No, Henry does not have commitment issues.
Clare knows that’s not the reason why the boyfriend who became her husband doesn’t see her for long periods of time.
From the outset, she knew that he wouldn’t always be there for her. But she loved him so much that she settled for having as little or much of him as she could.
This isn’t just as case of a guy scooting out when the going gets tough. The millions who read Audrey Niffennegger’s 2003 debut novel The Time Traveler’s Wife or saw Robert Schwentke’s 2009 film can tell you that. Henry has a genetic disorder that forces him to travel through time, be it to the past or the future.
That doesn’t make him great husband or father material, but Clare is a latter-day Julie Jordan from CAROUSEL: “What’s the use of wond’rin? He’s your fella, and you love him.”
And now they and everybody else can experience Clare and Henry in the musical version of THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE.
It’s not on Broadway, to the distress of many New Yorkers, Americans and tourists. The only way to see this new musical is to stop by the Apollo Theatre in London.
(Everyone can hear it, however, thanks to the original cast album now available from Masterworks Broadway.)
Talk about “Sometimes people leave you halfway through the wood” or “People come and go so quickly here.” Kay Cram in DO RE MI complains in “Waiting, Waiting” that her husband’s “late again.” She had it a lot easier than Clare. You never know when Henry, sweet Henry is going to pop up again any more than one can predict when to expect Sam Wheat, the title character in GHOST.
Not so incidentally, Dave Stewart, who wrote most of the music and lyrics for that 2011 musical, repeated those same two tasks for THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE. This time his collaborator was Joss Stone, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter who’s dominated soul music for the last 20 years.
Those who intently follow Broadway may not know the name of the show’s bookwriter but faithful attendees of regional and community theater may. She’s Lauren Gunderson, who’s yet to get to Broadway. Five off-Broadway productions, though, have helped to get her name and work out there.
Gunderson’s career got a jump-start nearly twenty-two years ago, when she was one of the chosen few to be selected for 2002 The Young Playwrights Festival. Since then, as unbelievable and impossible as it may seem without Broadway’s imprimatur, Gunderson has managed to become America’s most produced playwright for three straight years. Maybe you and I haven’t seen I AND YOU, but much of the country has.
You may have never heard of the performer playing Sam, either. Many London theatergoers, though, know David Hunter from his appearances in West End productions of KINKY BOOTS, ONCE, and THE WHO’S TOMMY.
Oscar buffs may assume there’s a typo when they read that the performer playing Clare is Joanna Woodward. No, not Joanne Woodward, who did snag the Academy Award in 1958; Joanna Woodward has appeared in London musicals from B to Z – meaning from BEAUTIFUL to ZOMBIES. In between she also fit in a revival of FINGS AIN’T WOT THEY USED T’BE, the first full score from Lionel Bart, a year before he scored enormously by providing the same for OLIVER!
If you’re to enjoy the cast album of THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE, you’ll be required to like Hunter and Woodward’s voices. Of the 16 tracks, they appear in 14 of them (and one’s an entr’acte).
“Masterpiece” reminds Clare, an accomplished sculptor, that Henry was the first person to validate her as an artist. “Wait for Me” has Henry admit that “I’m a comet, going here and there and back again.”
“One Day” takes us to when Clare reminisces about her life when she was Young Clare. Musicals don’t often offer a duet between the same characters, but here’s one.
Like many characters from Rosamund in THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM to Pippin in his musical, Young Clare isn’t happy with her current life: “It’s so slow here, and I can’t grow here.” She’ll age soon enough.
Many men and women have disapproved of their friends’ romantic relationships, but Clare’s buddy Gomez certainly has a most different reason to be suspicious of Henry; he had met him some years earlier in one of Henry’s trips to the past. There’s a bit of Dorian Gray going on here, which leads Gomez to the conclusion that Clare is involved in a “Damn Fool Love.”
Meeting your daughter some years after her birth – and then missing the chance to see her grow – is the theme of Henry’s wistful “I See Her.” (“Now there’s no sound, but it’s still her song.”) Luckily for Henry and us, there is a nice time when Mom, Dad and Daughter get to be a family for at least a little while. Yet, “Who Are We?” they ask soon before Act One ends with a cliffhanger that won’t be revealed here.
We will tell you that Act Two starts with Henry singing that he’s a “Journeyman.” Usually that term means a worker who’s reliable but unexceptional. Henry uses the term in a different way.
When you’re in a relationship that literally is on-again, off-again, frustration is inevitable. “This Time” has Clare put her emotions on the table. “You underestimate how much you truly take when you go,” she tells Henry. “They say time heals,” she adds, but Henry must admit that his coming and going keeps the wounds open.
Time for a comedy number – just the title, “A Woman’s Intuition,” suggests that this is one. (It is.) And if we thought Clare had reached her apex of frustration in “This Time,” this time in “I’m in Control,” she displays even more of it.
“Make It New” brings Henry back to being part of one small, happy family. But “On and On” has Henry balance the assets of his unique situation (“I can watch my daughter play”) with the liabilities (“But I’m always looking backwards,” he says, meaning the famous phrase in a different way).
In addition to passing our own birthday each year, chances are 365 out of 366 that we also pass our death day each year, too. Safe to say that most people would not want to know that date in advance. Whether or not Henry does, he will.
But “Love Wins the Day,” as we’re told in the show’s final number – but not the last one on the CD. There’s a bonus track, sung by Hunter and Woodward, of course. “Story of Love” was dropped from the show. Listen and decide if the musical’s creators made the right decision.
THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE, like BACK TO THE FUTURE, had great name recognition before they reached the stage. Each started with a pre-London tryout and then made it to a prime West End theatre. Will THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE have the same future as BACK TO THE FUTURE and come to Broadway?
Too bad Henry isn’t around to tell us.
Peter Filichia can be heard most weeks of the year on www.broadwayradio.com. His new book – BRAINTEASERS FOR BROADWAY GENIUSES – is now available on Amazon and at The Drama Book Shop.