd trapped in a tiny cave to the emotionally-stunted heroine Clara, and he has continued to explore this with new works based on the novel The Invisible Man, the movie Days of Wine and Roses and Danny Boyle’s enchanting Millions. And hearing a composer perform his own songs is always illuminating: ‘Dividing Day’ for example has new poignance, and ‘Saturn Returns’ and ‘How Glory Goes’ soared to new emotional heights.
With extraordinary Broadway MD Kim Grigsby on the piano and the stunning accompanying vocals of his fiancee Haley Bond, Guettel offers an evening of disarming banter, personal charm, and enriching, thrilling, passionate music. Tonight (Sunday June 30) is your last chance to hear him perform in Melbourne – 7:30pm at Chapel Off Chapel… Seize it!