Archive for David Rockwell
Kinky Boots has been well received by national critics; the production may feature bad English accents and a poorly conceived second act, but that’s not what audience members will remember most vividly. The successes of the production are both memorable and loud, outshining deficiencies. Cyndi Lauper’s songs are eclectic and varied, engaging and catchy — there are anthems in both acts that will linger in your head after you’ve left the theatre. Harvey Fierstein’s book fits the bill, but it may be the strong performance of Billy Porter that truly makes the story come alive. Check out “Kinky Boots” for a feel-good story with all the expected Cyndi Lauper flair.
NEW YORK TIMES
“Try to resist if you must. But for at least the first act of this tale of lost souls in the shoe business, you might as well just give it up to the audience-hugging charisma of [Cyndi Lauper’s] songs….It’s a shameless emotional button pusher, presided over — be warned — by that most weary of latter-day Broadway archetypes, a strong and sassy drag queen who dispenses life lessons like an automated fortune cookie. Yet, for a good while, “Kinky Boots” manages to ride over the skeptical grumbling of your conscious mind…The leading players here — notably Stark Sands, Billy Porter and Annaleigh Ashford — pick up on the trademark Lauper mix of sentimentality and eccentricity, but each makes it his or her own…This is fortunate, since we’ll need to cash in those vibes in the show’s second half, when the preachier aspects of Mr. Fierstein’s script take over, and all the clichés stand naked before you….the show recovers its first-act zip and zeal with its finale, “Raise You Up/Just Be,” one of the best curtain numbers since “You Can’t Stop the Beat”…If your memory is forgiving, that’s what you’ll take away from “Kinky Boots,” along with that first-act anatomy of the irresistible sex appeal of a perilously high heel.”
“Thank goodness for songwriter Cyndi Lauper, playwright Harvey Fierstein and the seven fierce drag queens led by a fabulous Billy Porter in the new musical Kinky Boots…this is a musical that comes alive when the lithe and towering men in heels appear. The show that opened Thursday at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre is so full of good will – did you expect anything less from Lauper or Fierstein? – that only a curmudgeon could walk out and not want to hug the crowds in Times Square…True, the second half is almost completely unnecessary, the English accents are laughable and the footwear puns are relentless. But who cares? This is a big ol’ sweet love story about sons, the families we make and red patent leather. Lauper’s catchy, pop-rock soundtrack reflects her ever-evolving taste…Fierstein, also represented on Broadway right now with the book for Newsies, spins his typical theatrical magic, teasing out from the movie both a love triangle and the pull-push of fathers and sons. But the real star is Porter, who delivers a touching, sassy, nuanced performance, often in 8-inch heels….Gregg Barnes’ costumes are schlubby when they need to be and high-beam outrageous when they need to be…Some footwear even got ovations…Elsewhere on Broadway, Cinderella may have her expensive slippers, but it’s likely she’d really love to snag a pair of what’s on offer at Kinky Boots.“
“As timely as this show suddenly seems to be — it posits an ideal world according to Harvey Fierstein, wherein struggle leads to self-acceptance, which leads in turn to public triumph — there’s nothing whatsoever that’s time-bound about Cyndi Lauper’s cheerfully audacious, toe-tapping score….[Kinky Boots] has taken the best of its predecessors…and applied real freshness to familiar formula. Crucially, the style of the production matches the creative identities of the composer and the book writer…There is a new determination to Fierstein’s writing, peppered as always with pedagogy and comedic sugar. Thankfully, “Kinky Boots” avoids the mushy mid-Atlantic traps that befell the likes of “The Full Monty” (a worker-empowerment movie with a very similar plot to “Kinky Boots”), and it similarly dances away from the hyperkinetic excesses of “Priscilla” and the like (David Rockwell’s savvy set is modestly scaled), offering just enough social realism that the world seems always centered in the believable. Drag queens onstage always do best when there are sharp contrasts, and so it goes here: The director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell, whose work is a clever cocktail of flash, grit and nuance, has cast a plethora of zesty character actors and allowed them to forge not so much a traditional ensemble….Lauper’s impressively varied numbers — whether it’s the ballad “The Soul of a Man” or the danceable “Sex Is the Heel” — are the sting in the tale of “Kinky Boots.”…If any show could kill the appeal of the jukebox musical, this is that piece. Lauper might be no Adam Guettel, but the weapon of musical surprise has rarely been so deftly wielded.”
“Lauper has made a career out of celebrating her extravagant individuality and everybody else’s with the unpretentious chutzpah of a true-blue Queens girl. The fact that her infectious spirit shines through every number in her first Broadway musical score is unquestionably the chief asset of Kinky Boots, helping to elevate the show above its familiar template. The novice composer-lyricist is also a good match for Harvey Fierstein, whose warm-hearted book for this aggressively uplifting musical hews close to the 2005 Miramax movie, making smart choices when it does diverge…this might be the shakiest assortment of fake English accents ever assembled on a Broadway stage. However, David Rockwell’s set brilliantly evokes the superannuated grittiness of every depressed British small-factory town…As predictable as the show is, it’s saved by how neatly the material plays to both Fierstein and Lauper’s strengths… the toe-tapping songs show an impressive range of styles and are smoothly integrated into the story…If Mitchell the director too often favors cartoonishness, his work as a choreographer has just the right punch, and Lauper has delivered him a rousing self-affirmation curtain number in which the entire cast gets to strut their stuff…It also provides the cue for costumer Gregg Barnes to pull out all the stops in the glitz-and-heels department. The generic “Just be who you wanna be” refrain might be recycled from countless other Broadway musicals at this point, but audiences craving feelgood candy will eat it up.”
The reviews for Elf are in and the critics were largely nonplussed. Everyone agrees that though the actors give it a valiant effort, Sebastian Arcelus just can’t quite fill Will Ferrel’s shoes and the rest of the cast simply isn’t given much to work with. They do what they can with it though, the choreography is a fun Broadway throwback and the script stays true to the movie, with a couple of fun additions. The music is forgettable, but what were you expecting? It’s a holiday show – on par with White Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas – created for those who have made it a tradition to see such shows this time of year. So if you’re looking for silly holiday fun…Elf just might fit the ticket. If you’re looking for a really fantastic new musical, seems you may want to look elsewhere.
Here’s what the critics had to say:
Happy enough for families, savvy enough for city kids and plenty smart for adults…Nicholaw’s staging successfully retains the many charms of the movie, and his choreography is filled with delightful touches…Librettists Thomas Meehan (The Producers) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) retain the spirit and cheer of the film while cannily punching it up…The efforts of Nicholaw, Meehan and Martin compensate for a less-than-overwhelming score from Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin; their work is only slightly better than on their earlier attempt, The Wedding Singer. Read the full review
The New York Times
The latest seasonal stocking stuffer and pocket picker…tinseled in synthetic sentiment, performed with a cheer that borders on mania, and instantly forgettable…The score is generic, true, but it is also polished, hummable-tune laden and professional. Mr. Beguelin’s lyrics, at their best, have a bright comic zest and are well-matched to Mr. Sklar’s gently swinging music…The director, Casey Nicholaw, coaxes fine work from the performers, who do their chores with unfailing commitment. Read the full review
New York Post
A giant spoonful of uncut sugar…The screen Buddy was played by Will Ferrell, who brings a naughty, slightly sleazy quality to everything he does. Here, we get the sunny, milquetoast Sebastian Arcelus. He’s appealing and works very hard, but lacks the gleefully anarchic strain that made Ferrell’s Buddy such a cathartic force of nature. But then, everything has been toned down several notches. Book writers Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) and Thomas Meehan (Hairspray, The Producers) can’t seem to tell the difference between childlike and childish. It’s all very tasteful and safe, when the show should conjure semi-lawless energy…Luckily, the main cast members are easy to like…Too bad they all feel underused. Read the full review
A surprisingly diverting confection that’s a sleigh-length ahead of recent seasonal fare on the Great White Way…Relative newcomer Sebastian Arcelus has the right blend of antic innocence for the role, though his modest singing voice and lower wattage suggest he’s less an above-the-title leading man than an apt choice for a made-for-DVD Elf sequel. Composer Matthew Sklar and lyricist Chad Beguelin…offer a stockingful of pleasantly melodic tunes…Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin’s book remains mostly faithful to the movie while adding a few humorous modern flourishes…A modest show with modest charms, but director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw keeps the production humming along. Read the full review
Director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw and his game, nimble cast allow us to enjoy the ride, however predictable. The players aren’t helped much by the formulaic songs of Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin. Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin’s libretto isn’t long on surprises, either — there are the usual cheeky pop-culture references and ingratiating nods to tourists and locals — but it provides some easy, breezy laughs. Read the full review
The Hollywood Reporter
Flavorless candy…A pedestrian show that broadens the material to be more specifically kid-friendly, rendering it innocuous in the process…Nicholaw has a better feel for period styles than he does for contemporary cute, and the writers struggle to make the mostly second-hand jokes land. Their efforts are given little support by a mediocre score…With few exceptions, the sound-alike numbers blend into one, and the lethargic dance interludes provide minimal elevation. It’s all pleasant, but generic…The cast does what it can with the wan material. Read the full review
Time Out New York
Fair-to-middling musical…It is not the fault of this Elf’s star, the hardworking Sebastian Arcelus, that he lacks Ferrell’s unique earnest-ironic comic charisma; but without it, Buddy is just an overeager naïf in green tights, and the plot’s corn doesn’t pop. Directed and choreographed with routinized showbiz gumption by Casey Nicholaw, the show provides little chance for anyone to shine…Earns dutiful applause but no Christmas cheers. Read the full review
Who needs Will Ferrel?…[Elf] stands on its own with great sets and design, a funny adapted script and a collection of hardworking actors…a tight, polished, expensive-looking affair that has enough jokes for adults and enough special effects for kids. And The Rockettes have some serious competition this Christmas season…Nicholaw’s choreography is a throwback to classic Broadway, sometimes with a twist. Read the full review
Parents hoping to avoid trendy seasonal cynicism may be tempted to lay out $137 apiece for orchestra seats. Be warned: Your children over 8 years old will never forgive you. The Magic Flute at the Met is sterner stuff, no joke…The mischievous wit for which Thomas Meehan (The Producers and Hairspray) is known seems to have been rubbed too smooth by his co-writer, Bob Martin…the tunes are instantly forgettable and you can predict every rhyme a mile away…Casey Nicholaw, the director-choreographer who brought a fine retro stylishness to “Drowsy Chaperone,” does well here with a limited company…The dancing hardly breaks new ground, but at least the seamless non-stop busyness on stage diverts us from the gooey goings-on. Read the full review
Too sweet and a big mess…too much of the show is overly familiar…Casey Nicholaw’s direction and choreography aren’t particularly fresh…Even the design elements are halfhearted. The usually imaginative David Rockwell has provided cheap-looking sets for this flimsy Christmas card…Most of the songs sound like every Christmas tune you’ve ever heard. It’s only when they are called upon to depict an emotion other than holiday cheer that they really cook. Read the full review
Have you seen the show? What did you think?