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August 13, 2019

Music, Tragedy, Love: The Story of A Tale of Two Cities


Staff Picks is a regular series where Samuel French staff members get the chance to chat about their favorite musicals or plays.

Let’s do this! First, name and job title?
Elizabeth Minski, Office Administrator

So which musical are we talking about today?
A Tale of Two Cities

How would you classify the genre?
Musical. Tragedy. Love.

When did you first see or listen to this musical? And how did it become a favorite?
I have known about this show somewhat intimately for many years! My father got involved with the show at a very early stage in its development and ended up traveling with it from the workshop in New York down to the Aslo Theatre in Sarasota, FL and then back up the coast for an all too brief run on Broadway in 2008. He played the Marquis St. Evremonde, the dastardly aristocratic uncle of the dashing Charles Darnay both in Florida and on Broadway and, I must say, it was such a trip to see such a dramatically different part of him in focus.

Beyond this personal connection, this show is just sweepingly beautiful. The characters are warm and the struggles they deal with are terrible. Watching Sidney rise above his baser self to become a better man while simultaneously tracking the madness into which Mme Defarge plummets is the stuff of grand drama; to see these stories and the multitude of other Dickensian plots unfurl in front of such gorgeous songs is just a treat.

Favorite song, name it.
Oof. I’ve got to say “Without A Word.” This song is a challenge thrown out by Lucy Darnay, neé Manette to her absent husband, a series of questions of burning anger and fear and loss just when she is sure she will never see him again. I love the chance this song gives this character to be more three dimensional than she is in the original novel; she is given the space to vent her well justified rage as opposed to sit still and pretty, like the doll she is compared to by Sidney Carton several times over the course of the musical.

What about your favorite character?
I, of course, have complicated feelings about the character of the Marquis St. Evremonde, but if I had to pick a favorite…I’d have to say Miss Pross! Feisty, honest, and as protective of her adoptive family as any mother could be, Pross gets to have so much fun over the course of such a tumultuous show. She may seem prim and proper but when it comes down to it, she does what she must to save the ones she cares most about.

All right, here’s your chance for a sales pitch. Why should theaters do this show?
There are so many reasons to include this show in a season! It’s based on the classic novel by Charles Dickens, set in the midst of the French Revolution and full not only of grand political strife and drama but also the small triumphs and tribulations of the ordinary people living in such times. This musical is a deft adaptation of its source material, interweaving lush songs into the well-known story in compelling and beautiful ways. This show really brings out the importance of relationships and love between the characters of this story- not just sacrificial and romantic love, but also the ever present familial love and even the love of country!