‘Becoming George’ debuts at MetroStage

Play offers a glimpse into the fascinating world of George Sand

By JEANNE THEISMANN

May 4, 2006

One day, the world will understand me, and if this day never comes, no matter, I will have opened the way for other women.”

Such were the words of author George Sand, the most notorious female writer of her age who was as famous for her love affairs and dressing in men’s clothing as for her best-selling novels.

A glimpse inside the fascinating world of Sand can be seen in the world premier musical comedy “Becoming George,” now playing at MetroStage Theater.  

Set in Paris in 1870, “Becoming George” opens as the radical feminist Sand and her new protégé, Sarah Bernhardt, are rehearsing a Sand play. Through a series of political and personal events, the 66-year-old Sand decides against retirement in order to protest the threat of the unpopular Franco-Prussian War. Forced to choose sides are Sand’s friend and script doctor, Alexandre Dumas the Younger, Marthe, her housekeeper and confidante, Gérard, a poet, revolutionary and Sand’s young lover, and Prince Paul, the French Minister of Culture.

With a wonderful, witty script, beautiful music and sophisticated lyrics, the entire ensemble is cast to perfection as the intimate Alexandria theater is transformed into Sand’s 300-acre French country chateau.

Playing the unconventional Sand is Kat’ Taylor, who has mastered the demanding role that requires the mannerisms and stride of a man while conveying the tenderness of a woman who loves deeply and passionately the people and causes in her life. Her rendition of “Letters to the Night,” a tribute to her former lover Frederic Chopin, is particularly poignant and, not coincidentally, reminiscent of the composer’s own melodies.

Meegan Midkiff plays the not-yet-legendary Sarah Bernhardt. Midkiff’s comedic skills make it all too easy to believe that Bernhardt is perhaps merely the Brittany Spears of her day. But Midkiff slowly reveals the depth of her talent as Bernhardt blossoms into a character of substance and confidence under the mentoring of Sand.

Director Brett Smock, who directed and developed “The Sand Storm: Stories from the Front,” at MetroStage last summer, proves once again just how adept he is at working in such an intimate setting. Smock takes full advantage of the untraditional stage, using surprise entrances to draw the audience completely into each scene.

Perfect casting

Another cast member making a return to MetroStage is Brian Childers as the prince. Childers, who won the Helen Hayes Award for his portrayal of Danny Kaye in Danny and Sylvia,” is perfectly cast as the prince and delivers a brilliant dramatic performance that is highlighted by the compelling strength of his vocal abilities.

Rounding out the talented cast are: Greg Violand as Alexandre Dumas the Younger; Mary Jayne Raleigh as Marthe; and Jason Hentrich as Gérard, with each delivering a commanding performance worthy of the standing ovation received at the end of the show.

With a book and lyrics by Patti McKenney and Doug Frew, and a musical score by Linda Eisenstein, “Becoming George” is a showcase for the vocal talents of the entire cast. From Midkiff’s soprano to Raleigh’s alto, the catchy songs are performed in perfectly blended harmonies that are punctuated by the crisp arrangements of musical director Michael Flohr and his five-piece orchestra.

The creative team includes Jen Price (set designer), Matthew Fick (lighting designer), Steve Beana (sound designer) and Howard Kurtz (costumes).

“Becoming George” is musical theater at its best and MetroStage, known for giving voice to contemporary plays and musicals, is once again the architect of a production worthy of being called a “world premier.”