To Be Perfect, A MINISTER’S WIFE
SAN JOSÉ, CA—For those people acquainted with GEORGE BERNARD SHAW’S comedy CANDIDA, written in l894 and published in l898, the plot of its musical adaptation, “A MINISTER'S WIFE” will be familiar.
As a story, CANDIDA is witty. Candida, the wife of the Reverend James Mavor Morell, a Christian Socialist Episcopal Minister, returns home from a trip bringing with her a young poet by the name of Eugene Marchbanks. When alone with the minister in their home, Eugene informs the Reverend, calmly, that he is in love with his wife.
The idea to use CANDIDA’s plot for a musical, originated with awards winning Director MICHAEL HALBERSTAM, the Artistic director and co-founder of Writers’ Theatre, in Glencoe Illinois, who with the collaboration of Tony® nominated director, actor and playwright, AUSTIN PENDLETON (who wrote the script) award winning composer JOSHUA SCHMIDT (who wrote the music) and JAN LEVY (who wrote the lyrics) created A MINISTER’S WIFE.
It made its West Coast Premier at San Jose Rep, in San Jose, California, on June 26 of this year.
A MINISTER’s WIFE is presented on a single elegant set, which represents Morell’s home/office. Its plot, is basically the same as CANDIDA’s plot, minus the character of Burgess, Candida’s father. In his adaptation, PENDLETON, the playwright, preserved the core of the story and the wittiness of SHAW’s, comedy in spite that to fit the music, he needed to shorten SHAW’s dialogue, or converted it to lyrics.( written by TRANEN)
Directed by HARLBERSTAM, the acting in the musical is realistic. CHRISTOPHER VETTEL who sings and vocalizes well, gave the audience, on opening night, a dignified Morell who after hearing Eugene's confession, continues his duties as a minister, does not alter his schedule, leaves his wife alone with the poet, and at the end allows her to decide by herself, if she wants to remain with him as his wife or leave him for Eugene. This, in spite of having previously declared to “Lexi” his minister helper, that Candida is the love of his life.
As a wise older man and as a minister of God, Morell handles his awkward situation with restrain. He loves his wife, he thinks she is “the perfect woman” but his background and the harshness of his life as he was growing up in London, had made him strong. He deducts that if Candida prefers Eugene, he, out of his love for her, will accept her decision and let her go.
As Candida, SHARON RIETKERK , who has a beautiful tone of voice when she sings and sings well, gave us a lovely representation of a Victorian woman. Because she remained in character through the whole play, she allowed the audience to discover by her actions, her maturity and wisdom. She also showed us part of her “motherly side” as she deals with Eugene, who she rebukes and scolds as if he were one of her children.
In his role as minister “Lexi” JARROD ZIMMERMAN, played his serious role as helper of Rev. Morell, with veracity. His funny part with humor. As Morell’s “decorous” secretary, LIZ BALTES acted her part well, and was delightful when after tasting champagne, for the first time, changes her personality.
The portraying of the character of Eugene ( TIM HOMSLEY) however, had a problem on opening night. In the play, Marchbanks is a young aristocrat, fifteen years younger than Candida. he is eighteen. He is a good poet and he has the sensitivity, that Morell lacks, to understand Candida. He understands her well and is really, “her soul mate.” He also is able to detect her wishes, and because he knows exactly what she wants, he tries to please her. He is also sensitive enough to feel her pain as his own.
Maybe because because of the complexity in the role, HOMSLEY was not sure, at times, on how to act his part, On opening night, his Eugene was not portrayed as a "young poet" but as childish man, who acts so silly and immature at times that made the audience wonder how could Candida become infatuated with him. Because Candida (RIETKERK) was able to represent that she was infatuated with him. Eugene amuses her and she likes his “romantic side,” even when he bores her to dead reading her his poems for two hours.
Unlike the music of most musicals, it is not a series of individual songs sang by the different characters, but a series of well-orchestrated melodies, inconspicuous from the dialogue, that brakes into a song at mid sentence and continues as dialogue. In other words, it is not easy to detect when we first hear them, when did a song begins, or when it is going to end because it is not indicated by the harmony. The lyrics, (TRANEN) which are based in the play’s dialogue, are appropriate to the action.
A MINISTER’S WIFE is a charming musical, that with “fine tuning” in characterization, one day may become as popular as “My Fair Lady.”
A MINISTER’S WIFE will play at San Jose Rep until July 28. To order tickets call at 1-408-367-7255 or go to www.SJRep.com
SHARON RIETKERK as Candida and TIM HOMSLEY as Eugene Marchbanks.