Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Rock Musical's 'Poster Child' Moves on - with Passion

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Rock Musical's 'Poster Child' Moves on - with Passion

Article excerpt

After starring in "The Who's Tommy," and "Titanic" on Broadway, and in off-Broadway's "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," Michael Cerveris told his agents he did not want to do another musical.

"The only thing I would do is a Sondheim musical," he says, thinking that it would never happen. Then, along came the revival of "Passion," which he starred in at the Kennedy Center's Stephen Sondheim Celebration this summer in Washington.

Both the actor and the musical benefited from the pairing - each garnering some of their best reviews ever. This Monday evening, he will reprise that role as part of a special concert presentation at New York's Lincoln Center.

"Sondheim is a populist, just as Shakespeare was in his time," says Mr. Cerveris. "He's not only a writer who can appeal to the intelligentsia. I can't think of another writer who, in three notes, can bring me to tears."

Set at a remote Italian military outpost in 1863, "Passion" chronicles the journey of a young soldier who is involved with a married woman. When transferred out of Milan, he becomes the obsession of Fosca, a sickly recluse, the sister of his commanding officer.

The original 1994 Tony-winning musical by Sondheim and James Lapine emphasized the responsibilities that society places on attractive people.

"It may have been highlighted because they made Donna Murphy, who is a strikingly beautiful woman, into an unattractive person," says the Tony-nominated actor. In the version Cerveris starred in, which has been far better received, "it's a thread throughout the play, but not the most important one. Now, it's clearer that Fosca is someone more scarred by her spiritual unattractiveness than her physical unattractiveness."

Cerveris believes the musical, directed by Eric Schaeffer, will be viewed as "incredibly romantic and warm and beautiful, rather than dark, negative, and ugly. Sondheim is such an emotional writer, even though he's accused of being cold or unemotional, which I never understood. …

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