The source for Circle Theatre’s Midwest premiere of “Thou Shalt Not” is “Thérése Raquin, ” Emile Zola’s 1867 literary French-masterpiece of lust, jealousy, murder and remorse. The story has been transplanted to 1940s New Orleans, and concerns a young woman whose life is tragically altered by the advances of a sexually charged jazz musician. And the score—an enjoyable (if lyrically uninspired) musical batch of Bourbon Street blues, brandy-soaked ballads and big band up-tempos, is by real-life New Orleans-born-and-bred jazz stylist Harry Connick, Jr. Zola’s analytical, almost clinical prose is the foundation for a book of a musical with a similar chilly detachment. Connick’s score functions better as a musical celebration of Southern culture than as revelatory songs borne out of character and plot. So it is the choreography—inherent in the dramaturgical skeleton of “Thou Shalt Not”—that carries narrative weight and must also entertain for two-and-a-half hours. Director/choreographer Kevin Bellie’s passionate efforts always entertain but only intermittently achieve more emotional resonance or crucial character exploration: the work vacillates between organic choreography that illustrates small pockets of emotion (an arabesque as flirtatious fodder for newly acquainted lovers) and ensemble-driven musical staging where moments of counterpoint or narrative detail can get lost in the shuffle. It is a choreographic challenge that comes with this musical’s territory and even the most gifted of director/choreographers—for which Bellie clearly demonstrates potential—would have their work cut out for them. (F.O. Almeida)
This production is now closed.