The Broadway Musical Blog – Musical theater news and gossip from the Great White Way

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 Neil Simon Theater

The Reviews for BIG FISH are In…

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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.”

Read the Full Review

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

“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.”

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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.”

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BLOOMBERG

“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).”

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BROADWAY WORLD

“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.”

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The Reviews for Scandalous are in…

 

The reviews are in for Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson, and it seems as though critics would have enjoyed a whole lot more scandal.  Carolee Carmello brings to life the title role, and provides the only real entertainment of the night — her voice is powerful and emotional, making the most of otherwise uninteresting numbers.  A driving force behind the production, Kathie Lee Gifford is responsible for the tired book and lyrics while David Pomeranz and David Friedman put their names on the music.  If you seek a strong musical performance, go see Carolee Carmello, but audience beware, don’t try looking for anything more.

NEW YORK TIMES

““The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson,” as the show is subtitled, are actually much more fascinating than you would gather from this formulaic Broadway musical. With book and lyrics by Kathie Lee Gifford and music by David Pomeranz and David Friedman, “Scandalous,” which opened on Thursday night at the Neil Simon Theater, condenses and rearranges McPherson’s story to fit smoothly into the familiar grooves of celebrity biography. In the process the show reduces McPherson’s remarkable life to a cliché-bestrewn fable about the wages of fame….Broadway jackals suspicious of [Kathy Lee] Gifford’s bona fides were surely hoping for an epoch-making turkey in time for Thanksgiving. Sorry, guys. “Scandalous” isn’t so much scandalously bad as it is generic and dull….True, collectors of camp might find some minor pleasures in the splashy biblical pageants of the second act, when McPherson, portrayed with hearty gumption by Carolee Carmello, looks on with a twinkly eye as Adam and Eve chomp from a sequined apple, or vamps as an alluring Delilah as Samson groans in beefcake bondage….God and the good works (and mostly bad musicals) he inspires are almost reduced to a walk-on in “Scandalous,” which plays down McPherson’s extraordinary ministry and spends most of its time dramatizing the punishing peaks and valleys of her personal life.”

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AM NEW YORK

“The Tony Award for fearless determination – if such a thing actually existed, ought to go to Kathie Lee Gifford. She has been developing and promoting her musical “Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson” – for which she wrote the lyrics, book and even some of the music – for more than a decade….The score – the work of no less than three composers – mainly consists of generic samplings from various genres: Irish jig, beer hall anthem, tambourine-shaking prayer and so on. Carolee Carmello, who has spent the past few years alternating between the tryouts of “Scandalous” and stints in “Mamma Mia!,” throws all of her dramatic and vocal intensity into the role, but it is an off-putting, aggressive performance. Tony winner George Hearn plays two negligible roles. Such is what happens when you get too old to play Sweeney Todd again”

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NEWSDAY

“There is nothing remotely scandalous about “Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson,” the biographical musical that has book, lyrics and additional music by Kathie Lee Gifford. Despite the inevitable celebrity-lite target on Gifford’s back, the musical about the media-star Christian evangelist of the 1920s does not have the toxic aura of a vanity production. It is well-produced and professional. It’s also not interesting, alas, at least not interesting enough to sustain 21/2 hours of fast-forward storytelling and inspirational songs that almost always end in throbbing climax. At least as problematic is the bombardment of nursery-rhyme lyrics…But we have a reason to give thanks, and that is Carolee Carmello. One of our most deeply wonderful, inexplicably underutilized singing actors, Carmello finally gets a giant vehicle that needs her massive talents….Despite the monotony of the touch-what-you-dream songs (music by David Pomeranz and David Friedman), Carmello alone makes Aimee’s journey feel as adventurous as it clearly was.”

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TALKIN’ BROADWAY

“The musical that just opened at the Neil Simon is distinctive in not one positive way, but it’s nearly impossible to wrench your gaze from its glitz-drenched train wreck thanks to its sublime star, Carolee Carmello. Gifted as an actress and even better as a belter, Carmello could hardly have begged for a more doting showcase vehicle for her considerable talents than this one about 20th-century evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944). Kathie Lee Gifford (book, lyrics, and additional music) and David Pomeranz and David Friedman (music) have provided Carmello with countless opportunities to flaunt her golden pipes, embody bone-deep glamor, and attract the audience with the kind of comforting embrace modern-day headliners are so seldom allowed to deploy….Carmello sails through all this, and quite a bit more, with such ease that you can’t help but be positive she does it 20 times before breakfast every morning, and sings an astonishing amount of vocally taxing material even though she spends all but a few scant minutes onstage, trying to win us over to her cause. That she comes within millimeters of succeeding is still more impressive given the obstacles she’s up against. For what the writers and director David Armstrong foist upon her — and by extension us — is enough to propel the most devout believer into a spiritual crisis…Carmello’s stunning singing, at once brassy and hypnotic and warm, cannot compensate for the utter lack of memorable music, even among the faux-energetic gospel romps, or a halfway-witty lyric, anywhere in the bulging song stack — a big problem for a musical promoting the importance show biz’s value as a medium of communication. The jokes are lame, yes (“I swear some of these Christians are so pious, they just pious me off!”), but the story is impossible to follow, with no character other than Aimee given so much as three minutes of close attention….Based on how high Carmello elevates Aimee beyond what’s on the page, no one need fear for her career. Scandalous itself, however, looks well beyond saving.”

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BACKSTAGE

“The American Theatre Wing might as well give Carolee Carmello her Tony Award now. Just like her alter ego for the evening, early-20th-century evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, Carmello is performing miracles, only hers are onstage at the Neil Simon Theatre. In “Scandalous,” the seasoned stage veteran’s top billing is a credit to her performance rather than to her bankability—there’s book writer and lyricist Kathie Lee Gifford for that—and Carmello deserves it, delivering one of the season’s must-see performances (she’s onstage for all but 11 minutes of the show’s two-and-a-half hours). Unfortunately, Carmello’s miracle work doesn’t extend to Gifford’s flimsy, expository musical, which features uncertain direction by David Armstrong….Gifford’s book and lyrics sound like she transcribed McPherson’s Wikipedia page and had it set to music. Carmello is asked to relay countless monologues, usually while stripping off Gregory A. Poplyk’s suitable period costumes to reveal another outfit. (The actor transitions from Aimee at 16 to Aimee at 50 with remarkable ease.) The reason to put a story onstage is to theatricalize it. When Carmello sings, there’s magic in the theater, even if David Pomeranz and David Friedman’s tunes are generic (Gifford also gets a credit for “additional music”). Joel Fram’s music direction and vocal arrangements, though, are an absolute delight. The revival scenes feel like a religious experience, thanks to a winning ensemble and Lorin Latarro’s peppy choreography….There will be bumps in the road this season—and “Scandalous” may be one of them—but there is absolutely no doubt that Carmello is a Broadway superhero.”

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The Reviews for Catch Me If You Can are In…

NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW

“As befits a lad of the 1960s with a talent for smooth come-ons, Frank Abagnale Jr. prefaces the story of his life with the promise that it will have “more curves than a Playboy bunny.” But as presented in the new musical “Catch Me if You Can,” which opened Sunday night at the Neil Simon Theater, this portrait of the con artist as a young man (portrayed by Aaron Tveit) seems to consist mostly of straight lines, like the kind you use to connect the dots in picture puzzles. “

Click here to read the full “Catch Me If You Can” review.

ASSOCIATED PRESS REVIEW

“New Broadway shows this spring are lousy with cads. There’s J. Pierrepont Finch in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” Harry Brock in “Born Yesterday” and pretty much all the dudes in “That Championship Season.” With the hero of “Catch Me If You Can,” add one more scoundrel.”

Click here to read the full “Catch Me If You Can” review.

VARIETY REVIEW

“In “Catch Me If You Can” — the new musical based on the 2002 Steven Spielberg film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks — teenaged conman Frank Abagnale Jr. recounts his daring escapades in the format of a 1960s TV spectacular; each step in crime is shown as a perky-but-flat variety-show production number. That’s the conceit of the new tuner, and the problem as well. Impressive star performances from Norbert Leo Butz and Aaron Tveit, a lively production, the best sounding new music currently on Broadway — all built around a succession of glossily frenetic, non-compelling production numbers.”

Click here to read the full “Catch Me If You Can” review.

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER REVIEW

“The Bottom Line: This musical adaptation of the Steven Spielberg film scores on showmanship but shortchanges its lead character. “

Click here to read the full “Catch Me If You Can” review.

NEWSDAY REVIEW

“News that the guys from “Hairspray” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” were making a musical based on the movie “Catch Me If You Can” raised a couple of intriguing — also daunting — questions. How? And why?”

Click here to read the full “Catch Me If You Can” review.

AM NEW YORK REVIEW

“”Catch Me If You Can,” the eagerly anticipated Broadway musical based on the breezy 2002 Leonardo DiCaprio film, is a product of essentially the same creative team behind the mega-hit “Hairspray.” It’s even playing in the same theater as “Hairspray” and shares an early 1960s setting.”

Click here to read the full “Catch Me If You Can” review.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE REVIEW

“The key to turning “Catch Me If You Can” into a Broadway musical was within the very title of the 2002 Steven Spielberg movie that served as the source. It encapsulates the thrill of the chase, a quality sadly lacking in the show that opened Sunday night at the Neil Simon Theatre. And it conveys the slippery charm of the lovable trickster rogue — in this case, Frank Abagnale Jr., the youthful master forger of those predigital swinging ’60s, a guy who fooled banks and airlines but was eventually brought down by his own need for love.”

Click here to read the full “Catch Me If You Can” review.

The reviews for Ragtime are in …

The last time Ragtime appeared on Broadway, a whole new theater was built to house the gigantic production. This time, the show comes from a much humbler place and the critics couldn’t be more complimentary – its fresh, relavant and powerful.

Here are what the major publications had to say:

NEW YORK TIMES

The judiciously pared-down production that opened Sunday night at the Neil Simon Theater is a sprinting sylph compared to the opulence-bloated show that went under the same name a decade ago. … Warmly acted and agreeably sung, this “Ragtime” travels light. And if it still sometimes feels like an animated history lesson, delivered by a liberal but square teacher a shade too eager to make the past come alive, the show now neither drags nor sags under its big themes. Read the full review.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The show’s themes and characters are introduced lickety-split in a thrilling combination of song, story and movement that goes a long way toward explaining what musical theater is all about. … There’s not a wasted moment in her production, which is a blessing considering the scope of the lengthy story these creators are trying to tell: a new American century getting ready to explode and make its mark on history. Read the full review.

USA TODAY

The score…is hardly A-list, but the songs are well-crafted and on occasion are genuinely soulful. And Terrence McNally’s book tugs at your heart and conscience with such artful aggression that only an ogre could resist the urge to weep at some points and smile at others. In this new Kennedy Center-based production, which opened Sunday, those assets are exploited by a supple cast under Marcia Milgrom Dodge’s vibrant direction. Read the full review.

VARIETY

No word has been more bandied about in American life the past two years than change. And no show investigates the nuances of that word as it relates to the American Dream — conveying hope, opportunity and success, but also the ugly flipside of pain, division, confusion and violence — more masterfully than “Ragtime.” The 1997 musical not only feels trenchant and timely, but its multistrand story is delivered with fresh clarity and emotional immediacy in director-choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge’s elegant revival … This is big-brain, bold-strokes musical-theater storytelling at its most vibrant. Read the full review.

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

Bottom Line: This wonderful musical based on the classic novel by E.L. Doctorow gets a much deserved, stirring revival. Read the full review.

Have you seen the show? Add your review to the comments below!

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