This musical ‘Cyrano’ mostly sings

If you’re wondering if Peter Dinklage wears a fake nose in his new movie, the answer is “Cyra-no.”

The main character usually has a big schnoz, branding him as an outsider who thinks he doesn’t deserve romance, but the musical “Cyrano” uses Dinklage’s 4-foot-5 stature instead.

Otherwise, the story is the same. We are in the 1640s, France and Spain are at war and Cyrano longs for Roxane (Haley Bennett). But she loves the handsome Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), who is so mute that he asks Cyrano to help him woo the woman that romantic poetic wishes he himself was wooing.

Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac,” an adaptation which the Guthrie Theater performed in 2019, is over a century old, but the new version of “Cyrano,” featuring unforgettable conversational songs by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National, was born Off -Broadway with Dinklage in mind.

It can’t do much with the gross issue at the center of “Cyrano” – the main character and Christian tricks Roxane into falling in love with the wrong person – but making it into a musical keeps it light on its feet (mostly) and his take on relationships are fresh.

Christian, for example, never made much sense. Sometimes, as in Steve Martin “Roxanne,” he is portrayed as a handsome boy completely unworthy of our heroine. It may make Roxane look tasteless, but Harrison’s Christian is a worthy romantic rival for Cyrano who doesn’t master the language. He was also awarded Best Song, which may make audiences wonder how come he’s so good at finding the right words when notes are attached to them.

Almost the first thing we hear from Roxane de Bennett is a song in which she insists “I’m nobody’s pet”, so we know she’s not here for two guys to fight like one ping pong ball. In a movie that’s all about inner and outer beauty, Bennett makes sure we can see his kind, cloistered character has both.

Dinklage’s Cyrano is noble and funny – and no one is going to invite Dinklage to join the Three Tenors but, yes, he can sing. Its cast gives a reason to revisit this oft-told story because, instead of a fake nose that could fall off at any timeit’s all Dinklage, so we have a hunch the actor felt many of the feelings that Cyrano does.

The main problem with this “Cyrano” is the tone. Director Joe Wright (“The Darkest Hour”) keeps things flowing and lively, embracing the quirks of a musical, with dancers popping up both when it makes sense for people to dance and when the characters need help. a form of expression deeper than words.

However, Wright hasn’t figured out what to do with the big change “Cyrano” takes when the two leading men go to war.

“Cyrano” inserts a battle anthem, sung by characters we don’t even know, that keeps us spinning, especially when we’re also trying to master a bright prank that has suddenly turned tragic. This change may work (or you can skip it, like “Roxanne” did) but Wright loses his way for a while.

However, he is back on solid footing for the final. It’s set three years later and while it’s not exactly a happy ending, it does at least give the characters a chance to reveal their hearts.


*** out of 4 stars

Rated: PG-13 for violence and language.

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