BTG: 'We Are Women' is hybrid Bernstein

Saturday August 11, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- In "We Are Women: A Bernstein Cabaret," the late composer's daughter, Jamie Bernstein, and her artistic partner and associate, Michael Barrett, have created a musical narrative about a woman whose life has fallen short of expectations -- her own and society's -- and, in the second half, a daughter's determination to navigate the shoals of her mother's failures and build a successful life of her own.

The source material is Leonard Bernstein's Broadway music -- "On the Town," "Candide," "Wonderful Town" and "West Side Story"-- and his classical work -- "La Bonne Cuisine," a little-known song cycle, and his one-act opera, "Trouble in Tahti," for which Bernstein wrote his own lyrics.

As presented at Berkshire Theatre Group's Colonial The atre by an amiable and accomplished foursome of singers -- mezzo soprano Elizabeth Sham mash as the mother, soprano Lauren Wor sham as the daughter, and baritone Philip Cutlip and tenor Jeffrey Picon as the men in their lives; a superb musical trio and Jamie Bern stein's well-written, if effortfully delivered, narration, "We Are Women" is an odd hybrid.

In terms of what "We Are Women" has to say, there is little that is fresh so it's all in the telling and even that moves in fits and starts. Indeed, not until the at once sad and tough material from "Trouble in Tahti" asserts itself midway through the first act does "We Are Women" finds a voice, and an unsettling one at that, especially in a husband-and-wife battle during breakfast and a spiteful meal preparation that follows.

We're in more hopeful, reassuring territory in the second half as the little 10-year-old girl who asserts at the very opening that ("She is) a Person Too" pushes her life plan to a happy resolution as she grows into adulthood. The sad, dark cynicism of the first half is replaced by hopeful romanticism in the second half, which features exquisite renderings of "Maria" and "One Hand, One Heart," and a killer interpretation of "Somewhere" as a curtain call epilogue.

In the end, however, "We Are Women" is an odd diversion that seems much better in concept than in performance.


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