Frankly, Charlotte, I Don't Give a Damn

A new musical about Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon.

By J. Cooper Robb
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 7, 2001

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Have you ever sat in a theater and wondered exactly why you were there? Such is the case with Charlotte: Life? or Theater? which presents the life of Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon in a joyless new musical. Based on Salomon's text and paintings, which she set to music in an attempt to keep from going insane (a fate that befell five women in her family, all of whom committed suicide), the production wants to be an exuberant celebration of how art can save a soul. Yet not once does director Ted Sperling offer any reason as to why Salomon's life is compelling. The story is disjointed and the music is wretchedly discordant. And the actors, who are routinely dull and off-key, give it the treatment it deserves. Gary S. Fagin's operatic score attempts to elicit the sounds of Kurt Weill and 1930s Germany, but it is so poorly composed and arranged that this influence is difficult to discern. One thing is for sure--the music is not successful in illuminating, supporting or expanding upon what Charlotte tells us are the wonders of her life. Elise Thoron's fractured book adds to his muddled effort by only hinting at the young girl's travails as she tries to flee both the Nazis and her own unbalanced mind.

Through March 18. $15-$35. Prince Music Theater. 1412 Chestnut St. 215.569.9700. www.princemusictheater.org.

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