The Road to Qatar

  • Date:
    February 1, 2011

    Review by Tulis McCall
    (6 Feb 2011)

    There should be some way to tattoo this advice on the back of every writer’s hand – Don’t tell me yours is a true story. I don’t want a true story. I want a good story.

    Telling a true story is the sweet and seductive siren song against which we should all have vaccinations. Out goes plot, structure and character. What is left is a pile of true facts and good intentions all vying for first place. The result is a noisy, bland concoction at best.

    Stephen Cole and David Krane fall victim to the True Story Syndrome. A few years ago they were hired to create a musical to be performed in Qatar. Why would they agree to such a thing? For the money of course! Each was discovered independently of the other via the Internet and sent the same message: “We want you write musical. How much?” (Bad grammar is true!) Requests and promises were exchanged, and the adventure begun.

    They soon learned that the producer knew nothing, the translator had a crush on one half of the team, the position of the director was up for grabs, the storyline needed to include the sea, some desert, a movie star, 100 actors, 40 camels, 17 fire-eating jugglers and Muhammad Ali. PS – the intended audience would be the Emir of Qatar.

    At first the situation was confusing, then maddening, then hopeless, then hopeful and finally produced. When they came home they thought there was probably a story in the story, and I am not so certain they were wrong.

    Where everything went south, however, was when Cole and Krane took all the stories and stuffed them into one production. Too much stuff into too little a space doesn’t work. Ask Cinderella’s sister about the glass slipper.

    This is clearly a labor of love, but even love has its artistic limits. In seeking to tell everything these two collaborators overlooked quality in the all areas of this production: writing, casting, direction and design.

    The end result is a production that smacks of community theatre. Cole and Krane have created a musical that does not do justice to their own passion for the theatre. Next time out, as well as enthusiasm and support they should find partners who have a healthy relationship with objectivity and story structure. As it is their mutual enthusiasm and admiration is the only element here. Ultimately it becomes the sound of one hand clapping.

    And in case they are thinking of making a musical about this experience – Remember: Every good story has a grain of truth, and if used wisely that is enough.

    (Tulis McCall)

    "More irritating than engaging."
    Neil Genzlinger for New York Times

    "More than a tad thin."
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "The show strangely duds out. ... The best thing to be said about 'The Road to Qatar!' is that it's over in less than 90 minutes."
    Michael Summers for Newsroom Jersey

    New York Times - Back Stage - Newsroom Jersey -