Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Amphigorey, A Musicale, Part 1

Edward Gorey designed sets and costumes for a variety of theater pieces, the most famous being the Broadway production of Dracula (see my posts from June 4, September 8 & 11, 2009) for which he won a Tony Award. The Gorey show that went through the most incarnations over the longest period of time was 1994's Amphigorey, A Musicale which was performed Off-Broadway at the Perry Street Theater in New York City.

Amphigorey, A Musicale began its theatrical journey as Tinned Lettuce: or, The New Musical, which debuted in 1985 at the theater department of NYU. In 1992, when Mr. Gorey changed the show and renamed it  Amphigorey, A Musicale, it was performed by the Plays and Player's Theatre in Philadelphia. After the run ended, Mr. Gorey once again redesigned the show (but did not change the name) and it opened at the Perry Street Theatre for an Off-Broadway run. The show was changed once again in 2000, becoming The Gorey Details, A Musicale. This final incarnation was endorsed by Mr. Gorey but he had less to do with this production than the earlier shows. The Gorey Details was in production when Mr. Gorey passed away and was presented after his death.

In each re-staging, changes made to the show were significant, and yet they were not. The evening was performed as a series of vignettes, each compact and complete in themselves, like a Vaudeville or English Music Hall turn. Each story would finish and the next would begin. This format was kept in each production even though the stories presented would change.

I missed the Philadelphia production of Amphigorey and also The Gorey Details, but I had the pleasure of attending performances of both the NYU and Perry Street productions. For Tinned Lettuce, I actually had the good fortune of being seated directly behind Mr. Gorey at the performance, and as an audience member he was almost more fun to watch than the show itself. If you did not realize it was Mr. Gorey himself making all the clatter, you might have found this expressive audience member distracting. Mr. Gorey hooted, guffawed, and thoroughly enjoyed the performances as if he had never seen them before.

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