REVIEW: Sierra Cinemas presents ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ |

REVIEW: Sierra Cinemas presents ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’

John Deaderick
Special to The Union

Know & Go

WHO: Sierra Cinemas Presents National Theatre Live

WHAT: Cyrano de Bergerac

WHEN: Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 3:30 p.m.

WHERE: Sierra Cinemas, E. Main Street Grass Valley

TICKETS: $18 adults, $15 seniors, children 12 and under and students with ID; Available online at or at the Sierra Cinemas Box Office

INFO: or call 530-477-9000

Edmund Rostand’s enduring 1897 play has given birth to multiple screen adaptations. A short list includes José Ferrer’s 1950 Oscar-winning title performance, the highly acclaimed 1990 French version starring Gérard Depardieu, 1987’s Steve Martin comedic update “Roxanne” (with Grass Valley native Rick Rossovich in the role of the inarticulate pretty boy, Christian). In 2005, The Metropolitan Opera produced an opera by Franco Alfano with Placido Domingo as the big-nosed protagonist. The play has been adapted and altered to fit changing tastes and styles since shortly after its premier. Some years back, Paul Emery Productions presented a stage version at the Nevada Theatre. I was happy to have had a hand in that.

The play is rooted in fact: there truly was a hot-tempered French soldier, a Gascon Cadet who, though a soldier noted for his bravery, was also a noted poet. And he had a large nose. Rostand’s play opens in 1640. The author’s research, his historical accuracy, is laudable. The characters and major events are real. The opening scene in the theater of the Hôtel Burgundy is not only hilarious, but a sparklingly clear window into the performance style of the day. Depardieu’s film recreates this scene to perfection. A side note: it is believed that this play introduced the word “panache” into the English language.

The current modern-dress version features film star James McAvoy (“X-Men,” “Atonement,” “Split”). Billed as an adaptation, rather than a translation, the script does share with its source its use of verse. The rhyming is often fast, and quite clever. This production could only be mounted in these times: the Hamiltonian hip-hopification of theater is off and running. Contemporary references litter the script; there is even a nod to the Steve Martin film. The setting is minimal, austere, the performance style presentational. We must imagine rapiers, locations, and the nose. One is reminded of the Prologue in Shakespeare’s Henry V: “Think when we talk of horses, that you see them / Printing their proud hoofs I’ the receiving earth.” In general, actors speak out directly to the audience rather than to one another. But when they do face off, you know it is significant.

But the reason this is a must see production is McAvoy. His immersion into character is complete, fully realized. His command of the language is supreme – nice to hear him in his native Scots brogue – and his physicality astounds. McAvoy leaps from one expressive moment to the next, from the highest heights to the depths of despair, often in a heartbeat. It’s a performance for the ages. But I missed the prosthetic nose. I could have loaned him mine, I’ve kept it.

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John Deaderick is a local theatre artist and the author of “Make Sweet the Minds of Men: Early Opera and Tragic Catharsis,” available at

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