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Monday, October 11, 2010

Nervous Breakdown Ahead

Pedro Almodóvar's film, “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” is about to become a new Broadway musical. It tells a story of love and abandonment in 1980s Madrid, the gazpacho is laced with Valium, the boyfriends are cads and terrorists, and theater royalty, Patti LuPone, is in full diva glory. Playing a jilted wife fresh from 19 years in an insane asylum, Ms. LuPone glowed in platinum blonde curls and oversize jewels at a recent rehearsal — a wigged-out kinswoman of her Tony Award-winning characters in “Evita” and “Gypsy.” And her opening lines in the show’s first number, appropriately titled “My Crazy Heart,” set the tenor of the show to come. The $5 million show is a rarity: a new musical based on a foreign film from two decades ago that is probably not widely known among the tourists who are the backbone of Broadway box offices. And the show is opening in New York without the traditional out-of-town tryout used by every other new musical now on Broadway to test material and make corrections. The technical demands of the show, like the copious projections showing Madrid architecture and other images, have been such that the producer, Lincoln Center Theater, twice delayed preview performances. David Yazbek, the composer and lyricist, and a Tony nominee for his scores for “The Full Monty” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” said he was initially skeptical of signing on to the musical, saying that he was turned off by any semblance of “hysterical women flailing their hands or running around like their hair was on fire.” Bartlett Sher, the musical’s director, , a Tony winner for his smash 2008 revival of “South Pacific”, said: "Pedro had a guiding point of view about life: The world is a perfect place except for one thing — that men abandon and cheat on women. But he has an allergy to direct sentiment, and knowing that helped us think less predictably about the storytelling in this musical.” It all sounds as if the creative team is on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

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