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Cyrano de Bergerac Musical Has a Nose for Broadway

CYRANO: THE MUSICAL Based on the play by Edmond Rostand. Lyrics by Ad van Dijk. Book and lyrics by Koen van Dijk. Additional lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. Directed by Eddy Habbema. Costumes by Yan Tax Reinier Tweebeeke. Produced by Joop van den Ende. At the Neil Simon Theatre.

CYRANO: The Musical,'' a beautiful new musical version of Edmond Rostand's classic play, ``Cyrano de Bergerac,'' is something to sing about.

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Bill van Dijk plays the flamboyant 17th-century poet-swordsman with an extra dash of panache that earns him a place as one of the half-dozen great Cyranos of the century.

More operatic than a traditional American musical, this Dutch import seldom reaches the rarefied melodic heights of ``Les Miserables'' and ``The Phantom of the Opera.''

But ``Cyrano: The Musical'' is exquisitely designed and staged and a welcome addition to an otherwise lackluster new Broadway season in which two new plays have already closed and another is closing this week.

Moreover, Van Dijk's chameleonlike portrayal of Rostand's romantic hero-clown with the long nose towers over any other performance by a male lead in a current Broadway musical.

He is a worthy successor to a long line of great actors who have played Cyrano in the past 95 years, including Richard Mansfield in 1898, Jose Ferrer in 1946 and in 1953, and Christopher Plummer in a different musical version in 1973.

Plummer, widely acknowledged to be one of the finest stage actors in the English-speaking world, was electrifying in the role. But Van Dijk gives his Cyrano a range and a depth of feeling that even that great actor lacked. Actor Van Dijk is also much more impish, and at times, even childlike, which adds an extra dimension to this otherwise bombastic and outwardly conceited Frenchman.

The music by Ad van Dijk and book and lyrics by Koen van Dijk (none of the Van Dijks are related), and additional lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, who wrote the lyrics for ``Fiddler on the Roof'' and ``She Loves Me,'' are tuneful and generally exciting. Songs such as ``Loving Her,'' ``I Have No Words,'' and ``An Evening Made for Lovers'' tug at your heart and are worthy companions to Rostand's buoyant and rueful romance.

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``Cyrano: The Musical'' faithfully follows the story of the original 1897 play in which Cyrano woos the object of his love, Roxane, with letters and verse that she thinks have been written by the handsome young cadet, Christian. Only when Cyrano is dying can this, the bravest of soldiers, summon up the courage to tell Roxane the truth about his own love.

But the production is not without its faults. From time to time it drags, and the highly realistic battle scenes are too long and detract from the central love story, which has more than enough swordplay.

In sum, while it doesn't scale new heights of musical theater, ``Cyrano: The Musical'' is easily the best musical yet to be made out of the Rostand classic, and it's one of the most entertaining shows on Broadway.

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