March 24, 2008

27 Rue de Fleures- a New Musical

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas have always been fascinating figures I know very little about. I barely had any sense of what they looked like except from the cover of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (which I shamefully admit to have never gotten through), but I have been fascinated nonetheless to learn and read about them - their lesbian marriage, how Alice was Gertrude's wife, how they hosted the most interesting salons in their Paris apartment, and also how the Jewish Stein was able to evade the Nazis while living in the French countryside. Everything was written about them like they were one. Yet always it seemed like Gertrude was dominant.

A new musical at Urban Stages in New York City takes a look at the most famous "Boston marriage" from the perspective of wife, Alice B. Toklas. It explores their days in Paris and the salons where they hosted Picasso and others of the artistic intelligentsia.

The all female cast is led by Cheryl Stern as Alice and the indomitable Barbara Rosenblat as Gertrude. Book and lyrics are by Ted Sod, music is by Lisa Koch and the show is directed by the Urban Stages artistic director, Frances Hill.

While making a musical on a small scale is quite a challenge there were some touching and funny moments especially from the supporting cast playing a revolving band of characters in Gertrude and Alice's lives.

I'm still just a s fascinated as I was before -- maybe now when I next pick up the The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, I'll be able to get through it.

Play runs through April 6. Get more info and tickets: Urban Stages
Read Janet Malcom's New Yorker piece on Gertrude and Alice: Strangers in Paradise