Night of the Walking Dead

Terrence McNally's stage adaptation of Dead Man Walking is unflinching--but unhummable

High culture got a high gloss the other week in San Francisco. At Davies Symphony Hall, Michael Tilson Thomas was leading the San Francisco Symphony in a bewitchingly lucid performance of Mahler's enigmatic Seventh Symphony. And across the street at the War Memorial Opera House, the San Francisco Opera was putting on the season's most important American premiere: Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally's musical setting of Dead Man Walking, based on Sister Helen Prejean's memoir of how she served as spiritual adviser to a hot-blooded Louisiana killer. In the audience were Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, who had collaborated...

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