A Tale of Two Cities
Central Florida Vocal Arts
Based on a novel by Charles Dickens
By Jill Santoriello
Directed by Michael John Foster
Musical Direction by Nishaa Carson
Starring David Bracamonte, Lindsay Duca, and Ethan Lolley
It was the best of opera, and it was the longest of plays. As we all know, Dickens was paid by the word, and he took full advantage of the payment plan on this nearly three hour epic. The sprawling story alternates between London and Paris as the French aristocracy roll their heads down the Champs Elysee like bowling balls on league night. Anyone tied to the ancient regime and who had not bugged out to the colonies was on deck for a beheading, including Charles Darnay (Lolley). He went so far as to reject his family fortune to marry for love, but that’s not good enough. A slightly awkward love triangle blossoms between Lucie (Duca), drunken lawyer Sydney Carton (Bracamonte) and Charles, who end up the lucky guy. When Charles is in the revolutionary dock, Carton shakes off alcoholism, and steps up soberly to trade his life for Lucie’s happiness.
Bracamonte keeps this show rolling; his wild flamboyant alcoholism is a joy to watch, and he uses it to good effect in the story. Duca’s Lucy is more the passive female ideal; she weeps and bears children but has little say in her destiny beyond picking Mr. Lucky. There’s a cauldron of great supporting work here with Alexander Principe flipping between royalist and revolutionary jobs. The sleazy Basard (Stephen Cauley) gets most of the laughs, and the ones he doesn’t get go to William Merklinger’s Jerry Cruncher, exhumer of dead bodies. Given the demand for dead bodies in those days, it’s not clear why anyone bothered digging graves.
With an almost two hour Act One, this show needs some serious pruning. I have a little clock in the back of my head that rings at a certain point and says, “It’s time for that rousing act one closer.” It went off, but there were at least six more “I Am” songs that were good enough as musical composition but added little to establish the story. Musically, we saw giants on stage, and the costumes were high quality replicas of period fashion. A clever projection system set locations quickly and efficiently, and the sound was always clean and well balanced. I liked the show, but sorely wished the fast forward button had appeared at the same time as the guillotine.