The reviews are in, and the critics love Violet and Sutton Foster, version 2.0. In many ways, Violet and Ms. Foster is an unlikely pair — a deeply emotional musical about a farm girl with a disfigured face doesn’t typically call for a twirling, big-grin, big-Broadway star. In this story, though, Ms. Foster reveals an ability to capture her character from all angles, revealing hope, vulnerability, despair, defensiveness, and what most critics call prickliness. By all accounts she’s captivating. The Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley musical is only made more special by the touching story and songs (influenced by the setting of the American South in 1964). It’s not glitzy or glamorous, and it certainly doesn’t showcase the Sutton Foster you know, but Violet is unique on Broadway and not a show to be missed without good reason.
NEW YORK TIMES
“When Sutton Foster appears on Broadway, she’s usually boasting a sunbeam smile, flapping away in tap shoes, clowning around amiably and generally behaving like a girl determined to nail the talent competition in a beauty pageant, and maybe take home the Miss Congeniality award, too. But pep-allergic people will not need to steel themselves to see the terrific, heart-stirring revival of Violet, the musical by Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley that opened at the American Airlines Theater on Sunday night, starring Ms. Foster in a career-redefining performance. Portraying a young woman from North Carolina desperately hoping an evangelist can pray away the deep scar on her face, Ms. Foster moves into thornier territory than she has occupied before in frothy musicals like Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Drowsy Chaperone and the recent revival of Anything Goes. By the show’s conclusion, her familiar megawatt grin has been unfurled, but the journey to sunrise on this occasion allows Ms. Foster to reveal the full range of her expressive gifts as a musical theater performer. She dazzles with the bright sheen of her voice, yes, and slings wry jokes with the ease of a diner waitress slapping down plates of eggs and grits. But she also brings a prickly emotional intensity to the moving story of a woman grappling with shame, self-delusion and the fear that a deformity will forever leave her standing alone outside the circle of humanity. “
TIME OUT NEW YORK
“It took 17 years, but Jeanine Tesori’s beloved musical about a woman with a facial deformity journeying through the 1960s South has made it to Broadway. Featuring the formidable talents of Sutton Foster and Colin Donnell (Anything Goes) and Joshua Henry (The Scottsboro Boys), this bittersweet period piece is directed by Leigh Silverman (Kung Fu). Adapted from Doris Betts’s short story The Ugliest Pilgrim, Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley’s 1997 musical follows the spiky title character on her trek to an Oklahoma faith healer who, she hopes, will remove the grotesque facial scar (invisible to us) that she received from an ax wound years before. It’s the darkest and richest role Foster has played, and she swings with marvelous speed from defensive prickliness to poignant hope.”
NBC NEW YORK
“Those expecting to see Sutton Foster belting and tap-dancing her way through her latest Broadway leading-role should be warned: the 39-year-old actress, who won Tonys for her turns in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Anything Goes, provides a restrained, intricate performance inViolet, the Jeanine Tesori-Brian Crawley musical now open at the American Airlines Theatre. It’s a startling turn from the Foster we’re used to seeing, but one that will transfix you all the same. Stripped of any glitzy costumes, wigs or makeup, Foster stands on stage in a plain sundress, her hair uncombed and pushed behind her ears, and breaths life into a complicated, flawed, hopeful character. You’ll feel as though you’re witnessing a star being reborn, 18 years into her career.”
“Broad strokes and big effects often appear to be the default setting for Broadway musicals, so it’s always refreshing to see a modestly scaled show in which the cast and creative team trust in the value of emotional intimacy. Driven by a performance of incandescent yearning from Sutton Foster that’s all the more moving for its restraint, Violet is a delicate wildflower, craning toward the sun. Director Leigh Silverman’s spirited yet sensitive production of Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley’s country, bluegrass and gospel-flavored 1997 musical makes this poignant story of a facially disfigured farm girl’s journey to self-acceptance genuinely uplifting. The revival was hatched out of a one-night-only concert event last summer that drew love-letter reviews for Foster, a triple-threat Broadway baby seen here in a subdued mode. While the production retains a stripped-down feel, Roundabout Theatre Company has given it dimensions that are a perfect fit for the material, set in September 1964 in the American South.”
“Some musicals are big and brassy, calling out for attention with their razzle-dazzle and sassy sets. Others are more demure, letting their simple beauty shine. How appropriate then that a show about inner loveliness chose the latter path. Violet, which opened Sunday at the American Airlines Theatre, makes a Broadway debut with just a few chairs, a simple bed, no big costume changes and a score so rich and sublime that you’ll hardly notice anything is missing.”
Few shows garner overwhelming critical applause like Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, and few performers command undeniable respect and admiration like Audra McDonald. The musical, now playing at Circle in the Square, shows Billie Holiday (McDonald) in a fictional final concert near the end of her hard-fought, tiresome life. The glory of this production rests in Audra McDonald’s performance; it’s not only that she completely captures Holiday’s late-life sound and spirit, it’s also that some critics admit to once questioning her casting in the piece! Rest easy, those critics eat their words in the very same sentence. McDonald is, without a doubt, one of the most revered and captivating Broadway stars, and any doubters need only snatch tickets to this thoughtfully-staged and unforgettably-performed musical to experience the majesty for themselves.
NEW YORK TIMES
“When Billie Holiday sang, history attests, her audiences tended to clam up. Even in the bustling nightclubs where she mostly performed, Holiday often insisted on total quiet before she would open her mouth. The quiet usually held, as one of the great singers of the last century turned jazz songs and standards into searching, and searing, portraits of life and love gone wrong that cast a shimmering spell. When Audra McDonald takes to the stage and pours her heart into her voice in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, a similar sustained hush settles over the Circle in the Square, where the show opened on Broadway on Sunday night for a limited run. With her plush, classically trained soprano scaled down to jazz-soloist size, Ms. McDonald sings selections from Holiday’s repertoire with sensitive musicianship and rich seams of feeling that command rapt admiration.”
“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, Lanie Robertson’s elegiac lament for the jazz singer Billie Holiday at the end of her broken-down life, has been knocking around forever in regional theaters. But in all those years, this intimate bio-musical was waiting for a great singer like Audra McDonald to reach out and bring this tragic figure back from the grave. There’s an uncanny immediacy to this production, which helmer Lonny Price has shrewdly staged in the round, with theater patrons sitting and sipping drinks at little club tables while bearing witness to the final days of a lost Lady. The ungainly stage at Broadway’s Circle in the Square has proved an inspiration for set designer James Noone to recreate Emerson’s Bar & Grill, the seedy joint in North Philadelphia where Billie Holiday played one of her last club dates in 1959, three months before she died.”
“Audra McDonald has done it again. In Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, a new Broadway drama imagining a late-in-life concert by the great jazz diva Billie Holiday, McDonald delivers a mesmerizing performance that is not so much an act of mimicry or even impersonation as it is a transformation. A record-breaking sixth Tony Award seems like a foregone conclusion. While McDonald’s vocal inflections can seem a tad overstudied in the show’s opening number, ”I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone,” as she spits out breaths at the end of each musical phrase, the actress quickly settles into the role and erases all memory of her operatic belter’s soprano and her naturally bubbly personality. In their place: a voice both smoky and breathy, and a demeanor that suggests a hard-lived life in the first half of the 20th century. “
“Only a fool would second-guess the transformative power of Audra McDonald, but when it was announced that this five-time Tony Award-winner was going to portray Billie Holiday in the Broadway production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, I must confess that I had my qualms. When one recalls Holiday’s sublimely ruined sound at the end of her career, the period in which Lanie Robertson’s concert drama is set, one doesn’t think of McDonald’s soaring, Juilliard-burnished soprano, a gold medal voice still in its athletic prime.”
NBC NEW YORK
“It’s Audra McDonald’s world—we’re all still just living in it. For proof, swing by the Circle in the Square, where the reigning Queen of the Rialto holds court in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, a late addition to this season’s Broadway calendar that showcases McDonald as jazz singer Billie Holiday. Over 90 minutes, McDonald interprets more than a dozen of the combustible artist’s recordings, among them “God Bless the Child” and “Strange Fruit.” The setting, a theatrical conceit, is a small bar in South Philly during spring 1959, a few months before Holiday will succumb to cirrhosis and heart failure.”
“Audra McDonald’s luxurious soprano with thoughtful lyric phrasing may not be the first voice that comes to mind when drawing comparisons to the emotionally thick, laconic blues of Billie Holiday. But then, Lanie Robertson’s 1986 theatre piece, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, despite its inclusion of over a dozen Holiday-recorded standards in a 90-minute performance, is not merely a re-creation concert. It’s a drama about how a great artist’s self-destruction permeates into her art, and for that, an actor of McDonald’s high caliber is certainly required. Robertson’s inspiration for the play came when a boyfriend described for her a 1959 Holiday performance he attended in a little North Philadelphia dive, roughly three months before her death. It had been twelve years since she served jail time for drug possession and though she had sung at Carnegie Hall and appeared on Broadway since then, New York City’s refusal to grant her a new cabaret license prevented her from doing what she loved best, singing in Manhattan nightclubs.”
Well, the critics are in agreement about Bullets Over Broadway, but it’s not the consensus that anyone may have expected. Despite the script by Woody Allen and the formidable direction/choreography by Susan Stroman, the would-be comedy musical, based on the 1994 Woody Allen film of the same name, just isn’t funny. Sure, they say Zach Braff is okay and that Marin Mazzie performs well, but the problems run deeper. The musical employs old songs from the 1920s and seems to carry a different, more brash, less sophisticated style of humor in its veins. Bullets Over Broadway just seems to have an identity crisis, it’s caught between wanting to play with the big-time Broadway musicals and wanting to represent the dry style of the Woody Allen comedy classic. Consider yourself warned – if you have long anticipated this opening, you may be most in line for disappointment.
NEW YORK TIMES
“Some things were never meant to be shouted through megaphones. On the basis of Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical, the occasionally funny but mostly just loud new show that opened at the St. James Theater on Thursday night, that would include the wit of Woody Allen. This production, directed in heavy italics by Susan Stroman and featuring a score of 1920s standards and esoterica, is inspired by Mr. Allen’s 1994 film of the same title. It features the same story line, most of the same characters and much of the same dialogue. Yet while the movie was a helium-light charmer, this all-talking, all-singing, all-dancing reincarnation is also all but charm-free. The experience of watching the film was like being tickled, gently but steadily, into a state of mounting hysteria. From the get-go, the musical version, which stars a credible Zach Braff (doing Mr. Allen) and a misused Marin Mazzie (doing Norma Desmond), feels more like being head-butted by linebackers. Make that linebackers in blinding sequins.”
“Everyone hoped Bullets Over Broadway would be the show to get those flickering Broadway lights blazing again. In certain wonderful ways — Susan Stroman’s happy-tappy dance rhythms, the dazzling design work on everything from proscenium curtain to wigs, and a fabulous chorus line of dancing dolls, molls and gangsters — Woody Allen’s showbiz musical is the answer to a Broadway tinhorn’s prayer. Surprisingly, though, the book (from Allen’s own screenplay for his 1994 film) is feeble on laughs, and certain key performers don’t seem comfortable navigating the earthy comic idiom of burlesque. So, let’s call it close — but no cigar. Bullets is that rarity, a musical without an original score. But the two dozen vintage songs culled from the Tin Pan Alley archives to fit the 1920s timeframe have been chosen with as much intelligence as affection.”
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
“Showgirls dressed like frisky tigers shake their moneymakers near the beginning of Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway — and they’re a symbol, for this musical certainly works its tail off to tickle and delight. It’s too bad that the comedy about a playwriting hit man is a bit of a miss. On the plus side, director and choreographer Susan Stroman’s dance numbers pack sure-footed pizzazz. And the good-looking production depicts 1929 New York with wit and grace notes. A theater proscenium decorated with living angels is a lovely little touch. “
NBC NEW YORK
“A gangster appears at the start of Bullets Over Broadway, firing an automatic weapon into the curtain and slowly revealing the musical’s title in the brightly lit “bullet holes” he’s just carved out. It’s the first of countless attention-seizing moments in the terrific new screwball thriller from perfectionist duo Susan Stroman and Woody Allen. Now open at the St. James Theatre, Bullets Over Broadway is a zany, old-fashioned spectacle that features the Broadway debut of actor-writer Zach Braff and a marvelous turn from three-time Tony nominee Marin Mazzie as an aging diva with a signature plea: “Don’t speak!” While not without some curious choices, Bullets is certainly the best of the musicals to open on Broadway so far this season, though make note … it’s a new musical with old music.”
“There’s a ton of talent onstage in Bullets Over Broadway, evident in the leggy chorines who ignite into explosive dance routines, the gifted cast, the sparkling design elements and the wraparound razzle-dazzle of director-choreographer Susan Stroman’s lavish production. So why does this musical, adapted by Woody Allen from his irresistible 1994 screen comedy about the tortured path of the artist, wind up shooting blanks? Flat where it should be frothy, the show is a watered-down champagne cocktail that too seldom gets beyond its recycled jokes and second-hand characterizations to assert an exciting new identity.”
““They go wild, simply wild, over me,” sings Helen Sinclair, an ageing diva, in a deluded attempt to persuade David Shayne, a fledgling playwright, of her enduring appeal. Sinclair, portrayed by the wonderfully self-assured Marin Mazzie, is one of the reasons to see Bullets Over Broadway, the new musical birthed by Woody Allen from his 1994 movie of the same title. The Broadway show makes a Sinclair-sized effort to persuade us of the value of early-20th-century songs shoehorned into a 1929 setting. The attempt is intermittently enjoyable, extremely well crafted by the director/choreographer Susan Stroman, and progressively unthrilling.”
AM NEW YORK
“In an ideal universe, the new musical Bullets Over Broadway, based on the 1994 Woody Allen film, would shut down for a few months so that a talented songwriter – perhaps David Yazbek (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels or the young team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (A Christmas Story) – could pen an original score for it. To its credit, Bullets Over Broadway is mildly entertaining. But given that it has been directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman (The Producers) and has a script by Allen himself, everyone was expecting it to be a knock ‘em dead musical comedy blockbuster.”
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.”