So you may (or may not) be wondering why I put the "-ish" in that since we all know that "Roman Holiday" is, in fact, a movie starring Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, and Eddie Albert. And it is such a very sweet movie. Audrey Hepburn (in her first big movie role as Princess Anne), Rome (in its first on-location movie role playing... well... itself), Gregory Peck as the "newsman with a heart of gold" Joe Bradley, and Eddie Albert as the photographer with more morals than he admits to.
There are some incredibly iconic scenes in it. Riding the Vespa through Rome. Putting a hand into the "Mouth of Truth." Tossing a coin into the Trevi fountain. Having a "barroom" brawl on a barge/nightclub. It's a movie that makes most people laugh and cry every time they see it.
And, as of last month, it's now a stage musical at the Guthrie Theater, here in Minneapolis. They've taken the movie, added in a fabulous new Italian nightclub singer and a slight twist to our newsman's backstory (he now also wants to write a Broadway show), and mixed it all with a liberal number of Cole Porter tunes.
They've kept many of the iconic scenes, and the look and feel of the production are enhanced by background images which splash across the back wall of the stage from time to time. (My own odd little complaint: They took the time to construct a Trevi fountain complete with running water, but from a distance it just looks damp - you can't see any water actually running.)
Of course, when you're seeing something which is already so ingrained in your memory (sort of), you compare everything to what came before. Luckily, the cast are up to the task of taking what was on the page and bringing more out of it.
Stephanie Rothenberg is playing both Princess Anne AND Audrey Hepburn, and she does it so that you forget that you already know the end of the story. Edward Watts (although with something odd about his hair that I can't put my finger on - maybe they're trying too hard to put him into the 50s?) has a perfect matinee-idol chin and the voice to go with it.
I have to admit, though, that my favorite characters were Francesca Scabulo, played with a diva voice and the curves to go with them by Christina Baldwin, and Anne's aunt, the Countess, played by Michelle Barber. It is in these two more worldly women that we see all that Anne has to live for - and all that she has to give up. Though wildly different, they ground the show both in its humor and its sentiment.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the ensemble - the dance numbers and street scenes are to die for, if for no other reason than the costumes... well... they're amazing, and you get to see more of them each time the ensemble is on stage. (Want to see more of the sets and costumes? Check out the info and pictures here.)
I had a discussion last week at work about a movie-versus-book situation. I was told that I'd have liked a movie better if I had read the book first. And I have to wonder, if - on some level - I would have liked the musical as much without having first seen the movie. I think I would have. I think the ending would be more bittersweet if I hadn't known it in advance. I think I would have been able to pay more attention to the music and the characters without the comparisons going on in my brain. But, that's obviously not possible.
In the meantime, if you want to get as close as possible to a lovely spring day in Rome in the 1950s with some of the most charming tour guides you'll ever hope to meet, I would highly recommend driving your Vespa over to the Guthrie and taking in the show.
Overall rating: A-. I think I've worked in too many theatrical situations to let the not-quite-right Trevi fountain slide. But, honestly, the rest of it was a perfect afternoon's Holiday.