Musical About Greta Garbo Is Staged In Rutland En Route To Broadway

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(Host)  Greta Garbo’s film career ended almost 70 years ago, but her legendary mystique lives on. 

A new musical that’s currently in development, traces the complex life of the illusive film star.    

"Garbo and Me" will be performed tonight (Saturday night ) at Rutland’s Paramount Theatre. 

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, it’s part of the Paramount’s Thirty Center Stage series which helps up-and-coming talent launch new work. 

(Keck) There are no sets, no costumes and no props – not yet. Right now there’s just a musical-in-the-rough and a cast of eight who’ll perform in front of an audience for the first time this weekend. 

(Music from performance)

(Bouchard)  "I thought it would be really cool to bring a developmental initiative to the theater that lets new works get a substantial commitment of resources, to get 40 hours of rehearsal. And then at the end of the week we just put it up. "

(Keck) That’s Bruce Bouchard, executive director of the Paramount Theatre. He says this sort of performance is fun for the audience because after the show, the director and composer will come out on stage and ask for feedback. It’s a process every major musical has to go through – but Bouchard says audiences in Vermont rarely get to take part.

(Bouchard) "It’s just part of what any theater should do: commit to developing new work, to giving the next line of product a chance to breathe before it’s a fully made entity."

(Keck) The music for "Garbo and Me" was composed by Joshua Rosenblum while the lyrics were written by his wife, Joanne Sydney Lessner.  The two have collaborated on a number of projects but Lessner says the lush sound of the ‘30s and ‘40s, coupled with Garbo’s glamor and mystery seemed especially perfect for a musical. 

(Lessner) "The interesting thing about Garbo was that she was the first celebrity to be truly hounded by the press and paparazzi in a way that nowadays is common currency. And of course quite famously Garbo was a very private person and the more she tried to pull away from the public and the media the more their curiosity was aroused  And the more intent they became on tracking and following her. And she actually famously said, ‘My life is all about back alleys and side entrances.’"  

(Keck) The musical explores Garbo’s work in Hollywood, her bisexual love life, her disdain for the paparazzi that hounded her, her need for privacy and her abrupt exodus from acting at the height of her career.   

Kate Shindle, a former Miss America who played the lead in the hit Broadway musical "Legally Blond" plays Garbo. Other cast members have numerous Broadway credits as well.   Joanne Lessner says she’s incredibly proud of what they’ve created, but she admits there comes a point when you have to put it in front of an audience. 

(Lessner) "A friend of mine once said to me every single member of the audience is wrong, but the audience of the whole is right. In the privacy of your rehearsal everybody’s hilarious, everything is brilliant and wonderful and suddenly you have fresh ears hearing it and things become very apparent just from the way things land in the room. And getting to speak to the audience afterward and get their response is invaluable feedback."

(Keck) It’s a way to fine tune the show so that eventually audiences on Broadway may get to see it, too. 

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

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