Archive for Reviews
The critics are clear, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is an irresistible delight, despite its grim title and relatively unknown production team. The musical comedy is based on both a 1907 novel by Roy Horniman and a classic British comedy, “Kind Hearts and Coronets”, starring Alec Guinness. The compliments come in bunches for this production, with critics heaping praise on Broadway newbies Robert L. Freedman (book and lyrics), Steven Lutvak (music and lyrics), and director Darko Tresnjak. Onstage, the excellent ensemble is topped with stand-out performances by Bryce Pinkham (Monty Navarro) and Jefferson Mays, expertly playing all eight of the D’Yysquith heirs on Navarro’s chopping block. The title may be grisly, but this musical comedy is lots of fun and not to be missed — a fitting choice for the whole family, even around the holidays.
NEW YORK TIMES
“Serial killers may be all the rage on bookshelves and television screens — so ubiquitous, you’d think they made up a major demographic of the world population — but they are comparatively rare in the peppier precincts of musical theater. Now, after a long dry spell, Broadway has a deadly sociopath to call its own. Please give a hearty welcome to Monty Navarro, the conniving killer who helps turn murder most foul into entertainment most merry in the new musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.”
“While the source material credited for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder is Israel Rank, an Edwardian novel by Roy Horniman published in 1907, the show’s key inspiration lies in the film adapted from that book, Kind Hearts and Coronets. That wonderful 1949 Ealing Studios black comedy cast the incomparable Alec Guinness as eight English aristocrats standing in the way of a murderous commoner’s noble birthright. The virtuosic comic turn here belongs to Jefferson Mays, taking on dizzyingly quick changes of costume and characterization with hilarious aplomb. But that’s by no means the sole enticement of this toothsome new musical.”
“Many actors would, if you’ll pardon the expression, kill for a great death scene. In A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, the new musical at the Walter Kerr, Jefferson Mays doesn’t have to draw a drop of blood to get more than a half-dozen of them. Bees, freezing-cold water, a heart attack, a gun, and oh so many more implements of destruction give the actor opportunity after opportunity to expire in spectacular, balcony-baiting fashion — oh, and evoke gales of laughter at the same time. That’s the really important part. In fact, it’s tough to remember another Broadway outing since Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore that’s derived so much gleeful entertainment in the hastening of mortality.”
“Overkill has seldom been more enjoyable than in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, a thoroughly delightful and uproarious new Broadway musical about an Edwardian serial killer who could be a well-heeled cousin of Sweeney Todd by way of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves. His name is Monty Navarro (Bryce Pinkham, blessed with a crystalline tenor and the looks of a young Jude Law) and he’ll stop at nothing to avenge his late mother, disinherited by a titled British family for falling in love with the wrong sort. ”My father was ‘Castilian,’ he explains at one point. ‘And worse, a musician.’”
“‘For God’s sake, go!’ warns the black-clad chorus at the top of A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder as they advise the more squeamish patrons who might be shocked at the evening’s gory dramatics to leave immediately. Don’t listen to them or you’ll miss a rollicking good time and a smashing Broadway debut for composer/lyricist Steven Lutvak, bookwriter/lyricist Robert L. Freedman and director Darko Tresnjak.”
It’s been a while since a musical revue got universal praise from critics, but After Midnight, the latest of the genre, couldn’t have received stronger reviews. Featuring incredible music and dancing – this tribute fully embraces the style of its original source to deliver a nearly perfect show that celebrates the undeniable talents of the singers, dancers and musicians on stage. And though all deliver excellent performances, the stars of the show are unmistakably the Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars, who capture Ellington’s style to a t, leaving audiences smiling, tapping their toes and singing After Midnight’s praises.
NEW YORK TIMES
“The band takes the last bow in “After Midnight,” the sparkling new jazz revue that opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theater on Sunday night. This may be unusual for Broadway, where the players are normally in the pit — and the music often sounds as if it could have been piped in from Hong Kong — but it’s entirely as it should be.”
“Though Duke Ellington and his orchestra had further uptown destinations in mind when they advised nightlife-seeking denizens to take the A train, Broadway patrons seeking a luscious sampler of the music and styles that flourished in venues like The Cotton Club, The Savoy and The Sugar Cane during that golden era known as The Harlem Renaissance needn’t travel further north than 47th Street, where the Brooks Atkinson Theatre is jumpin’, stompin’ and downright roof raisin’ with the sounds of Ellington and his contemporaries in a dazzling showcase of talent christened After Midnight.”
“There are few things that bring smiles to even the most jaded faces — balloons, blaring trumpets and tap dancers. A new Broadway revue has two — no, make that all three — so no wonder it leaves you feeling lighter than air.”
“The paramount requirement for any revue celebrating the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ‘30s is stated right there in the Duke Ellington standard, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” And After Midnight has it in abundance, courtesy of a superlative jazz orchestra handpicked by producer Wynton Marsalis from among the best in the business. Ninety minutes of exuberantly entertaining song and dance, this is a show that renders it impossible to keep your toes from tapping. Up first in a series of rotating special guest stars, Fantasia Barrino with her luscious vocals sets the bar high.”
NBC NEW YORK
“After two sold-out runs at City Center, “Cotton Club Parade” has shed its original name (licensing issues!) and transferred to Broadway. Now with the smokier, more evocative title “After Midnight,” the moody homage to Duke Ellington opened Sunday at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.”
The reviews are in for the latest Jukebox musical to hit the Great White Way – A Night With Janis Joplin - and once again the critics are split. Those who loved the show found Mary Bridget Davies’ vocals and energetic performance spot-on and intoxicating, while others were left loving the singing, but wondering how the life of such an extreme personality could be told in such a sentimental, vanilla way. They all agree the show was supported by a fantastic cast, costumes, sound, lighting, choreography, projections and effects – elements that try to raise this show above it’s mediocre book – and that in the end, despite the truth about its subject, it’s a fabulous concert about a woman who just loves and wants to sing the blues.
NEW YORK TIMES
“Mary Bridget Davies['] uncanny vocal impersonation of Joplin keeps the house rocking for much of the show’s running time…[but] if the real Joplin had the kind of sensible perspective on her life and career that she exhibits in this show — happily reminiscing about her youthful love of painting, or giving a learned docent tour of blues history — she would probably not have died of an overdose of heroin and alcohol at 27….Still, if the Janis who waxes nostalgic while partaking sparingly of the bottle does not quite match our image of the fiercely needy, heedless young woman who sang and partied with reckless abandon, frankly, it’s a bit of a relief. The default setting of biographical shows about performers who lived loose and imploded early often borders on the ghoulish…Her ability to match Joplin’s highly emotive style could probably give members of the audience who saw the real woman something close to a contact high — or maybe a nostalgia high is the better term.”
“I doubt if the walls of the classic Beaux-Arts showplace have ever felt any vibrations like the powerful full-throated wails of soulful orgasmic psychodelia emoted from Mary Bridget Davies in the title role of A Night With Janis Joplin…Writer/director Randy Johnson’s concert-style musical is not to be lumped in the same category with that trio of Beatles imitation concerts that have played Times Square or other such shows that rely solely on mimicry. The ambition is a little higher here, and while A Night With Janis Joplinhas its flaws as drama, as a raucous, hyper-energized tribute to one of American music’s great icons, it’s a joyful explosion…[Davies'] emotional commitment to the material is so forceful and sincere that by the first act curtain you may find yourself less concerned with Janis Joplin and anxious to see more of A Night With Mary Bridget Davies…Between songs Davies’ Joplin is an adorable, cherubic-faced gal sharing with the audience her preference for dive bars and gritty blues and bits of her life story through amusing patter…But A Night With Janis Joplin is about the good times, and there are plenty of them to be enjoyed in this rowdy and heartfelt celebration.”
“Legendary blues and soul singer Janis Joplin was an astounding force of nature onstage and off. A new concert musical on Broadway provides a rockin’ good time while imaginatively evoking her impassioned, thrilling talent…Soulful and genuine, Davies gives a lively, energetic performance. She captures much of the exuberance and uniquely raspy wailing that made Joplin a musical legend, though she lacks Joplin’s raw onstage sexuality and brash, raunchy persona…Johnson’s book sentimentalizes Joplin, whitewashing her hard-drinking, drug-fueled lifestyle and focusing instead on her enthusiasm and passion for her music…With dynamic use of lighting, projections, sound design and the choreography of Patricia Wilcox, Johnson creates a high-caliber spectacle around the compelling story of a uniquely talented singer-songwriter who embodied her generation’s passionate attitudes.”
“Mary Bridget Davies will take longtime Joplin fans on a trip, but she deserves a sturdier showcase than this discursive salute to the artist and her influences…if you’re after a contextualized bio-musical to provide insight into rock’s first undisputed queen, writer-director Randy Johnson’s sanitized concert tribute, A Night With Janis Joplin, is not the place to look…In terms of the physical production, the show has a time-capsule authenticity. What feels more artificial is the tidily retrospective mood of the protagonist…In the overwritten patter for Joplin that links the songs, Johnson appears to be aiming to tap the collective spirit of oppressed womanhood thirsting for liberation across the decades. But that theme is expressed too mechanically to resonate, and great as she is on the vocals, Davies is not a good enough actor to smooth out the script’s many clunky transitions…Whatever this tame tribute lacks in scope, it has a considerable saving grace in Davies’ electric renditions of the songs – wild and joyously raucous one minute and ragged with sorrow the next.”
“As a musical biography, “A Night With Janis Joplin” is pretty much a bust. The book by Randy Johnson, who also helmed, skims lightly over the singer’s Texas childhood and her tenure with Big Brother and the Holding Company, with nary a word about her personal life or the booze and drugs that cut it short…there’s not a hint of personal data in the show’s book…Davies, who looks like Joplin, sings like Joplin, howls like Joplin and has been touring the country in a show and a role-of-a-lifetime that she owns…As a concert, the well-wrought production should satisfy any rabid fan of Joplin’s musical brand of the blues. But for anyone expecting an honest portrait of Janis — or of the hedonistic Sixties era she personified — you can just cry, cry baby.”
The reviews are in for Big Fish, and the critics have mixed feelings about the large-scale production. By all accounts, the musical — based on the Tim Burton movie and the Daniel Wallace novel — features spectacular stage magic from the mind of director Susan Stroman and a lovable leading man in Norbert Leo Butz (as Edward Bloom). Some consider the score by Andrew Lippa and the book by John August (the screenplay writer for the 2003 movie) to be weaknesses of the production, lacking in imagination and creativity, but some say that Stroman’s technical ingenuity covers all of that up nicely. Basically, if fantastical lighting and scenery are what you want to see, Big Fish could be great for you. If you’re searching for a story with an unpredictable plot and emotionally-charged characters, maybe you’d be happier sitting this one out.
NEW YORK TIMES
“For a show that celebrates tall tales, “Big Fish” feels curiously stunted. Granted, this movie-inspired musical about a whopper-spinning traveling salesman, which opened on Sunday night at the Neil Simon Theater, is certainly big by most conventional measurements.”
“Fantasy wages war with reality in Big Fish, a delightfully old-fashioned musical based on Daniel Wallace’s beloved novel (and Tim Burton’s 2003 film). In one corner, there is Edward Bloom (the sensational Norbert Leo Butz), a traveling salesman from backwater Alabama given to spinning tall tales about mermaids and giants to fill in the gaps in his otherwise ordinary life. In the other, there is his son, Will (Bobby Steggert), a just-the-facts journalist who’s never really connected with his often absent, now-ailing dad and faces the prospect of fatherhood himself.”
NBC NEW YORK
“Edward Bloom will die a “glorious” death at the end of “Big Fish,” which has just opened at the Neil Simon Theatre. That’s not a spoiler; it’s an explanation. Blessed, if you’d call it that, to know the “when” and “how” of his life’s final chapter, the peculiar protagonist of Susan Stroman’s giddy, overstuffed new musical is free to take risks the rest of us wouldn’t, for fear of bodily harm.”
“I doubt Broadway has ever seen a prettier, more sensuously kinetic musical than Susan Stroman’s adaptation of “Big Fish” set to music by Andrew Lippa (“The Addams Family.”) It’s enchanting, especially once it slows down a bit to catch its breath. That doesn’t happen until the second act, but it won’t matter much, even to fans of the Tim Burton movie (or the Daniel Wallace novel that started it all).”
“Wholesomeness gets a bad rap on Broadway these days, usually regarded as the kind of unbearably sweet and inoffensive entertainment that sophisticated theatergoers must endure while taking their conservative grandmas out for a night on the town. But Big Fish, the new musical that tattoos its heart on its arm, displays no fear in plopping its unabashed wholesomeness right in your lap. Its spirit is steeped in Rodgers and Hammerstein decency that propels an evening that’s adventurous, romantic and, yeah, kinda hip.”
The reviews for Soul Doctor are in and they aren’t too pretty. Though reviewers find the principal subject of the musical (Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach) fascinating, there is universal agreement that the writing and music for this new musical don’t do his story any justice. The most positive elements of the production are solid performances by Eric Anderson (as Shlomo Carlebach) and Amber Iman (as Nina Simone), but even their efforts aren’t enough to save this show from being both strange and mediocre.
NEW YORK TIMES
“I think I can guarantee that the months to come will bring no odder musical than Soul Doctor…Played with self-effacing gentleness by Eric Anderson, Shlomo certainly makes an arresting figure…Then there’s the unlikely female lead: the great African-American performer Nina Simone, played by the suave, rich-voiced Amber Iman…Also featured: a Nazi who shoots dead a dancing, singing Jew in the show’s early scenes…Given this unusual blend of elements, it should be no surprise that Soul Doctor is a bizarre and at times bewildering musical…As is often the case with bio-musicals, we learn the notable turns of the man’s life — or at least those that fit comfortably into an unabashedly celebratory show — without really exploring his depths…Those with affectionate memories of Carlebach’s music may find Soul Doctor inspiring and absorbing. I found it disappointing that this intriguing figure came across as a bland, bromide-spouting relic of the hippie era, albeit one tie-dyed in classic Jewish guilt. Sometimes the most interesting and inspiring lives are the most difficult to dramatize.”
“The new Broadway musical Soul Doctor examines the life and times — and music — of Shlomo Carlebach in a unique, if plodding, study of a charismatic holy man who finds himself stuck between an unstoppable force and an immovable object. Carlebach, widely considered to be the modern era’s father of Jewish popular music, makes for a fascinating biographical subject, even if the re-orchestrations of his staid, folksy compositions aren’t quite lively or diverse enough to fill a two-hour, 30-minute musical. The unusual score is lifted somewhat by a couple of pleasing gospel numbers and engaging performances by Eric Anderson in the title role and Amber Iman as Nina Simone, one of Carlebach’s biggest influences…In the lead role, Anderson (Broadway casts of Kinky Boots and South Pacific) displays a formidable presence — and beard — with a disarming mix of placid shyness and childlike bursts of kinetic energy…Amber Iman makes her Broadway debut as Nina Simone, oozing with effervescence and consistently thrilling the audience with her sterling voice and glamorous costumes…Soul Doctor should please Carlebach devotees and, for the uninitiated, the details of his exceptional life will stir enough curiosity to send them to Google for more. But despite the spectacular life journey of this socio-religious phenomenon, the use of his solemn hymns as the basis for musical theater is at best an ambitious, if godly, pursuit.”
“Eric Anderson as Shlomo and Amber Iman as Nina spiritedly lift Soul Doctor beyond Old and New Testament realms…Shlomo and Nina’s first encounter is worth even the Broadway price of admission…Neil Patel’s Wailing Wall set moves us seamlessly to the jazz and hora beats of Seth Farber’s orchestra and Benoit-Swan Pouffer’s go-with-the-flow choreography; lyrics are by David Schechter and Carlebach, who died in 1994…This is a biographical musical, not a Disney fantasy.”
“Lots of luck marketing Soul Doctor to a general audience. This worshipful musical biography of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the so-called “Rock Star Rabbi” credited with infusing Jewish music with the musical idioms of 1960s pop culture, has obvious appeal for its core audience of fans. But there’s nothing transcendent about Daniel S. Wise’s plodding book or Rabbi Carlebach’s “soulful” but dated music to lift the show out of its narrow niche and give it the universal appeal of a latter-day Fiddler on the Roof. Eric Anderson, who played Shlomo Carlebach in a 2008 production at New York Theater Workshop, has the voice and presence, not to mention the physical stamina, to carry off the demanding role of a character who’s never offstage…Helmer Daniel S. Wise has staged the hair-raising events of the Rabbi’s early life in Vienna with efficiency if not much originality…Unless you’re personally into it, there’s entirely too much of this ponderous religious pedantry to keep an audience alert. And while the cast seems to be in constant motion, the choreography is clunky and obvious.”
“Oy gevalt. It’s not that there’s anything particularly terrible about Soul Doctor, the biographical musical about the late ”rock-star rabbi” Shlomo Carlebach, but there isn’t all that much to recommend either. Carlebach is certainly an interesting figure: An Orthodox Jew who embraced pop music and hippiedom over traditional scholasticism and rose to prominence in the 1960s, he served as a striking countercultural counterpoint. But director Daniel S. Wise’s production — which consists mostly of a Judaic jukebox of Carlebach’s popular melodies — fails to achieve anything beyond a standard, and occasionally cringeworthy, retelling of his life.”
First Date opened on Broadway yesterday to very mixed reviews – its apparently a show that you either love or hate. Small in scale and light in content, the show is nonetheless entertaining and fun, with Mr. Levi and Ms. Rodriguez holding their own and selling this predictable fluff piece brilliantly.
NEW YORK TIMES
“Who doesn’t love a blind date? Of course, by this I mean, who does? I had one the other day, with the new Broadway musical First Date. I’d heard little about the show, and its authors were entirely unknown to me. Didn’t go so well. Does any of the following sound familiar? An instant lack of rapport; a growing aversion as the minutes pass; a mysterious sense that time has suddenly stopped; a desperate hope that the apocalypse will arrive, preferably right this minute. Magnify those feelings, set them to bland pop-rock music, and you’ll have some idea of the oodles of fun I didn’t have during my evening at First Date…I have been harsh on this modest musical, efficiently if facelessly directed by Bill Berry, so I should underscore that Mr. Levi and Ms. Rodriguez are both appealing performers…I also feel honor-bound to report that the audience at the performance I attended seemed to respond with genuine warmth…But even those who can never get their fill of dating-game gags would have to admit that the singles-searching-for-love thing was a lot fresher back in the 1990s…by now it’s been thoroughly strip-mined and needs to be reinvented, not just rehashed and set to mediocre music. ”
“An awkward blind date has the potential for great comedy — as long as it’s not happening to you. In an alternate world, such a date might unfold amid a series of snappy musical numbers with irreverent lyrics. As the clumsy encounter unfolded, maybe the couple’s inner baggage would even surround them with song and dance. That’s the entertaining idea behind the sassy new musical comedy, “First Date.” The overall tone is satiric, but there’s a sneakily persistent undercurrent of optimism in the fun, fast-paced production that opened Thursday night at the Longacre Theatre…The book by “Gossip Girl” writer Austin Winsberg provides the couple with plenty of flippant repartee. A madcap mashup of musical styles and lyrics blazing with one-liners are provided by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner. Director Bill Berry keeps a steady pace amid the dynamic musical staging by Josh Rhodes…Never mind love, will they even make it to a second date? The point is that after just 90 minutes with this mismatched couple and their comical parade of demanding advisers, we still care how it turns out.”
“Familiar material is delivered with comic verve and charm in this winning, small-scale tuner. It’s not surprising to read in the Playbill for Broadway’s First Date that book writer Austin Winsberg has extensive television credits, including Gossip Girl and Jake in Progress. This romantic musical comedy — first seen in a co-production by Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre and A Contemporary Theater — has a definite sitcom-like quality. But it also displays a genuine wit and musical flair that marks a refreshing change from the onslaught of overblown musicals permeating Broadway these days. Starring Zachary Levi of TV’s Chuck in his Broadway debut and Krysta Rodriguez (The Addams Family, Smash), this modest, unassuming tuner is a definite crowd-pleaser, although it may find itself struggling for tourist dollars when the bigger shows arrive in the fall…Not wearing out its welcome at a brisk 95 minutes, First Date has the sort of small-scale charms that make it something of an anomaly on Broadway these days, and would probably be far more at home in an intimate off-Broadway venue. But at the very least, it signals bigger things to come for its talented creatives and leading players.”
“You’d be forgiven if you thought that show might be Chuck — the short-lived series that made Levi a star, at least among the Comic-Con set…Levi is particularly winsome and adorable as Aaron, a decidedly square, salad-eating fella still smarting from a recent breakup to a harpy of an ex. His singing voice, like his character, is engaging but a little thin…Rodriguez, a veteran of Broadway hits like In the Heights and The Addams Family…projects an admirable magnetism as a brusque, red-meat-eating downtown chick who takes no guff, is repeated drawn to bad boys, and seldom carries a relationship past a second date. You can guess how this all ends, right? And you’d be absolutely right. While director Bill Berry keeps the story zipping along, he’s hobbled by a bland score (by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner) that leans too heavily on pastiche as well as a paint-by-numbers book (by Austin Winsberg) that strings together a series of overly broad clichés rather than flesh out truly distinctive characters.”
“First Date, a romantic musical comedy about the horrors, humiliations and occasional happy surprises of blind dates, is cute (but not too cute) and sweet (but not too sweet). So, indications are that this appealing show will do well (but not too well) on Gotham’s Main Stem, despite having come out of nowhere and been assembled by no one you’ve heard of. Creative team of Austin Winsberg (book) and collaborators Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner (music and lyrics) should thank their lucky stars for Krysta Rodriguez and Zachary Levi, who are seriously charming as mismatched blind daters destined to become lovers. Ah, the joys of the modest musical, a rare commodity on Broadway these days but an ideal tenant for the intimately scaled and lovingly restored Longacre Theater. Helmer Bill Berry, producing director of the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle where the show originated, makes judicious use of his resources. David Gallo’s unit set adapts to the various restaurants, wine bars, and cafes where all the dating and mating takes place, enhanced by the witty background projections of a big, bad, sexy city. The design is nice and tight, a perfect fit for the stage, which Mike Baldassari has drolly lighted in those deeper shades of midnight-blue-to-black (with splashes of red) that are universal signifiers of moody music, hard liquor and sex.”
The reviews for Let It Be are in, and though the press found the all of the performers talented, they couldn’t have been more nonplussed, most deeming the show merely a concert by a talented cover band. All brought up how similar in content it was to 2010′s Rain (whose rights’ holders think it’s so similar as to warrant a 50/50 split of revenue) and 1977′s Beatlemainia, which ran for two years. But whether they thought it was a concert or a revival with a different name, they all saw baby boomers and young people alike smiling, dancing and having a great time. If you’re uninterested in Beatles nostalgia and don’t deem this a real Broadway production, go see another show, but if you’re looking to relive your childhood or enjoy to a bunch of songs you know and love, performed well…Let It Be may be just the show for you.
NEW YORK TIMES
“Yes, another Beatles tribute is on Broadway. Wasn’t it just yesterday that Rain opened at the Neil Simon? Pretty much. It was 2010, and Charles Isherwood, reviewing it for The Times, called it “enhanced karaoke.” In long-ago 1977, Beatlemania — “not the Beatles, but an incredible simulation” — opened at the Winter Garden and ran for two years. In his review for The Times, John Rockwell decreed it “an unobjectionable diversion.” Gentle mods and rockers of a certain age, I saw them both. I cringed at the 1977 show. (I mean, all four of the real guys were still alive and in their 30s.) I let myself get carried away at the second. And I can happily report that Let It Be is by far the best of the bunch. The word “celebration” in the subtitle is well chosen, and the performers are outstanding, as nostalgia substitutes and as musicians in their own right. ‘This is not really a Broadway show, is it?…It’s a concert.’”
“Even fake Beatles can bring back good memories of the real thing, when they’re truly talented…If you can check your nostalgia at the door, the tribute show Let It Be that opened Wednesday night on Broadway at the St. James Theatre stands on its own as a lively, multimedia concert and a rocking good time…There’s no question who these enthusiastic musicians are portraying. In fact, it’s a little creepy for those who were around during the originals to see the two deceased Beatles accurately reincarnated. Visually invoking Lennon, Reuven Gershon performs with appropriate cool, while John Brosnan is nicely intense as lead guitarist George Harrison. Enacting still-living Beatles, James Fox incorporates eye-rolling, winking mannerisms and soaring vocals reminiscent of the young McCartney, while drummer Luke Roberts has a head-bopping good time as Ringo Starr. Those four musicians performed in an energetic preview that often had the crowd up on its feet, clapping and singing along…The production is visually appealing, with an array of colorful, sometimes trippy graphics and the grainy news clips or photos projected above, behind and sometimes all around the band.”
“Another year, another Beatles tribute show on Broadway. Less than two years after the Fab Four were last resurrected in Rain, the similarly conceived and executed Let It Be has arrived to satisfy the nostalgic demands of aging baby boomers. Indeed, this show is so closely patterned after Rain that its creators have initiated a lawsuit arguing copyright infringement. But whatever legal complications ensue, there’s no doubt that the experience is virtually the same…It’s essentially a concert by an excellent cover band, featuring elaborate visual trappings. Your enjoyment of the experience will depend both on your affection for the music and willingness to suspend disbelief. If you squint, the four bewigged figures onstage are an approximate visual representation of John, Paul, George and Ringo. And their delivery of the classic material — most of which, ironically, the Beatles never actually performed live — is certainly accomplished enough to be enjoyable. Audiences may well wonder whether the experience is worth paying up to $135 for tickets (more for premium seats), especially when a real live Beatle, Paul McCartney, has been touring this summer. But then again, there’s no underestimating the ageless appeal of this legendary band.”
AM NEW YORK
“Let It Be is the latest in the never-ending parade of cheap, cheesy Beatles tribute concerts on Broadway that has previously included such titles as Beatlemania in the late 1970s and Rain just three seasons ago. They all represent slight variations on the same formula, in which a handful of competent singer-musicians, while not technically playing the Fab Four as characters, stand in and dress up like them and earnestly pay homage to their vocal and musical abilities and accents. In addition to trippy computer graphics, video clips show fans going wild at the original concerts. In contrast, the performers of Let It Be actively need to encourage their dazed audience to clap along or stand up to get their juices flowing. Seeing as those attending Let It Be probably already appreciate all the best-known Beatles songs, they are likely to have a somewhat pleasant experience despite the generally unexciting and derivative nature of the enterprise. In just a few months, a lot of very exciting things will be happening on Broadway. Let It Be is just an unambitious, summertime space filler. Just let it be. Soon enough it’ll go away — and another Beatles tribute show is sure to come along eventually.”
“Watching the new Beatles homage Let It Be (* * ½ out of four), certain audience members are bound to feel a sense of déjà vu — not for the Fab Four themselves, but for the last Broadway salute to them. Creators of Rain, in fact, filed suit against producers of Let It Be in June, contending that the latter show borrows many elements from the former one…Yet while the shows are strikingly similar in tone and structure…there’s a certain irony in claiming creative ownership of a purely re-creative act. Let It Be, which premiered in London last year, aspires to be nothing more than a nostalgia trip, and as such it’s about as engaging as you could expect…The between-song patter can seem as contrived as their accents, and there are patronizing appeals to older audience members — as when Lennon asks if they remember “when CDs were black” and had two sides, holding up an old LP with reverent affection. Luckily, Let It Be‘s company, which includes supporting musicians, is competent enough as singers and instrumentalists to make the numbers compelling…But more driving, muscular favorites, from Ticket to Ride to Come Together, were executed with enough panache to make you appreciate their magic, even without fully recapturing it. Which pretty much sums up both the appeal and the limitations of Let It Be — and other shows like it.”
The reviews are in for Pippin, the final show to open on Broadway this season — though the story for the show is as thin as the set’s tent poles, the lavish acrobatic spectacle and over-the-top performances have hardily won over the reviewers. Fosse’s choreography may have been the starting point, but it’s the combination of talented acrobats from Montreal and big Broadway stars that will give audiences front row seats to both a Broadway musical and a circus that make this revival so appealing. So get ready for some oohs and ahhs and get in line – you’ll get your money’s worth from this production.
New York Times
“What do I have to do to make you love me?…the question has seldom been posed as nakedly and aggressively as it is in Diane Paulus’s revival of Pippin, which opened on Thursday night at the Music Box Theater. Perhaps you’re tired of the plain old song and dance that many big-ticket shows give you. The performers in this hard-driving production of Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson’s 1973 musical can of course sing and dance (and “in the style of Bob Fosse,” to boot, as the program puts it.) They also hang from their toes from perilous heights, fly through the air, balance on wobbly towers…these folks will jump through hoops for you, literally, and the hoops keep getting higher and higher. As for the 99-pound that at the center of this muscle-bound circus…it’s there, too, if you choose to look for it. And if you choose not to, that’s fine…Ms. Paulus’s Pippin is in its way a natural extension of Fosse’s [original 1973 production], pushing the musical from seduction into sensory assault. This is a Pippin for the 21st century, when it takes more than style to hold the attention of a restless, sensation-hungry audience…And I would argue that in courting to its audience, this Pippin is ultimately more cynical than Fosse’s…Of all the cast members who aren’t acrobats, though, it’s the veteran comic actress Ms. Martin who truly scales the heights…[This is] crowd-pleasing show business as usual.”
“The last show to open this season on Broadway comes with plenty of bang, lots of flips and real value for money: A ticket buys you not just a musical but also a trip to the circus. The American Repertory Theatre’s thrilling revival of that coltishly cute Pippin opened Thursday at the Music Box Theatre as a hybrid that surely will keep everyone thoroughly entertained. Director Diane Paulus hasn’t just slapped some fresh paint on this beloved tale of self-discovery, she’s rebuilt it…Paulus has transformed the players into a troupe of circus performers, and it’s a stroke of genius…The cast members are amazing and clearly have all been to the gym. No sooner have you realized that one actor is busy stealing the show than another steps up to blow you away….the Gypsy Snider-led acrobats will thrill you…So when the cast sings, by way of invitation the eh opening number, ‘Join us, come and waste an hour or two,’ it’s highly recommended you do so. Little can get the blood going this way.”
” **** out of four – the final and best musical production of this season…Schwatz’s score [is a] richly melodic mélange of pop and jazzier musical theater influence, and Bob Fosee’s original choreography, a dazzling parade of controlled carnality. Paulus, working with Fosse protégé Chet Walker and Gypsy Snider of the Montreal-based troupe Les 7 doights de la main, adds to that mix a circus element, incorporating acrobatics, sword-throwing and other, often comical evocations of derring-do. The result is a combination of epic theater, burlesque and soulful spectacle that recaptures the show’s shiny allure and its poignance while making it seem entirely fresh. The flawless company is led by Patina Miller as the Leading Player…and Matthew James Thomas as Pippin, The young stars work beautifully as both partners and foils. Other standouts include a lusciously limber Charlotte d’Ambroise, as Pipin’s scheming stepmother, and Andrea Martin, who nearly strops the show as his preternaturally perky – and movingly devote – grandma…This Pippin also offers a new ending, with a twist that provides all the ‘thrills and chills’ the Leading Player promises us earlier. By that point, she and her colleagues have delivered all the magic they guarantee in the opening number, and then some.”
The critical reviews for the first revival of Jekyll & Hyde aren’t much nicer than those for the original mounting. Ripping most ferociously into the abismal lyrics, “pea-fog thick” smoke and confused direction by Jeff Calhoun, most critics were impressed by Costantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox, R&B artists who manage to bring moments of nuance and amazing vocal chops to an otherwise overcooked production. The show says: “Take me as I am.” — if you aren’t ready to embrace a campy, scantily-clad, over-amplified, steampunk Jekyll & Hyde, you’ll be much happier watching Cinderella down the street, but bad reviews or no, you can rest assured that Jekkies will line up nightly to take in this latest mounting of one of Wildhorn’s best shows.
NEW YORK TIMES
“Let us give a warm welcome back — or maybe just a shrug, a sigh and a tip of the bowler hat — to the return of Jekyll & Hyde…Mr. Maroulis meets the throat-thrashing challenges of Mr. Wildhorn’s score with aplomb, his high-reaching pop tenor evincing little strain when rising to the piercing climaxes. I was also impressed by Mr. Maroulis’s quietly intense performance as the obsessive Dr. Jekyll…Statuesque and beautiful, Ms. Cox brings a suffering dignity to this cliché in corsets. More important for those who have come to hear a pop diva do what pop divas do best, her dark, lustrous voice does nice justice to her character’s signature song, the power ballad ‘Someone Like You.’… I register no objections to allowing Mr. Maroulis to give his voice a rest by having the evil Hyde appear (via video) as a flame-haloed, glowering devil in a giant mirror, his half of the duet having been prerecorded. If anything, this innovation reduces the campy histrionics of having the same actor engage in a singing duel to the death with himself…Unfortunately there’s no way to digitally airbrush away the hokum that pervades the whole show, like the ample stage smoke puffing away throughout the proceedings, giving a most commendable featured performance as the fabled pea-soupy London fog. The actors portraying the sniveling or snobbish enemies of Dr. Jekyll all perform their chores with flavorsome relish…Mr. Wildhorn’s score is probably his most appealing, as it mixes equal parts Hammer horror, Andrew Lloyd Webber-style pseudo-operatics and adult-contemporary-radio anthems…Do the clichés in the lyrics outnumber the exclamation points, or vice versa?”
“Technically impressive and well sung by its two leads, this revival of the bombastic, ballad-heavy musical would feel right at home in a Vegas casino…To do full justice to the campy excesses of Jekyll & Hyde, this review would most appropriately be delivered in the form of a power ballad. Such overbearing musical numbers permeate this 1997 musical by Frank Wildhorn (music) and Leslie Bricusse (book and lyrics), which previously enjoyed a four year run on Broadway despite critical brickbats. Audiences may also embrace this revival of the turgid tuner based on the classic horror tale by Robert Louis Stevenson despite a likely similar negative reception…Director-choreographer Jeff Calhoun (Newsies) has ratcheted up the show’s gothic elements in his high-intensity staging, featuring extensive projections, a deafening sound design and a Grand Guignol-style presentation. But for all the production’s excesses, it proves decidedly underwhelming, devoid of thrills or genuine emotion…Jekyll & Hyde never immerses us in its classic tragic tale. It’s akin to a well-designed haunted house from which you find yourself eagerly longing to escape.”
“Yes, it is bombastic and overwrought. It’s true that there’s enough smoke to make three Whitesnake videos. OK, it sometimes makes The Phantom of the Opera seem small and staid. But there’s something to cheer about in the revival of Jekyll & Hyde that has rolled into Broadway after a 25-week national tour. It is what it is, and it does that very well. It’s a big, loud rock opera and makes no apologies for itself. Nor should it. If you wanted a subtle musical without stabbings and bondage, what exactly are you doing at Jekyll & Hyde? The new version…takes itself so seriously that it almost veers into camp, but it’s a stunningly beautiful steampunk vision with great costumes, projections and sets. Plus, the three main vocalists who came along to sing these Frank Wildhorn songs will make your ears bleed: Constantine Maroulis, Deborah Cox and Teal Wicks. Who cares if there’s way too much lightening and overacting? These three can deliver, some even while wearing naughty Victorian outfits…Sometimes when watching Jekyll & Hyde there are moments when it seems like what you’re watching is outtakes from ‘This Is Spinal Tap.’ But that’s this show’s charm. You’ll always be of two minds about it, so just give in to the silly side.”
“‘It is the curse of mankind that these polar twins should be constantly struggling.’ The same could be said of the 1997 musical itself, now receiving an overamplified, dry ice-drenched Broadway revival following a national tour: It’s good and — well, not evil, but head-scratchingly, laughably, even painfully bad. And one that you’ll be constantly struggling to sit through…As the titular schizophrenic scientist, American Idol alum Constantine Maroulis — a 2009 Tony nominee for his turn in the ’80s jukebox show Rock of Ages — supplies hair-band-worthy locks and lungs of steel. His ”This Is the Moment” (the 11 o’clock number that comes 45 minutes in) is indeed momentous — a triumph of vocal pyrotechnics over clichéd phrases, misaccented lyrics, and throat-testing key changes. He also supplies an accent that travels the whole of the United Kingdom…Cox — as Lucy, the hooker with the heart of gold and bustier of steel — is quite terrific throughout. She even manages to make that ubiquitous cabaret tune/power ballad ”A New Life” audible over the stadium-level orchestrations. Oh yes, the tunes: Wildhorn has written some darn good ones. And they’ll get lodged in your head so firmly that you’ll need ”It’s a Small World” to clear them out. But, oh, the lyrics! Example: ”You’ve not heard/A single word I’ve said/My fear is he’s in over his head!”…Perhaps that’s why the music is amplified to eardrum-splitting levels! But there are so many puzzlements in this production, which is both over- and under-directed…Calhoun came up with a good idea — which then went terribly, terribly wrong. It is, I think, the curse of Jekyll & Hyde. C-”
Ouch! To say the critics laid into Motown: The Musical, Broadway’s latest attempt to make another Jersey Boys-style jukebox hit, is a huge understatement. Though the soundtrack of the show will have your toes tapping, you’ll leave the theatre still searching for a story. With book-writer Gordy telling his own tale, the musical’s plot lacks intrigue and features undeveloped characters, drive-by plot points, and a one-sided and uninteresting perspective. Character after character is jammed onstage, showcasing an unbelievable number of songs but not much else (save some great orchestrations and a phenomenal performance by little Raymond Luke Jr. as a young Michael Jackson). Does this mean the death knell for new jukebox musicals? Many seem hopeful. For those excited to see this new show, move quickly before it boogies off Broadway or even consider a night with friends and a good Motown record instead — you may have more fun!
NEW YORK TIMES
“More than 50 songs (!) are performed in Motown, usually, alas, in truncated versions. Most are simply presented as concert versions by the actors playing the artists who made them famous, but a few are shoehorned awkwardly into the story as “book” songs…Making way for so much music means that Motown breezily scrimps on storytelling. Characters come and go so quickly we barely have time to register their famous names, let alone get to know them…The dialogue is often vinyl-stiff, written in a shorthand meant to convey as much story as possible in as few words as possible…The performers put their songs across with verve and an admirable lack of self-consciousness…For all the richness of its gold-and-platinum-plated soundtrack, Motown would be a much more satisfying nostalgia trip if Mr. Gordy and his collaborators were more effective curators of both story and song, rather than trying to encompass the whole of the label’s fabled history in two and a half hours. Irresistible as much of the music is, I often had the frustrating impression that I was being forced to listen to an LP being played at the dizzying, distorting speed of a 45.”
“If you are looking to bathe in nostalgia evoked by beloved tunes while watching talented and committed professionals do their industrious best to locate the magic of legendary performers, this is the show for you. If you prefer a well-written story with multidimensional characters that digs beneath the surface and uses song with dramatic acumen, then steer clear…Clichés abound…Director Charles Randolph-Wright’s fluid but old-fashioned staging complements the corn level. Choreographers Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams excel at reproducing the funky moves of groups such as the Temptations, the Four Tops, and, of course, the Supremes, but when trying to represent the tumult of the 1960s in “War” or the anger and rage engendered by the assassination of Martin Luther King in “What’s Going On,” their effortful work falls short. Ethan Popps scintillating orchestrations and arrangements (done with Bryan Crook) pop beautifully under his superb musical direction…Stealing the show is Raymond Luke Jr. as the young Michael Jackson. It’s not just that Luke has the sound and the moves down cold; his innocent, radiant joy in performing momentarily elevates the proceedings to a whole new level. Though some fans may be disappointed that so many of the songs flash by in snippets, Gordy has gambled that Motown: The Musical is all about its music—and he’s probably right.”
AM NEW YORK
“Instead of having to endure perhaps a dozen different jukebox musicals based on various Motown icons in future years, Motown: The Musical allows us to get it all over with in one shot. It’s an unwieldy and unfocused attempt to package dozens of hit songs from all the trailblazing Motown performers of the 1960s and 1970s into a single sugarcoated, sanitized narrative revolving about workaholic megaproducer Berry Gordy. Still, this elaborate, very busy production ought to please anyone looking to take a nostalgia trip and overlook its problems…Although many famous performers and groups are ably impersonated both physically and vocally…they all receive the same superficial treatment. Gordy was closely involved with the musical and wrote its poor book…“Jersey Boys,” which is undeniably the best of the jukebox genre, unhesitatingly addressed the Four Seasons’ gritty past, while “Motown” hides all traces of scandal under the rug. Even the racial tensions of the period are addressed too fleetingly to make an impact. Ironically, while Motown bemoans how the music industry was ultimately swallowed up by corporate giants that wooed away Gordy’s major clients with wild offers, the musical is essentially a company history section of a corporate website. 2 stars “
“The 2 1/2-hour show, about Motown Records under founder Berry Gordy, opened Sunday at The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre completely unbalanced: The songs are staggering, the book utterly flimsy. Both are due to one man: Gordy, who clearly knows what makes an indelible hit song, but also has an inability to write objectively about that skill. As the book writer, Gordy comes across almost divine, a true visionary who literally changed the world and race relations but was eventually abandoned by the artists he made stars when they sought to cash in. There are parts of the show that even a North Korean dictator would find excessively flattering…Charles Randolph-Wright proves a director with real skill, able to seamlessly juggle an insane amount of songs, dozens of scenes and harness some quite stunning performances, led by a go-for-it Brandon Victor Dixon as Gordy and Valisia LeKae as Diana Ross, who especially shines during an ad lib moment with the audience…To be fair, Gordy’s story is a remarkable one and should be told onstage, warts and all. His songs are the soundtrack of America, but letting him tell his own story has cheapened it.”