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June 2, 2017

Parodying Film Noir: A look at Adrift in Macao


We here at the Broadway Rose are fortunate enough to work out of two theaters: a 600-seat and a 270-seat space.  The 600-seat space has the orchestra pit, and fly space and many more bells and whistles. The 270-seat space can be more challenging to find the right show for with its limited space. I generally read any submissions that come to the theater as I am a fast reader and then can report my findings to Sharon Maroney, our Artistic Director.

When Adrift in Macao came across my desk I was intrigued by the title and the fact that it was a musical with book and lyrics by Christopher Durang and composer Peter Melnick, Richard Rodgers’ grandson.  After I finished reading and listening to the piece, my co-workers wondered why the heck I was laughing so much in my office. I gave them a brief description of the story and how it was set in Macao, China and spoofed the genre of film noir, paying homage to classics like Double Indemnity with Barbara Stanwyck and The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart.

The witty, fast paced, sometimes-nonsensical dialogue of Durang and the catchy melodies of the Rodgers pedigree hit a home run as far as I was concerned. I realized the piece had been around for a while, receiving good reviews for a short off-off Broadway run and was surprised it had not been produced more often.  It immediately went on to our short list of shows to be done in our smaller, 270 seat theater.

Programming a year out we had time to promote it as a relatively new work, and fit it into a slot that our audience had become accustomed to for things a little bit off the beaten path. With my producer’s hat, I was a little worried about there being no intermission, knowing how social my audience likes to be, but for the sake of the pace of the show it was necessary to forgo it this time.  We even decided to weather the few off-color words that might raise a brow with our crowd, but directed the right way and compared to what is presented on prime time commercial television, we were ready to take the heat.

All of our gambling paid off and not only did Adrift in Macao do better than budget, but it attracted Durang groupies that had never been to our theater and piqued the interest of the non-musical theatre going patrons.  The older set who I thought may be the most perturbed by the piece were the ones who loved it the most as they were around when film noir was at its peak and knew exactly what the show was paying homage to and enjoyed the laugh as well as the trip down memory lane.

I think the success of the show for us can be summed up in a note sent to me from an audience member who had never heard of this show before, as most people hadn’t.  She wrote, “Adrift in Macao is the funniest!  The lines and lyrics made me laugh so hard.  The choreography was wonderful.  I believe Broadway Rose should produce this show every year until everyone in Portland has had the opportunity to see it.  Thank you, thank you for a great time.”  Theatre begets theatre and I hope that many more theaters are willing to take a look at this terrific piece of musical theatre, roll the dice, and do better than budget.

To purchase a copy of Adrift in Macao click here, and to learn more about licensing a production, click here.