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Schmidt Tackles.

JOSHUA SCHMIDT'S FIRST FULL-LENGTH score, a musical version of Elmer Rice's acrid 1923 expressionist comedy The Adding Machine (created with co-librettist Jason Loewith and directed by David Cromer) debuted in 2007 at Evanston's Next Theatre and garnered thunderous acclaim and awards in its 2008 Off-Broadway run at the Minetta Lane Theatre. Schmidt returns to Chicago's North Shore suburbs for his follow-up effort, A Minister's Wife, opening on May 19 at Writers' Theatre in Glencoe.

Based on George Bernard Shaw's Candida and featuring a libretto by Austin Pendleton and lyrics by Jan Tranen, the new show presents different challenges for the 33-year-old composer. "Adding Machine was eight discrete scenes, and each of the scenes in Rice are long, expressionistic variations on a single gesture," notes Schmidt, who caught those gestures through a brilliant score that moved deftly from early modernism to Tin Pan Alley ballads. By contrast, Schmidt says, Candida provides "this erotic tsunami as you move toward the end of the play." In addition to presenting the show sans intermission, Schmidt, Pendleton and director Michael Halberstam hope to keep that tension intact through what Schmidt describes as "a very muscular adaptation that amplifies the sophistication with which Shaw explores relationships," while paring back those old Shavian flights of exposition.

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As for inevitable comparisons to the more-famous musical Shaw adaptation, Schmidt says, "Pygmalion is a very clear story in which two men try to remake a peasant woman in their own image. In Candida, two men assume a lot of things about a woman and project a lot of things onto her. Pygmalion doesn't happen on a daily basis. However, projecting assumptions about your relationship or someone else's relationship does happen every day. The fact that it is commonplace makes it more dangerous, and that makes it inherently more appealing to me.''

Halberstam, who tried his hand at the libretto before passing it on to Pendleton, describes Schmidt's score as "a hybrid between classic music theatre and Victorian song styles." Schmidt also has a few more instruments to play with this time out (including strings and a clarinet) than he did with Adding Machine. For those fans who were bowled over by the composer's first show and are expecting Adding Machine, Part Deux, he says with a laugh, "I'm happy to disappoint them."

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Title Annotation:GLENCOE, ILL; Joshua Schmidt's play based on George Bernard Shaw's Candida
Author:Reid, Kerry
Publication:American Theatre
Geographic Code:1U3IL
Date:May 1, 2009
Words:384
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