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DAVID KRANE: My Month With Michelle - Pt II

Written by  Dennis Kucherawy
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Running Wild:

David Krane and His Month with Michelle -- Part II

Actress Michelle Williams’ performance in My Week with Marilyn (MWWM) as the sexy screen legend Marilyn Monroe has critics around the world predicting she will earn a third Oscar nomination.  Previously, she was nominated for her work in Brokeback Mountain and Blue Valentine.


In New Yorker magazine, critic David Denby wrote “Williams makes the star come alive.  She has Monroe’s walk, the easy, swiveling neck, the face that responds to everything like a flower swaying in the breeze. Most important, she has the sexual sweetness and the hurt, lost look that shifts, in a flash, into resistance and tears.”

Oscar talk for Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe

Physically, Williams is waif-like and one of her challenges was to transform herself into the buxom and curvy Monroe.  As Denby noted, “the smile isn’t as wide, the bu st not as  large, the waist not as long, and the flesh doesn’t have the incredible palpability that drove everyone mad, but, yes, Michelle Williams can play Marilyn Monroe.” 

New York composer/arranger David Krane, who worked as her vocal coach, acknowledged that padding was built into her costumes and, in the skinny dipping scene, a body double was used.  Williams also studied Monroe’s posture and way  of walking to suggest a more voluptuous body.DavidandMichelleBefore

However, performing the musical numbers that open and close the movie, was a different hurdle, Williams told broadwayworld.com:  “I was able to tap into what I imagine   made Marilyn Monroe so luminous in those singing and dancing numbers.”  In that state, she found that her critical mind had to “turn off.”  “There’s no room for it,” she said, “because you’re remembering steps and lyrics.  It’s like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time.  Maybe that’s what makes those performances so magical…she’s not thinking.

“So it took a tremendous amount of preparation and the willingness  to start at the very beginning—to know what to do and make mistakes along the way and to not be hard on myself … and to realize they are part of the process.”

That’s the attitude that prompted her vocal coach, New York composer/arranger David Krane, to describe her as “one of the most truly gifted actors” with whom he has ever worked.

Working with Conrad Pope

The film’s soundtrack was not complete when Krane began to arrange the opening and closing numbers that he also produced--“When Love Goes Wrong/Heat Wave” and “That Old Black Magic.”  He had not even met the score’s producer and composer, Conrad Pope, an American film conductor and orchestrator who has worked with such film composers as Danny Elfman, James Newton Howard and John Williams (especially on the Harry Potter movies.)  Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech) also wrote the beautiful and haunting “Marilyn’s Theme” that Pope incorporated into his score.

“When I first saw the film, it had a `temp track’ in,” Krane said.  “That’s music the director chose as moments that he knew he wanted scored, to establish a general feel of what the film would sound like.  My numbers existed out of time and space of the film itself, so the score didn’t have to reflect that.”

Krane met Pope at Air-Edel music studios, located in central London, where many film scores are recorded.  “Maggie Rodford, our wonderful music supervisor, is based there,” Krane said.  “Air Lyndhurst in Hampstead is where we recorded the score for Chicago.  I think they are owned by the same company.”

Krane was mixing his cues while Pope was beginning to record his.  Pope orchestrated “When Love Goes Wrong/ Heat Wave” using Krane’s complete and fully cued sketch.  “He was very faithful to all the fills I wrote,” Krane explained, “and he added strings to “That Old Black Magic” which was a lovely contribution to my arrangement.”

Film soundtrack features Lang Lang and Nat King Cole among others

The soundtrack, available on SONY Music at Song & Script, also includes Nat King Cole’s renditions of “Autumn Leaves” and “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” Dean Martin’s “Memories Are Made of This,” and “Uno, Dos, Tres” by La Tropicana Orchestra.  Lang Lang, the great contemporary classical pianist, played Alexandre Desplat’s “Marilyn’s Theme.”  Variations of it appear on six tracks on the CD.

“(Producer) Harvey Weinstein thought the film should have a piano based theme,” said Krane.  “He also wanted to add some star power,” said Krane.  “So, it was decided they would ask Lang Lang.”

Krane meets Olivier

A special thrill for Krane was a special preview screening earlier this month at the Paris Theatre in NYC at which he met Olivier…Kenneth Branagh, that is. “Harvey Weinstein introduced me to (him) and we had a lovely chat about how he had approached his portrayal of Laurence Olivier,” Krane reminisced.  “He told me that he had never played another actor before in his career.  He watched many clips of Olivier and listened daily to a recording of him reciting the King James Bible.

“When Ken told me that he had never met him, I asked him how he knew about Olivier’s titanic temper which started low and quickly crescendoed.  He credited Olivier’s wife, Joan Plowright, with that.”

Branagh told Krane he was looking forward to the London premiere and hearing from Anthony Hopkins if he had succeeded  in evoking Olivier.  “Hopkins had known Olivier very well,” Krane explained, “and had worked closely with him.

“I most certainly think he did.  Ken is absolutely charming and engaging and it was a pleasure to meet him.  He told me that he could `carry a tune.’  I offered to work with him should he ever desire to take that further!”

MWWM features a top-notch team of Broadway pros

MWWM assembles a top-notch team of Broadway pros.  In addition to Krane, there are co-choreographers Kathleen Marshall and Denise Faye.  “I’m sure that (producer) Harvey Weinstein talked it over with (director Simon) Curtis,” Krane recalls, “but as far as I know, Harvey deserves full credit for this.  I had done Chicago and Nine for Harvey and (Broadway veteran) Denise Faye had assisted Rob Marshall on both of those films.  Harvey had never worked with Kathleen.  She was delighted to do this as she’d never worked before on a feature film.” 

For Krane, working with American director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall-- sister of famed director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides--and Denise Faye was indeed a pleasant reunion. Kathleen had assisted her brother, Rob, on many of his projects including the Broadway productions of Damn Yankees and She Loves Me.  David worked very closely with her on the Vienna premiere of Kiss of the Spider Woman. He also wrote dance music for her TV adaptation of Once upon a Mattress that was filmed in Vancouver, starring Carol Burnett and Tracey Ullman.

Kathleen additionallyt helped her brother, Rob, with one of his first jobs as a choreographer, when he followed Vince Paterson as the choreographer of the Toronto world premiere of Kander & Ebb’s Kiss of the Spider Woman that went on to successful engagements in London’s West End and on Broadway, where it won seven Tony Awards including “Best Musical,” tying the total number of Tony Awards won by The Phantom of the Opera.

Krane’s work with Rob and Kathleen Marshall

Krane worked closely with Rob and Kathleen on that production as dance music composer.  He also conducted the Viennese production for the first two weeks of its engagement at the Raimund Theater and produced and conducted the show’s German-language recording.  “I’ve worked on almost every musical project that Rob has ever done, from his very first job as a choreographer on a production of Kander & Ebb’s The Rink at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Florida in 1988 to his film adaptation of Maury Yeston’s musical, Nine.

Rob’s creative mind is always open to collaboration and that keeps Krane inspired and coming back.  “In the movie Chicago, it was my idea for the number `He Reached for the Gun’ that Billy Flynn, played by Richard Gere, be a master puppeteer.  He took that and created that inspired number with the dancers attached to giant bungee cords, representing puppet strings.

“In the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman, I wrote the distinctive musical vamp for the song `Where You Are.’  Rob told me that Chita Rivera was going to be dressed in a man’s white tails and hat as Marlene Dietrich had done in her films.  We believed the opening needed a sexy, masculine energy.

“In the movie adaptation of Nine, Rob made conceptual changes that happily allowed me to re-conceive all of the show’s musical arrangements.  One example is in the number `Folies Bergeres,’ sung by Judi Dench.  Rob wanted it to start with Judi atop a piano.  The scene then opened up to reveal tall, chorus girls wearing headdresses, descending a huge staircase.  So I wrote harmonic colors that were very French impressionist inspired to begin the journey of the song.”

“I was thrilled to work with Brent Carver…

He found new truths in each performance”

Toronto in the 1990s was a world musical theatre centre, breeding new talent and bringing together the next generation of the best emerging talent such as Krane, Vincent Paterson, Rob and Kathleen Marshall and Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (lyricist and composer of Ragtime), giving them the opportunity to create and grow with such stalwarts as Hal Prince, Frank Galati, Susan Stroman, Elaine Stritch, John McMartin and Robert Morse.  A particular favorite of Krane’s was Canadian star Brent Carver, who won the Tony Award in 1993 for his memorable performance as Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman.  “I was thrilled to work with him,” said Krane.  “He was remarkable.  He found new truths in each performance.”

The Road to Qatar--the First American musical ever produced in the Middle East

While working in motion pictures, Krane has not forgotten musical theatre. With a brilliant American lyricist, Stephen Cole, he wrote The Road to Qatar!, based on their experience in 2005 writing and working on the staging of Aspire, the first American musical ever to be produced in the Middle East.  It received its World Premiere at the grand opening of the world’s largest glass-enclosed soccer stadium in Doha, Qatar.

The Road to Qatar! Is a true new musical comedy based on their wild experience writing it.

The New York cast recording has just been released on jayrecords.com and is available at Song & Script.  Future productions are in the pipeline.  “We’d love to have its Canadian premiere in Toronto, naturally,” Krane quipped.

At home in NYC, he knows firsthand the difficulty of producing shows on the Great White Way amidst the “cacophony” of all the entertainment options today competing for attention:  “It’s more difficult for new musicals to emerge when they’re more expensive to produce,” he observed.  “Unless there are big stars involved and there’s a well-known title, it’s very difficult for theatre composers unless they’re working in a not-for-profit environment.

“I hope Toronto will regain its reputation for originating some of the most exciting theatre in the world”

“The days of Livent in Toronto were so amazing because so much was possible.  I hope Toronto will regain its reputation for once again originating some of the most exciting theatre in the world.”

Dennis Kucherawy

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