|Music||Michael John LaChiusa|
|Lyrics||Michael John LaChiusa|
|Basis||Edna Ferber novel Giant|
|Productions||2009 Signature Theatre
2012 Dallas Theater Center
Giant is a musical based on the 1952 Edna Ferber novel of the same name, with music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa and the book by Sybille Pearson. The musical premiered at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia in 2009. The story follows a ranch family in Texas over 30 years, and the effect of the oil boom. The musical premiered Off-Broadway in 2012.
Production history and background
Edna Ferber's great-niece, Julie Gilbert, had approached LaChiusa about five years ago to write a musical based on the novel Giant. LaChiusa and Pearson initially thought it impossible to stage as a musical. The novel covers decades, and has a large number of characters, with a massive backdrop in wide-open, early 20th-century Texas. "Pearson said she and LaChiusa decided to use the novel, rather than the movie, as the basis for their adaptation because 'the movie, in its own greatness, changes some of the plot.' " The Signature Theatre commissioned LaChiusa to write the musical as the first installment in its American Musical Voices Project.
Jonathan Butterell directed the world premiere production in Signature's MAX theatre, where it ran from April 28 through May 31, 2009. The ranch family was played by Lewis Cleale (Bick) and Betsy Morgan (Leslie), Ashley Robinson was Jett, the young ranch hand who finds oil, with Michele Pawk as Luz, Bick's older sister and John Dossett as Uncle Bawley, Marisa Echeverria as Juana, the Mexican wife, Jordan Nichols as Bick's son Jordy Jr, and Andres Quintero as Angel, son of Mexican American laborers.
The Dallas Theater Center, in a co-production with the Public Theater, presented the musical, with performances starting on January 18, 2012 in previews and running through February 19, with direction again by Greif. The cast featured Kate Baldwin (Leslie), Aaron Lazar (Bick), P.J. Griffith (Jett), John Dossett (Bawley) and Dee Hoty (Luz). The musical originally was written with three acts and two intermissions, but for the Dallas production, it was re-written to have two acts and one intermission.
The musical then premiered Off-Broadway at the Public Theater for a run from October 26 to December 16, 2012 (the run was originally scheduled through December 2, 2012). Most of the Dallas cast returned while Michelle Pawk and Brian d'Arcy James took over the roles of Luz and Bick respectively. A cast album will be released in spring 2013.
In Texas in 1922, Jordan "Bick" Benedict, a rich cattleman, marries Leslie, from Virginia. Bick is focused on working the family ranch, Reatta, but exhibits bigotry against Mexicans. This racism is seen in his older sister, Luz, who is against outsiders. Jett Rink is a handyman but discovers oil; he is infatuated with Leslie. A neighbor and Bick's reclusive uncle, Uncle Bawley, tells the tale of the legend of the coyote. Bick ends the relationship with a girlfriend, Vashti.
As they age over the years, Leslie feels rejected by Bick and realizes that they do not really know each other. Leslie and Bick's son marries a Mexican woman as Leslie tries to help the downtrodden Mexican American workers and Bick comes to accept his son's choice.
Peter Marks of the Washington Post wrote: "...the composer, Michael John LaChiusa, has written for this world premiere some of the lithest, most dramatically compelling music of his career. And that his collaborator, librettist Sybille Pearson, brings to the stage some potent Lone Star State characters... At its epic length, it becomes an advanced-placement sort of musical -- more for the ardent enthusiast than the casual entertainment-seeker."
The Variety Magazine reviewer noted that the "inventive score is filled with pleasant melodies that hark to the old West, along with more soaring operatic pieces." However, he felt that "the show is humorless and sometimes incoherent. There are choppy, unconnected scenes, especially in the dark and leaden third act. Meanwhile, pivotal highlights such as a principal character's life-changing oil gusher are presented in retrospect, robbing the story of needed spark and surely confusing anyone unfamiliar with the Ferber yarn."
Awards and nominations
The musical received eight Drama Desk Award nominations: Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Actor in a Musical (Brian d’Arcy James), Outstanding Actress in a Musical (Kate Baldwin), Outstanding Music, Outstanding Lyrics, Outstanding Book of a Musical, Outstanding Orchestrations (Bruce Coughlin), and Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical. The play received a nomination by the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical.
The recording of the musical was released on the Ghostlight label.
- Branson, Hailey. "A musical of Giant proportions Washington theater to stage classic Texas tale", The Houston Chronicle, May 9, 2009, p. 4
- Jones, Kenneth. "Cleale, Dossett, Blazer, Robinson and More Begin Giant, the Musical, Run April 28 in VA,", Playbill.com, April 28, 2009
- Giant production information" sig-online
- Weldon, Glen."Signature's Giant: Writing on the Sprawl, The world premiere of Michael John LaChiusa's unevenly glorious musical" Washington City Paper, May 13, 2009
- Choochan, Gail. "Signature's 'Giant' worth the investment of four hours", The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Virginia), May 21, 2009, no page number
- Frederick, Missy. "Size Isn't All That Matters In Signature's Giant", DCIST May 15, 2009
- Hetrick, Adam. Texas-Bound Giant Musical Gets NYC Reading With Kate Baldwin, Michael Esper and Steven Pasquale" Playbill.com, January 14, 2011
- Hetrick, Adam (January 18, 2012). "New York-Aimed Giant, with Kate Baldwin, Aaron Lazar and P.J. Griffith, Sweeps Into Texas Jan. 18". Playbill. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
- Spindle, Les.INTERVIEW: Michael John LaChiusa Is a Giant Talent" theatermania.com, May 19, 2012
- Hetrick, Adam. "'Giant', Starring Kate Baldwin, Brian D'Arcy James and P.J. Griffith, Gets Extension at Public Theater" playbill.com, November 19, 2012
- "Brian d'Arcy James, Kate Baldwin, Bobby Steggert, Michele Pawk to Lead Public Theater's 'GIANT'- Full Cast Announced!" broadwayworld.com, September 10, 2012
- GIANT Original Cast Album Coming in Spring 2013! broadwayworld.com, December 15, 2012
- Teachout, Terry. A" Really, Really Big Show". online.wsj.com, May 15, 2009
- Marks, Peter. "Article:Daring to Do A Texas-Size Task:Create a Giant of Note". Washington Post, May 10, 2009
- Marks, Peter. "Review:At Signature, Giant Finds Its Voice in an Oversize State". Washington Post, May 12, 2009
- Harris, Paul. "Regional Review: Giant ". Variety, May 13, 2009
- Hetrick, Adam and Gans, Andrew. "Billy Porter, Andrea Martin, 'Pippin', 'Matilda', 'Vanya and Sonia' Win Drama Desk Awards" playbill.com, May 19, 2013
- "Outer Critics Circle Awards Nominations Announced" theatermania.com, April 22, 2013
- Suskin, Steven. "ON THE RECORD: Michael John LaChiusa's 'Giant; " playbill.com, May 26, 2013
- "Michael John LaChiusa Is Messing With Texas" Interview, April 2009, tcg.org
- Giant Off-Broadway Internet Database Listing