Hello Again

Helllo-AgainOriginal Off-Broadway Cast, 1994 (RCA) 3 Stars (3 / 5) The emergence of the “new wave” of American theater composers might be traced back to this 1994 musical, inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, about a series of sexual encounters that link 10 characters in a circle “across time and place,” to quote the CD booklet (which contains all of the show’s lyrics and some nice production photos). Written by Michael John LaChiusa and staged by Graciela Daniele, Hello Again moves through the decades of the 20th century scene by scene, beginning with a prostitute’s liaison with a soldier in the early 1900s and coming full circle when a U.S. senator meets a prostitute played by the same performer in the 1990s. LaChiusa creates some intriguing situations, as when the Young Thing character is propositioned by an older man on the Titanic, and a lonely housewife has a rendezvous with a college boy in a movie theater. Like much of LaChiusa’s work, this piece is more of an opera than a traditional musical — not in the style of singing, but in how the music winds in and out of the dialogue, occasionally punctuated by a brief chorus number or solo. Although some of the sequences are more interesting as dramatic scenes than as songs, there’s some marvelous stuff here: a World War Il-era vignette of a soldier having a last fling before shipping out; the housewife’s tale of meeting a stranger called “Tom”; the Young Thing’s plaintive paean to “The One I Love” following a one-night stand; and the senator’s dream of finding real love in “The Bed Was Not My Own.” The cast is impressive: Donna Murphy, Carolee Carmello, John Dossett, Michele Pawk, Judy Blazer, John Cameron Mitchell, and Malcolm Gets each have at least one great song in which they demonstrate why they’ve become musical theater stalwarts. — Brooke Pierce