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Dishing out daily (or almost daily) Broadway musical news and gossip. The companion site to The Broadway Musical Home (broadwaymusicalhome.com), a directory of Broadway musicals with the story, songs, merchandise, video clips, lyrics, tickets, rights & awards for almost 200 shows.

Archive for Jukebox Musical

The Reviews for A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN are In…

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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.”

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BROADWAY WORLD

“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.”

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

“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.”

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HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

“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.”

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VARIETY

“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.”

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The Reviews for Motown: The Musical are In…

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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.”

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BACKSTAGE

“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.”

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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 “

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

“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.”

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The Reviews for Baby It’s You are In…

NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW:

“Mama said there’ll be shows like this. But she didn’t tell me there would be quite so many, or that any one of them could be this dismal.”

Click here to read the full “Baby It’s You” review.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY REVIEW:

“It is almost eerily fitting that Baby It’s You should be playing at the Broadhurst Theatre. That places it opposite Rock of Ages (which, like Baby It’s You, is a jukebox musical) and next to Memphis (which, like Baby It’s You, is a story set in the early days of the pop business with a mixed-race love story at its center).”

Click here to read the full “Baby It’s You” review.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE REVIEW:

“Oh, the wretched unfairness of it all. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons get a thrilling jukebox celebration. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis at least had their music treated with respect and artistry. But the Shirelles, one of the greatest girl groups of all time (heck, they were covered by the Beatles), get a show of such total ineptitude and cynical profiteering that your mouth pretty much dangles open in disbelief for the duration of the entire tawdry proceedings. “Baby It’s You” makes “Million Dollar Quartet” look like “Three Sisters.””

Click here to read the full “Baby It’s You” review.

NEWSDAY REVIEW:

“When a short-lived 1985 bio-revue called “Leader of the Pack” used hits from the early ’60s to trace the pop-producing/composing career of a Brooklyn woman named Ellie Greenwich, we didn’t even have a term for jukebox musical.”

Click here to read the full “Baby It’s You” review.

THEATERMANIA REVIEW:

“Baby It’s You, the sporadically entertaining new jukebox musical now at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre, mines the song catalog of the The Shirelles — as well as other big hits of the late 1950s and the early 1960s — as the musical tells the story of Florence Greenberg (Beth Leavel), the New Jersey housewife who discovered the girl group. “

Click here to read the full “Baby It’s You” review.

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