You are on page 1of 6

Extra Credit Guidelines for A Tale of Two Cities

There are two ways to receive extra credit for attending A Tale of Two Cities. The first is to
show up. Those who attend and stay for the entire performance (which I’m sure you all will do)
will receive 10 extra credit points.

To receive up to an additional 40 extra credit points, you need to write a two-three page response
to the production. (That means a minimum of two full pages.) As you watch the performance,
think about what its strongest points; what makes the most impression on you, moves you,
intrigues you, etc. You may also be struck by weaknesses in the production. Your response paper
discusses those strengths and weaknesses, if any, and how they contribute (or detract) from the
overall experience of the play. The elements you discuss may include stage design, music, a
particular song, an actor or a character, lighting, etc.

The specifics are as follows:

• Papers are due the last day of class, but I encourage you write them as soon as possible
after you see the play.
• 2-3 pages, meaning a minimum of 2 pages
• Typed, 12 point Times New Roman font, 1” margins all around, double-spaced.
• No use of first or second person point of view. That means no I, me, we, you, yours, etc.
You can still write an opinionated response paper without these words. Here’s an

Instead of: “I felt the most moving part of A Tale of Two Cities was the final scene.”
Try this: “The final scene of A Tale of Two Cities was by far the most moving.”

Tony-winning designer crafts novel set for 'Tale of Two Cities'
Although the Asolo Repertory Theatre is filled with Broadway veterans,
the biggest star involved with the world premiere of "A Tale of Two
Cities" will not be seen by audiences.

He is scenic designer Tony Walton, who has taken audiences to all

sorts of places in a career that includes numerous movies, dozens of
Broadway shows and 16 Tony Award nominations, of which he won

Since his first hit, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"
in 1962, Walton has worked on some of the most prominent Broadway
shows of the past 40 years, including "Pippin," the original "Chicago,"
"Sophisticated Ladies" and "I'm Not Rappaport," and widely praised
revivals of "Anything Goes," "The Front Page," "The House of Blue
Leaves," "Guys and Dolls" and "Our Town."

He also has been an art or production designer and costume designer

for numerous films, including "Mary Poppins," "Murder on the Orient
Express," "The Wiz"" and "All That Jazz," for which he won an Academy

Walton, who marked his 73rd birthday on Wednesday, said he is "semi-

retired" from scenic and costume design for Broadway while he
focuses on directing in regional theaters. But he was intrigued by the
challenge of creating a set for Jill Santoriello's musical version of the
Charles Dickens novel, which places a lot of demands on a set

With a series of six movable, two-level steel towers, candelabras and

curtains that drop from the rafters, and other pieces that come in from
the wings, Walton has designed a set that takes audiences through 46
scenes. They shift from banks and streets to the Defarge wine shop,
elegant homes and regal courtrooms.

"He's something of a genius," said Michael Donald Edwards, the Asolo's

producing artistic director and director of the musical that may move
to Broadway after its Asolo run ends Nov. 18.

Choreographer Warren Carlyle said Walton's set is like a character in

the show in the way it moves around the stage.

Walton has been through the Broadway tryout routine enough times to
have been wary before entering the fray again. "Too often, the real
problem is that the money isn't there until the last possible minute,
and you don't get a real go-ahead until you should have finished your

But with "A Tale of Two Cities," he had a financial commitment from
producers Barbara Russell and Ron Sharpe; he had the connection to
the Asolo Scenic Studio, which built the set; and he had history, the
inspiration of a famous novel and his favorite part: research.
"One of the things that's most fun in this line of work is the research,"
Walton said during an interview in the theater while stage crews were
busy installing parts of his set. "Probably the best time you have is re-
reading the book."

Part Bard, part prison

Walton's scaffolding-like design was inspired by the skeletons of

William Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and the Bastille, the famous Paris
prison that factors into the story.

"They're almost the same shape. It's very peculiar," Walton said. "I
started thinking about it and wasn't quite sure where it was headed.
But with 46 scenes, three times as many as some major musicals, I
realized it needs to move almost like a movie or like a Shakespearean

"That's one of the reasons we started with the Globe. I wanted to tap
into the little engine that drove Shakespearean productions. And then
the fact that we could make it do double duty as the Bastille."

He came up with a color scheme that represents Paris in red and

London in blue to help audiences keep track of where each scene is
taking place.

"The story required so many scenes and different spaces, and we

needed to do something to tell the story as simply as possible," he

The set was built at the Asolo Scenic Studios in a warehouse area off
U.S. 301. The shop hired extra carpenters, craftsmen and painters to
build the designs.

"We're probably double to triple our normal staff to accomplish the

work," said David Ferguson, the theater's technical director.

Sharpe and Walton both said they were impressed with the work done
by the Asolo shop. Modifications may be needed depending on which
theater will house the show on Broadway.

Putting it together
About two weeks before previews began, large pieces of crisscrossing
metal lay resting on tables and saw horses. Once fully assembled, they
would provide the support for ship masts that were being painted by
artists using brushes connected to long bamboo poles.

Nearby, prop master Rick Alley was looking over the large, horseless
carriage he created. It is used in two key scenes, including one
involving a Marquis. With a quick change of decorative color, it later
becomes someone else's carriage.

To make sure the other members of the creative team were clear on
what his designs would look like, Walton created painted renderings
and a scale model of the set with a miniature carriage, tables and
other props.

While many set designs move via high-tech computerized wizardry,

Walton's tiered set pieces will be moved by hand by actors and
costumed crew members. "It's a better fit for the style and period of
the show," he said.

Despite the old-school approach, Walton said his work habits have
changed over the years.

"After a few years of starting to draw the minute I read the script with
rushes of visual imagery and what the director was imagining, I try to
absorb the script now as if it were a radio play," he said.

Curiously, while he has worked as a scenic and costume designer, the

first thing he sees in those images is lighting. "I'm trying to work on a
black space and picture light and what it is showing. The lighting is

The lighting designer for "Tale" is an old friend, Richard Pilbrow,

founder and chairman emeritus of Theatre Projects Consultants. He
advised the Asolo when it bought and moved the Dunfermline Opera
House from Scotland to the FSU Center for the Performing Arts in
Sarasota. Pilbrow and Walton have worked together on several
Broadway projects.

Walton said he has lured Pilbrow back to lighting from his consulting
work on several occasions, and this time, he knows that he made his
work a little more difficult.
"This sort of skeletal cage is kind of a nightmare to light. You don't
want to light it all at the same time, and you have to give it different
lives in different positions," he said. "It is alive, in its way."

'A Tale of Two Cities' impresses, but could be more compelling
Jill Santoriello's musical version of Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two
Cities" brings a touch of Broadway to Sarasota.

The musical, which had its world premiere this weekend at the Asolo
Repertory Theatre, features a large cast of singing actors who
embellish their strong characterizations with often-glorious voices.

They are costumed by David Zinn and lit by Richard Pilbrow in

sumptuous hues that amplify their character's lots in life. And they
perform on a multi-part, two-tiered set by Tony Walton that shifts from
the Bastille and blood-soaked streets in Paris to stately homes and
courtrooms in London with a graceful elegance.

It has all been briskly and efficiently directed by Michael Donald

Edwards (the Asolo's producing artistic director), with impressive
musical staging by Warren Carlyle, that keeps the cast constantly on
the move and in character.

All their work gives an extra layer of gloss to a show that will impress
but still needs work to make it more dramatically and emotionally
compelling, mostly in the first act.

Santoriello, who will make her Broadway debut if the show opens in
New York later this season as planned, has written the book, music and
lyrics. She has rearranged Dickens story in some ways, combined
characters and eliminated a relationship here and there.

But her version tells the story of the dawning of the French Revolution
in the late 18th century, the rise of the peasants against rich
aristocrats who are dispatched to the guillotine, and a love story that
gets drawn into the bloody conflict.
Santoriello's biggest change is focusing on the character of Sydney
Carton, the melancholy drunk who discovers a reason for his life with
the biggest sacrifice a man can make.

She also has built up the love triangle involving Sydney, the beautiful
Lucie Manette and the French aristocrat Charles Darnay, who
renounced his title when he left Paris, but gets dragged back on

Santoriello has crafted some pretty melodies and a couple of comic

patter songs, which are moving or fun and sometimes superfluous (like
a tune about grave robbers, which doesn't aid the story).

The songs take on a grander scale when they're sung by people with
voices like James Barbour, who plays Sydney. His rich baritone infuses
every bit of whimsy, despair, hope and desire in the bitter "Reflection"
and the tender "I Can't Recall." He captures your heart with his voice
and his acting skills.

But he's not alone. Natalie Toro, as the vengeful Madame Defarge,
another expanded role from the novel, brings brute force and power to
"Out of Sight, Out of Mind," and "The Tale," which explains the
bitterness she has been waiting years to unleash. Jessica Rush is the
picture of a young ingenue with a sweet voice to match as Lucie, and
Derek Keeling is dashing as Charles.

Nick Wyman as the dastardly John Barsad brings a touch of comic

relief, as does Katherine McGrath as the heart-warming and sarcastic
Miss Pross, Lucie's caretaker.

There is much to praise about the show, and it certainly will impress
Asolo audiences. But it needs more punch before it is ready for