Archive for Susan Stroman
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 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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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).”
“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.”
Another Off-Broadway transfer, The Scottsboro Boys, has moved to Broadway (after a quick fix-up out of town). The show is stronger than ever and critics are raving about the choreography, score, story and the amazing turn by newcomer Joshua Henry. The Scottsboro Boys‘ minstrel show treatment of very dark subject matter has critics split – some find the pairing genius and while others find the minstrel-show set up lessens the impact or is just outright smug.
Here’s what the major publications thought:
New York Post
A boldly stylized, defiantly razzle-dazzle look at true events…The story has a resounding emotional charge, but we also clearly see the cruel, almost cartoonish absurdity of it all…As grim as its subject is, the show is vibrantly alive…On the surface, The Scottsboro Boys is a hard sell in a Times Square dominated by escapist fluff…Yet this is also a thrillingly inventive and entertaining night at the theater. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be moved. What could be more Broadway than that? Read the full review
Arguably the finest of last season’s new musicals when it appeared at the Vineyard in March…[it's now] stronger, tighter and even more impactful…Director-choreographer Stroman, working on a far simpler scale than usual, delivers her most creative and effective work in years, and Kander’s music sounds great…Actors appear to be relatively cramped for space, resulting in a suitably claustrophobic feel and a jolt in voltage that helps account for the increased power of Scottsboro in its new home on Broadway. Read the full review
Nestled snugly into the Lyceum Theatre, whose musty period interior enhances the show in ways the rather antiseptic Vineyard Theatre never could, this look at a monstrous, racially motivated miscarriage of justice in the Depression-era South, staged in the form of a minstrel show, packs quite a punch. It’s a satisfying finale for the legendary songwriting team…Thanks to some small but smart focusing, clarifying, and tightening of the book and director-choreographer Susan Stroman’s exemplary staging, the show now makes it clear that its purpose is not to tell the personal stories of these men. The musical is about what happened to them, and how that changed America…Here’s to the creative team for insisting on delivering the show it wanted. The Scottsboro Boys sets a high bar for Broadway musicals this season. Read the full review
The New York Times
Mr. Kander and Mr. Ebb have written a zesty if not top-tier score, but the pleasures of a jaunty ragtime melody and a clever lyric are hard to savor when they are presented in such an unavoidably grim context…Although the show’s momentum is hampered by both its essential singularity of tone and the tortuous history of the court cases, the production remains dynamic, thanks in no small part to the dauntless energy of the terrific cast, all fine singers and dancers. But the musical never really resolves the tension between its impulse to entertain us with hoary jokes and quivering tambourines and the desire to render the harsh morals of its story with earnest insistence. Read the full review
Wall Street Journal
It is impossible not to be thrilled by the electrifying craftsmanship…The problem is that all this formidable talent has been enlisted in the service of a musical so smug that I could scarcely bear to sit and watch it…I suppose there are places in America where such a show might still jolt its viewers, but to see The Scottsboro Boys on Broadway is to witness a nightly act of collective self-congratulation in which the right-thinking members of the audience preen themselves complacently at the thought of their own enlightenment…A musical that slathers this terrible tale in a thick coat of musical-comedy frosting that has been spiked with cheap, elephantine irony. I can’t imagine a nastier-tasting recipe. Read the full review
Have you seen the show? What did you think?
Rumor has it that Scarlett Johansson is heading to Broadway, set to star opposite Will & Grace star Sean Hayes in a revival of the Neil Simon musical Promises, Promises.
Also rumored – directors Harold Prince and Susan Stroman are set to collaborate on an upcoming Broadway musical called Paradise Found, an adaptation of the novel The Tale of the 1002nd Night. Mandy Patinkin is rumored to be under consideration as the Shah’s eunich.
John Cullum (Urinetown), Brandon Victor Dixon (The Color Purple) and Colman Domingo (Passing Strange) will star in an invitation-only reading of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s The Scottsboro Boys directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman (The Producers).
With music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb (Cabaret, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman), a book by David Thompson, and musical direction is by David Loud, the musical “explores the famous Scottsboro case of the 1930’s — in which a group of young African American teenagers were unjustly accused of attacking two women — and their attempt to prove their innocence.”
Cullum, Dixon and Domingo lead a reading cast that also includes Josh Breckenridge, Jared Grimes, Malik Hammond, Jared Joseph, James Lane, JC Montgomery, Brenda Pressley, Christian White, and Dashaun Young.
The musical will be presented June 26th at 3PM at the Vineyard Theater.