God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
New York City Center Encores! Off-Center
July 29, 2016
|Photo courtesy of New York City Center Encores|
Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken, is receiving a short, but well deserved concert staging with New York City Center Encores. Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical tale is very relevant to a present day audience. Its themes of philanthropic focus, greed, and giving respect to those in most need are strong and meaningful. The production itself is simple and cleverly staged, placing the focus on the content and quality of the book and score.
When Eliot Rosewater (played by Santino Fontana) the President of the multi-million dollar philanthropic Rosewater Foundation, appears to be going off the deep end, he escapes to Rosewater County, Indiana. This does not sit well with his father, Senator Rosewater (played by Clark Johnson), who believes his son’s problems are caused by drinking irresponsibly. Eliot’s wife, Sylvia (played by Brynn O’Malley), follows him to support him in his commitment to help the downtrodden and forgotten population of the section of the United States named for his family. Throughout his journey, Eliot is inspired by the philosophy in a series of fiction novels written by unsung hero Kilgore Trout (played by James Earl Jones). Norman Mushari, a self-centered lawyer for the Rosewater Foundation (played by Skylar Astin), finds a document stating that if the President of the Foundations is declared legally insane, the control of the millions goes to the next family member. Since Eliot and his wife have no children, Norman goes on a quest to seek out the lesser known Rosewaters and gain a cut of the wealth for himself.
|Santino Fontana as Eliot Rosewater|
Photo courtesy of New York City Center Encores
“Since You Came to This Town” is sung at the end of Act I bringing the action together in a powerful and sentimental manner in which the people of Rosewater County express their appreciation for Eliot’s efforts. This puts his level of “sanity’ in the proper perspective. The tempo and pacing of Act II is heightened as Norman finds Rosewater relatives to claim the fortune and Sylvia has a breakdown, runs off to Europe, and then decides to divorce Eliot. Other highlights in the score are “Dear Ophelia” in Act I, and “Eliot/Sylvia” in Act II. These two songs are private moments between Eliot and Sylvia that reveal their sincere emotion for one another despite the craziness that is constantly going on around them. “A Firestorm Consuming Indianapolis” is a view into Eliot’s experience during the war, which gives a deep insight into the motivations of the character’s behavior.
|Photo courtesy of City Center Encores|
From the Encores program notes: “The original production of Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater opened on May 17, 1979 at WPA Theater. After a 12-performance “showcase” run, it transferred to the Entermedia Theater, where it opened on October 14, 1979 and ran for 49 performances.” The book and score have heart and humor that can be revisited and possibly well received if fully produced. Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical humor is beautifully reflected in Howard Ashman’s witty lyrics and book. Alan Menken’s score is charming and spirited. The revisiting of this lighthearted, enjoyable, and rarely seen musical is a valuable endeavor by New York City Center Encores.