framed in a parody of contemporary "Reality TV" - an
energetically comic emcee/magician ("Felix") struts out SMOKE AND
MIRRORS as he introduces the audience to a "magic" show, in which
guests are not only confronted by their pasts, they actually relive
Rasputin is brought out from the audience, a figure of unassuming
stature, much like the historical Rasputin - and is
stripped of his street clothes to reveal his crude peasant beginnings. It
is immediately clear that he and Felix share something unusual
two investigators from "The Extraordinary Commission of
Inquiry for the Investigation of Illegal Acts" - the portly, comic
Vladimir and Tikhon -- are introduced. They were the actual
historical agents who pursued an investigation into the life and
death of Grigori Rasputin after the Revolution.
With smoke, mirrors and comic special effects, a Russian village
set is built as the villagers sing CHANGING MINDS - trying
to come to grips the political and cultural transformations around
them. Yet one of the village's most troubling questions surrounds
a boy, Grigori Rasputin, with mysterious powers of clairvoyance
that incite the town's mockery. He can heal horses and see through
people's secrets. While he conjures a vision of the Nativity - the
Boy Rasputin sings WHAT I SEE to the horses in a barn.
becomes an aggressive Don Juan, after a bored, female aristocrat's
erotic practical joke leaves him in contention with his sexuality. He
marries Praskovye, a quiet peasant girl, and has a devoted daughter,
Matriona, who will later follow him to St. Petersburg.
After a nightmarish carriage ride, and a comic sexual temptation,
the emcee warns Rasputin of the seductive perversions of power
in THE POWER SONG. Rasputin emerges as a " holy man" with
a disproportionately high number of female disciples.
years of wandering, Rasputin returns home to a still-devoted
they sing THINK ONLY GOOD THOUGHTS against
a stark, ironic backdrop . Rasputin believes that he is
being called to serve a higher destiny and leaves for St. Petersburg. The
Tsar and Tsarina sing about their hopes for a male heir in WHAT
WE NEED. However when their son, Alexei, is born, he
is dangerously ill. Through his abilities to heal the Tsarovich, VISION
SONG, Rasputin rises in favor with the royal family. Act
I closes with, SONG OF A CITY, an antic introduction to
St. Petersburg - a city that, in the end, will engulf and defeat
Grigori Rasputin . During this song, the emcee,
Felix, reveals that he is really Felix Youssoupov - once the wealthiest
man in Russia and a prince. Suddenly he is inextricably
a part of the story, not just a magician/commentator.
Act II begins with the clear suggestion that Tanya, not Felix,
is secretly orchestrating the TV show, as it turns out that the
audience vote will include a verdict on Felix as well as Rasputin.
Rasputin's daughter, Matriona, comes to live with her father, and
speculates about life in the capital, as she sings I CAME TO
LEARN . Rasputin is disoriented from the stress of
politics and severed roots, as he speaks with Praskovye who reprises THINK
ONLY GOOD THOUGHTS.
Detectives paid to guard Rasputin amuse themselves with stories
about his reckless behavior and fabulous antics in THE STAIRCASE
NOTES. Yet these antics cover up a sinking soul, and
Rasputin realizes that he is losing his sense of home and place
as he seeks solace in desire - WOMAN OH WOMAN. At
the same time, many in St. Petersburg begin to concoct far-fetched
rumors about Rasputin's treachery with the comic GREEN PEOPLE.
rumors are exacerbated as Rasputin struggles unsuccessfully
to block Russia's entry into World War I. Tanya
tries to warn Rasputin of his own blighted image, THIS FIGURE. In YOUSSOUPOV'S
SONG, Felix reveals his desire for publicity and attention
as Rasputin's assassin, while the audience receives copies of his
narrative, "How I Killed Rasputin" in the 1927 Manchester Chronicle .
Trying to keep his daughter safe and innocent of the horrors he
already suspects, Rasputin sings the ironic GO IN PEACE. But
Rasputin's intuitions are right, and the assassination plot against
him now begins in earnest. Rasputin's death seems at first
like a comic affair, a kind of Keystone Cops cartoon - until a
shrill alarm sounds with the stunningly abrupt realization of what
In a setting fully of child-like magic, the Tsarovich sings THE
WORLD OUTSIDE, as he becomes a prophetic magician, enthroned
and in control of his own magical realm. Felix's failure
to recognize his deeper bonds with RASPUTIN, and his overall
cynicism are judged harshly by Vladimir and Tikhon, and by the
TV audience. As Tanya takes revenge on her apparent media
mentor, reprising SMOKE AND MIRRORS - "searching for a soul that's
sure and wise" -- the circus-like parody of the show collapses
inward, telescoping the prophetic promise of the child.
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