Archive for March, 2014
The reviews for If/Then are officially out — if you like Idina Menzel, then you’ll probably like this. On the whole, though, the critics are fussy about this new musical. Some say the plot is too simple, maybe even unoriginal, while the message is muddy and unclear. It seems the critics just expect more from writers Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey and director Michael Greif, the team behind the emotional powerhouse musical Next to Normal. The critics also expect a lot from Idina Menzel, and she, fortunately, does not disappoint. Menzel’s performance of the central role is the highlight of the production. The critics seem to want to like If/Then for being an original musical in a sea of remounts and adaptations, but it just doesn’t seem to satisfy. Head to the Richard Rodgers Theater if you’re looking for a night of star power with your favorite girl from Wicked, but maybe skip this one if that’s not your thing.
NEW YORK TIMES
“New York City has never looked cleaner than it does in If/Then, the gleaming drawing board of a musical that opened on Sunday night at the Richard Rodgers Theater, starring the shiny-voiced Idina Menzel. Actually, to find any urban environment that is this spick and span, you’d need to look back to the 1970s, when Mary Tyler Moore conquered Minneapolis on television. The nearest contemporary equivalents are those commercials in which peppy young things go dancing in the streets to trumpet the virtues of cars and colas. But even they — and If/Then does bear a passing resemblance to such ads — lack the antiseptic sheen of this production, written by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, with direction by Michael Greif, the team that gave us the four-handkerchief triumph Next to Normal several years ago. Every surface here appears to have been so thoroughly polished that you could not just eat off the sidewalks but see your own reflection in them, if you so chose.”
NBC NEW YORK
“If you’re buying a ticket to the new musical “If/Then,” which has just opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, then chances are you’re doing so to see the wickedly talented Idina Menzel. The 42-year-old Tony-winner’s career has been on an upswing lately, fueled by her powerhouse vocal performance in Disney’s animated blockbuster “Frozen” and her Oscar-winning, chart-topping hit “Let It Go.” Audiences looking for their Menzel-fix in “If/Then” won’t be disappointed; she spends almost all of the two and a half-hour show onstage. But the show’s muddled plot might leave you wondering what the new musical, from the creators of “Next to Normal,” is trying to say.”
TIME OUT NEW YORK
“There is—there can only be—one Idina Menzel. She of the armor-piercing vibrato and earworming ratio of nasal to breathy. The Wicked power belter—inviting and untouchable—is what every little girl and boy glued to Glee wants to be when they grow up, and even if she only gigs on the Great White Way every 6.3 years (on average), she’s still the multiplatform avatar of the Broadway star. They broke the mold with Menzel, which is why the idea of her playing two versions of herself in If/Then intrigues. She portrays a single woman whose forking life-paths are presented in alternating scenes. In If/Then’s conceit (also used in Sliding Doors), Elizabeth (Menzel) gets split into Liz, who pursues love at the expense of a career, and Beth, who lands the fancy job but misses romance.”
“Can a 40ish American woman really have it all? If you’re Idina Menzel, you can get a hit movie, viral fame as Adele Nazeem, and a meaty role in the new Broadway musical If/Then complete with a soaring 11 o’clock number aimed squarely at your in-leaning target audience. But you’re also the appealing heart of an overly cluttered story, by writer-lyricist Brian Yorkey, that gives more than a passing nod to the 1998 movie Sliding Doors. Menzel’s middle-aged divorcée moves to New York City and explores two separate life paths: In one, she’s Beth and scores a dream job as a city planner but has unfulfilling flings with her married boss (Jerry Dixon) and her nominally bisexual pal (Anthony Rapp). In the other, she’s Liz and settles for a blah teaching job but lands a hunky doctor (James Snyder) who’s more golden retriever than man. (His first-act solo, ”You Never Know,” is a take-a-chance-on-me ode to neutered self-deprecation.)”
AM NEW YORK
“As one of the few new musicals not based on a familiar film or pop song catalog (or anything else for that matter), If/Then certainly is a breath of fresh air. And despite nagging issues with its overall concept and divided story lines, it is a smart, romantic piece with a well-crafted soft rock score and great performances all around. It also functions as a dynamic and demanding star vehicle for Idina Menzel (aka Adele Dazeem), who is joined by many other strong musical theater performers including Anthony Rapp (Menzel’s Rent co-star), LaChanze, James Snyder and Jenn Colella.”
Les Miserables is back, and to no one’s surprise, it’s STILL worth seeing! The first revival of the musical since the Academy Award-winning film graced the big screen, this version, adapted by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, showcases a grittier, smokier, gloomier France, somewhat improving on aesthetics employed in the film. Amidst the doom and despair, though, is joy. The acting is on and the singing is even better — Ramin Karimloo is an astounding Jean Valjean and delivers one of the many performances that will call you back to the Imperial Theatre for another trip to the French Revolution. You’ve seen it before, but that doesn’t make the tale any less heart wrenching. If you liked seeing “Les Miz” before, you’re definitely going to like seeing it again now.
NEW YORK TIMES
“While I was watching the new revival of Les Misérables, it occurred to me that this beloved stage adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel may have helped pave the way for the pop singing contests that have proliferated across the globe in this century. Much like those televised competitions —American Idol and The Voice being the national brand leaders — Les Misérables presents audiences with a stage full of singers who, one by one, have a chance to step into the spotlight (in this case a very smoke-suffused one) and astonish us with the mighty heft and range of their voices.”
NBC NEW YORK
“Who is he? Who is he? He’s Ramin Karimloo, and as Jean Valjean, he’s the main reason to reacquaint yourself with the “newly reimagined” revival of Les Miserables, now open at the Imperial Theatre. Sentimental? The Imperial is where “Les Miz” ran for the lion’s share of its original run, which ended just over a decade ago. Since then, it’s been hard to miss the epic story based on Victor Hugo’s novel, because it never really went away. “Les Miz” returned to Broadway in a slimmed-down 2006 revival, and hit big screens in 2012.”
“The turntable that was the defining design element of the original Les Miserables is gone. Yet this first revival to hit Broadway since Tom Hooper’s bludgeoning screen version extended the brand often seems like a record being played at high speed. Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg’s all-singing mega-musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s epic 19th century novel hurtles along in a breathless marathon for almost three hours. Despite that running time, this reboot feels faster, grittier, gloomier and, above all, more emphatic than ever, which is saying something for a show that was always an unrelenting assault on the tear ducts.”
“It’s been just six years since the last (and limp) revival of Les Misérables left Broadway. But it’s also less than two since Tom Hooper’s big-screen adaptation rode the Occupy Wall Street wave to box office riches and three Academy Awards. Now uber-producer Cameron Macintosh is remounting Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg’s blockbuster musical about income inequality in 19th-century France with a first-rate cast and a new production that nods to its recent cinematic incarnation.”
“The barricades have once again gone up on Broadway. Are they worth dropping everything and joining this time? The answer is a resounding “Oui!” Bring your flag. The well-traveled Les Miserable has rolled into town for its third bite at the Broadway apple — not to mention fresh off a celebrated 2012 film — but there’s nothing tiresome about its gloomy, aching heartbeat. Directed this time by Laurence Connor and James Powell, with new orchestrations, stagecraft and costumes, this terrific Les Miserables opened Sunday at the Imperial Theatre, capping a national tour that began in 2010. It’s beautifully sung and acted — Ramin Karimloo, Will Swenson, Caissie Levy and Nikki M. James as leads can do no wrong — and the clever sets, superb lighting and moving projections highlight a creative team fully embracing Victor Hugo’s epic novel about good and evil, revolution and romance, in 19th-century France.”
The reviews are in for Aladdin and though the critics don’t strike 100% agreement, the overall sentiment is that this BIG comedy musical is perfect for anyone looking for light-hearted fun with a whole lot of spirit. There’s magic at play here. With all the dazzling Broadway costumes and scene settings, the flying carpet (yup, you read that right, the flying carpet), and the fun, stylized direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw, the New Amsterdam Theatre is transformed into a palace of wonder nightly. How’s the acting? Go to see the comedic and charismatic Genie, James Monroe Iglehart, who’s woven a complex and quirky menu of characters into his portrayal. You know the story and you love the songs, now go experience the unabashed wonder of Aladdin live — just maybe leave your jaded, critical self at home.
NEW YORK TIMES
“If a genie had sprung from my teakettle last week and offered to grant me three wishes, I might impulsively have asked to be spared any more children’s musicals. Since a certain blockbuster feline arrived well over a decade ago, Broadway has been lapped by wave after wave of big, often gloppy songfests adapted from animated movies, mostly from the mother ship, Disney. So the prospect of Aladdin, promising another weary night in the presence of a spunky youngster and wisecracking animals, didn’t exactly set my heart racing. But this latest musical adapted from one of Disney’s popular movies, which opened on Thursday night at the New Amsterdam Theater, defied my dour expectations. As directed and choreographed (and choreographed, and choreographed) by Casey Nicholaw, and adapted by the book writer Chad Beguelin, Aladdin has an infectious and only mildly syrupy spirit. Not to mention enough baubles, bangles and beading to keep a whole season of RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants in runway attire. ”
NBC NEW YORK
“Don’t be fooled by the title of Disney’s latest film-to-stage transfer. Aladdin may be named after its lead street urchin character, but the musical comedy that just opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre is all about one character: the Genie. That’s due to the casting of the energetic James Monroe Iglehart, who all but erases the memory of Robin Williams, the voice of the Genie in the 1992 animated film. It’s rare that you see an actor playing a character he was born to play in a career-defining performance. Iglehart, last seen on Broadway in Memphis, uses his background in improv to create a comedic and charismatic Genie, who’s equal parts Fats Waller, Luther Vandross and Oprah Winfrey (“You get a wish! You get a wish!”).”
“Its exotic Middle Eastern setting and multiethnic cast aside, Aladdin offers less “A Whole New World” – to quote its signature song – than a traditional Disney fairy-tale realm; it’s perhaps the most old-school of the company’s screen-to-stage adaptations since Beauty and the Beast. But that shouldn’t deter audiences from making this splashy Arabian Nights wish-fulfillment fantasy into a family-friendly hit. Directed and choreographed by musical comedy specialist Casey Nicholaw with loads of retro showmanship, an unapologetic embrace of casbah kitsch and a heavy accent on shtick, this is sweet, silly fun. It’s not the most sophisticated entertainment, but the target demographic won’t mind at all.”
“The magic-carpet ride is magical. The Cave of Wonders is wonderful. And yes, you’ll hear the tunes you loved in the 1992 movie. But the notion that “Disney Aladdin” somehow resurrects the spirit of the late Howard Ashman, who had the original inspiration for the movie and contributed most of its clever lyrics, is a joke. Restoring a person’s work without respecting his artistic sensibility is no tribute at all. If this super-costly Disney extravaganza doesn’t really represent Ashman’s artistic vision, whose vision does it reflect? Chad Beguelin (Elf, The Wedding Singer), who wrote the book and contributed new lyrics, obviously plays a significant role, as does Alan Menken, who scored the film and wrote new songs for the show. Even more so does helmer-choreographer Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon), who stylistically turns the film’s romantic fairy-tale adventure into shtick comedy.”
“The carpet flies, kids, and it’s awesome. Aladdin, an urchin from the streets, and Princess Jasmine float far away into the extremely twinkly sky. Such awesomeness, of course, is to be expected from Aladdin, Disney’s latest Broadway translation of a beloved animated fantasy. But what’s a whole new world, as the song promises, is the almost modest, down-to-earth human scale of director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw’s big, cheerful production — an enjoyable throwback to old-time musical comedy.”
The reviews for Rocky are in and though the show has source material rich in content, characters and cult-followers, it seems no number of scenic or technical punches could ultimately save this musical from itself. The songs are unmemorable at best, and inane at worst, and the show seems so intent on steering clear of camp that it instead borders on lifelessness. That said, the musical does hold true to its source material and critics universally agree that the final fight might be worth the cost of your ticket alone.
Did you see the show? What did you think? Tell us in the comments!
NEW YORK TIMES
“The official curtain time for Rocky, the new musical at the Winter Garden Theater, is 8 on most nights. But at the risk of promoting tardiness among theatergoers, I feel obliged to point out that the show doesn’t really get started until 10:10 or thereabouts. That’s when a production that has seemed to be down for the count since the opening bars of its overture suddenly acquires a pulse. And the audience wakes out of a couch potato stupor — the kind you experience when you have the television tuned to an infomercial station — to the startling tingle of adrenaline in its blood. Of course, by that point, it’s all over but the fighting.”
NBC NEW YORK
“In the case of Rocky, let’s begin at the end. The electric final 15 minutes of the new musical based on Sylvester Stallone’s small-town Philly boxer, now open at the Winter Garden Theatre, are likely to inspire a heavy outpouring of adjectives: Game-changing. Jaw-dropping. Astounding. All are fair. Preceding the high-voltage conclusion—a round-by-round battle between the idealistic Italian Stallion and world champ Apollo Creed that makes use of the theater space in a quite novel way —is an otherwise-workaday musical buoyed by enough built-in goodwill to lift it up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and beyond.”
“The musical version of Rocky is a technical knockout. Christopher Barreca’s wondrous set features a regulation-size ring that rises, falls, and pivots to become a screen. Then, during the spectacular final fight, it slides out over the first eight rows of seats, and theatergoers are escorted to onstage bleachers that moments before doubled as the iconic stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In the viscerally realistic bout, choreographed by Steven Hoggett, peacocking champ Apollo Creed (Ragtime’s Terence Archie) and our palooka of a hero (The Mystery of Edwin Drood’s Andy Karl) make actual contact. No jazz hands, no kick lines, and the only singing comes from an unseen chorus reprising (of course) ”Eye of the Tiger.” ”
AM NEW YORK
“How can you not burst into laughter when Rocky optimistically sings about how, despite all his troubles, “my nose ain’t broken”? Seriously, that’s the lyric. Based on the 1976 Sylvester Stallone film about Philadelphia boxer Rocky Balboa, expectations for this new musical have been very high. It premiered last year in Germany, where it was known as Rocky: Das Musical. The young and innovative Alex Timbers (Here Lies Love, Peter and the Starcatcher) is directing.”
“”Nobody leaves the theater humming the scenery.” That old Broadway wisecrack, often attributed to Richard Rodgers, implies that no amount of eye-popping visuals in a show can overcome an unmemorable score. Rocky may be the exception. While the songs in this musicalization of the career-making 1976 Sylvester Stallone movie come and go without leaving much of an impression, the stage magic that director Alex Timbers and set designer Christopher Barreca work with the finale fight is so visceral and exhilarating that it sends the audience out on a high. Of course, having an indestructible story with underdog characters worth rooting for doesn’t hurt either.”