NYMF 2011 Review #3: Madame X

                          MADAME X PROGRAM
    Melodarama!  Music!  And Murder!  
    A hysterical take of the Douglas Sirk films of the 
    1950s--complete with the altruistic, self-sacrificing

    But what if I don't really know much about Douglas Sirk?

                          MADAME X PROGRAM
    Based on the 1905 play by Alexandre Bisson...
    ...and every movie and musical between 1946 and 1966!

                          POSSIBLY YOU
    I was born after 1966.  Say isn't this written by the
    same guy who wrote Forbidden Br--

                          MADAME X PROGRAM
    Forbidden Broadway ended in March 2009 right after the
    economy crashed.  You're going to have to actually deal 
    with getting over this someday.

                          YOU, OR AT LEAST ME

                          MADAME X PROGRAM
    Oh good, it seems you are understanding the Melodrama bit.
For me, watching Gerard Alessandrini and Robert Hetzel's Madame X may have been like watching one of Alessandrini's Wicked spoofs having never been to a Broadway show.  I've actually never seen the Lana Turner movie (and it can be argued that this discredits everything I have to say here), so while I followed the plot based on the 1905 melodrama, I'm pretty sure that I didn't catch a fair amount of the winks intended for a target audience that I may not have been a part of.

The story: a beauty queen meets a Senator-to-be, and puts aside her hedonistic lifestyle to marry him and have a child and live a perfect upper-middle-class life.  But as he is away so often, she begins an affair which ends in her witnessing her lover's horrific murder.  The Senator's controlling mother convinces her to run away, where she is stuck in a prostitute-tastic lifestyle before her life's circle comes around to reconnect with her former husband and child.

Unsurprisingly, the lyrics are fantastic. Witty, clever, full of wordplay and internal rhyme... if there is a lyric trick out there, Alessandrini (and perhaps Hetzel?) has it in his hat.  In fact, his craft may be better shown off here than any edition of Forbidden Broadway, as he's able to do much more than just go for the laugh.  The music is also very enjoyable, but really presents itself best as a conveyor belt for a lyricist who very well may have written more lyrics than any of the great Broadway songwriters (think about it, two and a half near-continuous decades of Forbidden Broadway, a show with very little book, and you're talking about one seriously sharpened lyric-writing muscle).

But ah, the book.  We're talking about a very clear story-line that is occasionally very funny, but too-often doesn't cleanly separate the difference between melodrama-you're-supposed-to-take-seriously and melodrama-you're-supposed-to-laugh-at.  This was more of an issue in Act One, which has us stuck at home with her as mother and wife, and much less problematic when we get out of the house and onto the high seas in Act Two.  It wasn't that jokes were falling flat, it's that we as an audience wanted more of them, particularly moving the story along act one's setup.

Madame X, however, isn't like those early-draft NYMF shows that have fundamental problems needing major reworking.  The show is on very solid footing song-and-plot-wise, and could just use a layer of funnier material overlaid on top.  Perhaps shortening Act One and getting a bit deeper into the sinful events of Act Two would be helpful.  In either case, we'll surely see a future version of this show, and hopefully with Donna English, Janet Dickinson, and Michael West returning as the phenomenal leads.  





Episode Episode IV
Di Liuji

Di Jiuji seventh and
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forty-seventh forty-eighth set


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