Thursday, May 1, 2008

Casting Quandaries II: What It Is, It Wouldn’t Be

As Alice says in Alice in Wonderland:
“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?”

That about sums up the casting for a couple of musicals. The more apparent one is probably Sally Bowles in Cabaret. She’s not supposed to be a spectacular performer, yet people pay big bucks to see someone who can sing. I believe it was Ken Mendelbaum who identified Susan Egan as the best Sally of the last revival because she was able to perfectly balance those two facets of the character.

Like Annie in “Casting Quandaries I,” there’s another role that’s mysteriously difficult to cast. It’s hard for me to fully comment because I don’t think I’ve seen the definitive production of the show (though I have seen several strong productions). When it comes to Charlie Brown in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, the temptation seems to be to take the kid you want to cast because he’s so nice and give him the role. After all, it is good old Chuck; how much stage presence do you need?

I love my Broadway revival cast recording of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown with Anthony Rapp in the title role, a production I never got to see. It’s interesting to hear it because, though the character is . . . well, Charlie Brown . . . Rapp is still giving an endearing, strongly sung, and theatrical performance. He found a way to bring to life a wallflower, a failure, and a self-defeating character without sacrificing stage presence, warmth, and humor.

It seems to me that the best casting of Charlie Brown would be in finding one of your strongest character performers, then casting him in that role. The show is, after all, named for Charlie Brown. He shouldn’t be the least memorable character in the show (just as he was never the least memorable character in the cartoon specials).

the Broadway Mouth
May 1, 2008

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