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THEATER BEAT | THEATER REVIEW

'Atlanta' is a tapestry with many loose threads

Premiere is thematically ambitious and its music tuneful, but it could use a dramatic overhaul.

November 30, 2007|Charles McNulty | Times Staff Writer

Too bad the production's choreographic obliviousness (no one owns up in the playbill) results in the cast adopting postures more suitable to a pop concert. But the whole relationship of music to drama is out of whack. The numbers tend to emerge with a silly preface. Before one of Atlanta's letters is harmonized, Hamlet asks Cleo, in the manner of a variety show host, "Why don't you read it aloud for us, Cleo?" And for Puck's grand finale, we get, "I'm gonna sing one song, and then I'm leaving."

This isn't dramaturgy -- it's telegraphy. Nonetheless, the show is undeniably ambitious thematically. "Atlanta" is first and foremost about divisions -- between North and South, blacks and whites, and men and women, as well as the cracks and contradictions within individual souls.

Yet the story of a fractured nation needs to be told with more artistic coherence, as well as gracefulness and subtlety.

Hummon brings a welcome fusion of country and soul to musical theater. But he could sorely use experienced collaborators to stitchhis glorious sound into an equally glorious dramatic tapestry.

charles.mcnulty@latimes.com

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'Atlanta'

Where: Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays

Ends: Jan. 6

Price: $35 to $115

Contact: (310) 208-5454

Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

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