“This Side of Paradise” a new musical about F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, opened this past weekend at the History Theatre in St. Paul. Although it could have been a very interesting show, it unfortunately fell flat. There were far too many times where I felt uncomfortable. The acting was over the top, dancing was cheesy and I was fidgeting throughout the play (spoiler alert: if you only want to read good news, skip this next paragraph completely).
Norah Long, who played Zelda, was on stage the entire time with Alan Sorenson who played her Doctor. It was a bit awkward but made sense to some degree since the show was mostly a flashback of her life. She painted a picture of a ballerina throughout the play, which could have been nice except the womanly figure was more masculine than anything, with buff arms and legs. Bradley Beahen who played F. Scott Fitzgerald, worked well with the material he was given and thankfully, could carry a tune. I could not get over how bad Young Zelda’s (Kendall Anne Thompson) wig or hairpiece was. She was a better soprano than belter and I wish she would have eased more into her acting instead of coming off so strong. Hemingway was introduced mid-way through Act 1. It seemed he and F. Scott Fitzgerald had an odd relationship. At intermission I asked my friend “Did Hemingway and Fitzgerald have a secret love affair that I didn’t know about?” To me, the lines in the show implied that which was a bit odd since that is not true. During the “Dear Max” song I found myself laughing out loud wondering “what on earth is happening here?” The rhyming of max, lax and tax did not help either.
After a page of notes of things I would have changed, I can honestly say, the silver lining in the play was young actress, Emily Scinto, who appeared as Fitzgerald’s teenage daughter, Scottie at the end of the show. Her voice control was superb and her stage presence was welcomed. She is only a senior in high school and with more training I can only imagine how great she can become.
Sad to say, I don’t see this new musical rushing off to a larger stage anytime soon. At one point I thought it may be better as a straight play but there are far too many revisions that would need to take place for that to happen. For more information on “This Side of Paradise” check out the History Theatre’s website: http://www.historytheatre.com/