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 St. James Theatre

The Reviews for Bullets Over Broadway are In…

Bullets Over Broadway, Zach Braff and Marin Mazzie

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.”

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VARIETY

“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.”

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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. “

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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.”

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HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

“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.”

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FINANCIAL TIMES

““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.”

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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.”

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The reviews for American Idiot are in…

The reviews for the Green Day album-turned-musical, American Idiot, have come out and  critics were quite pleased with the production, with a few reservations. Some called it the best musical of the season (and even of the 21st century), while others were a bit more discerning – pointing to a thin plot covered up by spectacle, lights and sound. They do all agree on one thing – this musical, following in the footsteps of Hair and Spring Awakening, is a rock-opera unlike anything Broadway audiences have seen before.

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The New York Times

In any case the music is thrilling: charged with urgency, rich in memorable melody and propulsive rhythms that sometimes evolve midsong. The orchestrations by Tom Kitt… move from lean and mean to lush, befitting the tone of each number. Even if you are unfamiliar with Green Day’s music, you are more likely to emerge from this show humming one of the guitar riffs than you are to find a tune from The Addams Family tickling your memory. But the emotion charge that the show generates is as memorable as the music. American Idiot jolts you right back to the dizzying roller coaster of young adulthood, that turbulent time when ecstasy and misery almost seem interchangeable states, flip sides of the coin of exaltation. It captures with a piercing intensity that moment in life when everything seems possible, and nothing seems worth doing, or maybe it’s the other way around. Read Full Review

TheaterMania

Undoubtedly the best new musical of the season…Green Day’s songs are what propel the narrative, and they are ingeniously employed, sometimes in rather unexpected ways…American Idiot perhaps most resembles Hair, insomuch as it showcases one stunning song after another with just a loose narrative frame to hold it together, and a clear emotional throughline…But while Armstrong’s lyrics are laced with pessimism, the music is often buoyantly exuberant, which is one of the main reasons it succeeds as an amazing theatrical experience. Read Full Review

Chicago Tribune

American Idiot, the show, delivers a thick, gorgeous head rush of a musical soundscape without current Broadway parallel. It turns out to offer the kind of sensual lushness that a lot more traditional musicals would kill to emulate. That’s mostly due to the brilliance of Tom Kitt’s orchestrations, adding violin, cello, weight and gravitas to the Green Day sound without blunting its aggressive edge. With the gifted director Michael Mayer spreading his eight-member band out across a beautifully cacophonous setting — more a video-filled installation, really — from Christine Jones that evokes a constant blaring of Fox News in an endless sea of 7-Eleven parking lots and crappy urban apartments, you get a stunning musical wash of all corners of human emotion. Read Full Review

Financial Times

Doris Lessing once said that every generation thinks that it discovered sex. The same could be said for drugs and rock ’n’ roll. The new Broadway musical American Idiot can have nothing especially new to reveal about any of these subjects but it does reinvent them in such a way as to make them once again feel a little more dangerous and a lot more alive. Read Full Review

Backstage

The book fails to develop these characters beyond their initial conflicts, and it wouldn’t hurt to have more than a few diary entries from Johnny to guide us. Nevertheless, the dynamic score—the jagged lyrics are by Armstrong, who also composed the driving music, with Mike Dirnt and Trè Cool—leads us into the frazzled psyches of an aimless portion of America’s Generation Y. Tom Kitt, credited with musical supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations, builds a bridge between the worlds of rock and Broadway by making the songs accessible to general audiences without losing the chest-slamming intensity. Read Full Review

Newsday

If Spring Awakening was the birth of genuine rock musicals on Broadway, then American Idiot is its worthy son. Not as groundbreaking or original as its precocious papa in 2006, the punk-pop opera based on Green Day’s multiplatinum album is an exuberant assault – a slick and tough 95-minute package of alienated suburban youth, media overstimulation and seamless, high-concept theatricality. Read Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

Although the original concept album is reasonably cohesive, it’s a thin premise on which to base a musical, and the show’s book, by the band’s Billie Joe Armstrong and director Michael Mayer, doesn’t manage to flesh it out sufficiently. Telling its story largely through music and movement with only a smattering of dialogue, “Idiot” never manages to make us care about the fate of its thinly drawn characters. Still, there’s a lot of passion onstage, and Mayer has provided the sort of propulsive staging that helps put the material over. Read Full Review

Toronto Star

The first great musical of the 21st century… it’s not just one more trendy flash-in-the-pan, but the climax of a journey towards a rock Parnassus that the American musical theatre has been on for these past 40 years. Read Full Review

Talkin’ Broadway

Even with Gallagher thrashing around at its center, American Idiot satisfies in spite of all that’s working against it — including the passage of time (and a presidency) that’s rendered much of its discontent obsolete. Yet the establishment of a new government and its new outlook on America and its future has not been a universal salve, so the young’s quest for absolution and understanding continues. Whether this will be their musical remains to be seen. That it otherwise seems to be everyone’s, in spite of being no real musical at all, is the kind of maddening, exciting contradiction only the theatre can engender. Read Full Review

Associated Press

The musical, which opened Tuesday at the St. James Theatre, is short, some 95 minutes. Just right for an MTV generation weaned on YouTube clips and music videos. “American Idiot,” in fact, plays like one. Wildly diverting to look it, the show has the barest wisp of a story and minimal character development. At best, its slacker guys are sketchy portraits, prototypes rather than real people. Fortunately, there are compensations, most notably the show’s highly theatrical, punk-rock score, sung by a high-energy cast, headed by John Gallagher Jr. The gifted actor, a Tony winner for Spring Awakening, portrays Johnny, the show’s petulant antihero who flees a deadening suburbia and descends into sex, drugs and fierce guitar playing in his quest to find himself in the big city. Read Full Review

Washington Post

American Idiot — a new musical built around the songbook of the popular alternative-rock trio, which opened Tuesday night at the St. James Theatre — suggests that as the foundation of melodic drama, the rebellious-youth thing is getting old. Presented in a visually dazzling package, with coolly aggressive dance steps and the group’s exhilarating songs, the show qualifies as a pulsating album in three dimensions, a gallery of zestfully choreographed music videos. The 90 minutes make for such stimulating spectacle, I would happily sit through them again. And yet, in its attempt to knit a story out of a band’s discography, American Idiot comes across as ordinary. Too many other productions of recent vintage have taken us over this same rocky terrain, the landscape of youthful alienation. It’s surprising how a show with enough imaginative candlepower to light a stadium can appear to have invested so little energy in illuminating its characters, or devising an involving narrative. Read Full Review

Village Voice

The result, though vivid and lurid and imaginatively depraved, is also somewhat inarticulate, spraying its boilerplate discontent at no one in particular, with a lotta standard-issue bitching about The Media and The Man. At least the Spring Awakening crew had onstage clueless grown-ups to rebel against. Of the two dudes who actually get off the couch (seriously, the third one spends the whole rest of the show there, literally drinking bong water, his girl and their newborn baby eventually fleeing in disgust), Johnny (played by breakout SA star John Gallagher Jr.) gets hooked on drugs and does the usual hooked-on-drugs stuff, while Tunny (the excellently named Stark Sands) is enraptured by a charismatic, all-American, media-saturating beefcake dude into joining the Armed Forces and heading off to the Middle East, where he immediately loses his leg and does not-at-all-usual lost-my-leg-in-the-Middle-East stuff—namely, a Peter Pan–style, cable-assisted midair ballet tangle with a nurse who strips off her burka to reveal Princess Jasmine’s outfit from Disney’s Aladdin. To the tune of “Extraordinary Girl.” Read Full Review

NY Daily News

If you’re content to just let the pop-rock and color and lights sweep you up, you’re going to have a good time. But don’t go expecting a plot with any edge or richness… You won’t get any of that. So while it misses at being a breakthrough musical, Idiot could be called a breakneck event – if just for the insistent beat that turns audiences into noggin-nodding bobbleheads. You don’t see that at South Pacific. Read Full Review

New York

Remember the aughts? Or naughts? Or whatever we finally decided to call those crappy Bush years? No? Then you, my friend, are the target audience for American Idiot, Michael Mayer’s dizzyingly miscalculated adaptation of the excellent 2004 concept album by the pop-punk band Green Day. But this musical—a half-exploitative, half-lobotomized attempt to fake a youthgasm—has none of the power of that album, coming as it does from a now-middle-aged rocker (composer, book writer, and Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong) and director (Mayer, who proposed and co-conceived this embarrassing feedback loop in the afterglow of Spring Awakening’s success). It’s a self-described “rock opera” set in a self-created “Recent Past,” and it purports to evoke, with a single tear and a power chord, the confusing days of the terror-stricken early 21st century, when we yo-yoed from cowed powerlessness to inchoate fury. Well, confusing and inchoate this show most definitely is: Its version of youthful anomie is so far off the mark, and such a muddled conflation of vague Gen-X nostalgia and generic rebellion sample tracks, that the effect is almost comical. But mostly just irritating. Read Full Review

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The reviews for Finian’s Rainbow are in …

Finian’s Rainbow opened on Broadway to universal critical acclaim. The consensus: featuring a brilliant cast and score and a sweet, simple staging – this production embodies everything a Broadway musical should be.

Here’s what the critics had to say, in their own words:

NEW YORK TIMES

Here is where you should head this fall to warm your soul amid the diversions of that ever-great and ever-endangered American art form, musical comedy. All the comforting pleasures of the genre — infectious song, exuberant dancing, jokes both lovably corny and unexpectedly fresh, and of course the satisfying pairing of a him and a her — are on abundant display in this thoroughly winning production, a welcome picker-upper in an uneven Broadway season. Read the full review

ASSOCIATED PRESS

That delectable bit of musical-theater blarney called “Finian’s Rainbow” has found its way back to Broadway for the first time in nearly half a century, its charms undiminished, particularly its buoyant score. Read the full review

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

Things are great in Glocca Morra. A theatrical pot of gold awaits anyone who enters the St. James Theatre, where the magical revival of “Finian’s Rainbow” has opened. The classic musical, receiving its first Broadway revival in nearly half a century, has the kind of score, written by Burton Lane (music) and Yip Harburg (lyrics), that can still make any theatergoer swoon. Read the full review

VARIETY

What better time for a show that makes gentle mockery of that incurable habit of building the illusion of wealth on nothing more than a dream and a credit line, while also offering the rose-tinted consolation that such folly will turn out fine in the end? But it’s not so much the uncanny appropriateness of its pixified fairy tale as the enveloping warmth of Burton Lane’s melodies and the spry wit of Yip Harburg’s lyrics that make “Finian’s Rainbow” such an infectious charmer. Rather than try to get around the 1947 musical’s daffy story by hammering the social satire, director-choreographer Warren Carlyle and his winning cast simply embrace its quaint idiosyncrasies. Read the full review

WALL STREET JOURNAL

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more musically satisfying Broadway show than “Finian’s Rainbow.” Not only is the Yip Harburg-Burton Lane score a string of flawlessly cut gems, but everyone involved with the production takes the songs seriously, performing them with love and sensitivity. Best of all is Kate Baldwin, whose memorable appearances in such regional-theater productions as Huntington Theatre Company’s 2008 revival of “She Loves Me” have made me wonder why she doesn’t work regularly on Broadway. Ms. Baldwin is the real deal, a rich-voiced soprano who can also act. The way that she and Cheyenne Jackson sing “Old Devil Moon” is the stuff best-selling cast albums are made of. Read the full review

BACK STAGE

Lightning has struck twice at the St. James Theatre. First Arthur Laurents took his perfectly fine production of “Gypsy” in the Encores! Summer Series and elevated it into a stunning work of art. Now the folks behind Encores! concert version of “Finian’s Rainbow” have taken that pleasant if problematic presentation and transformed it into a magical production that should enchant both lovers of the Golden Age musical and those who favor more-contemporary fare. Personally, I would have called such a thing impossible. But this “Finian’s Rainbow” is for everybody, and I hope it runs forever. Read the full review

THE FASTER TIMES

The new production of “Finian’s Rainbow,” which has just opened at the St. James Theater half a century after its last try at a full-bore Broadway revival, tries hard to turn a dated show with a problematic book into an extraordinary theatrical experience. It succeeds in doing so, magnificently, thanks to an unusually talented cast of comic actors, singers and dancers, and 13 songs that are either evergreen favorites or rousing revelations; not a dog among them. Read the full review


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