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Archive for Tom Kitt

The Reviews for IF/THEN are In…


The reviews for If/Then are officially out — if you like Idina Menzel, then you’ll probably like this.  On the whole, though, the critics are fussy about this new musical.  Some say the plot is too simple, maybe even unoriginal, while the message is muddy and unclear.  It seems the critics just expect more from writers Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey and director Michael Greif, the team behind the emotional powerhouse musical Next to Normal.  The critics also expect a lot from Idina Menzel, and she, fortunately, does not disappoint.  Menzel’s performance of the central role is the highlight of the production.  The critics seem to want to like If/Then for being an original musical in a sea of remounts and adaptations, but it just doesn’t seem to satisfy.  Head to the Richard Rodgers Theater if you’re looking for a night of star power with your favorite girl from Wicked, but maybe skip this one if that’s not your thing.


“New York City has never looked cleaner than it does in If/Then, the gleaming drawing board of a musical that opened on Sunday night at the Richard Rodgers Theater, starring the shiny-voiced Idina Menzel. Actually, to find any urban environment that is this spick and span, you’d need to look back to the 1970s, when Mary Tyler Moore conquered Minneapolis on television. The nearest contemporary equivalents are those commercials in which peppy young things go dancing in the streets to trumpet the virtues of cars and colas. But even they — and If/Then does bear a passing resemblance to such ads — lack the antiseptic sheen of this production, written by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, with direction by Michael Greif, the team that gave us the four-handkerchief triumph Next to Normal several years ago. Every surface here appears to have been so thoroughly polished that you could not just eat off the sidewalks but see your own reflection in them, if you so chose.”

Read the Full Review


“If you’re buying a ticket to the new musical “If/Then,” which has just opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, then chances are you’re doing so to see the wickedly talented Idina Menzel. The 42-year-old Tony-winner’s career has been on an upswing lately, fueled by her powerhouse vocal performance in Disney’s animated blockbuster “Frozen” and her Oscar-winning, chart-topping hit “Let It Go.” Audiences looking for their Menzel-fix in “If/Then” won’t be disappointed; she spends almost all of the two and a half-hour show onstage. But the show’s muddled plot might leave you wondering what the new musical, from the creators of “Next to Normal,” is trying to say.”

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“There is—there can only be—one Idina Menzel. She of the armor-piercing vibrato and earworming ratio of nasal to breathy. The Wicked power belter—inviting and untouchable—is what every little girl and boy glued to Glee wants to be when they grow up, and even if she only gigs on the Great White Way every 6.3 years (on average), she’s still the multiplatform avatar of the Broadway star. They broke the mold with Menzel, which is why the idea of her playing two versions of herself in If/Then intrigues. She portrays a single woman whose forking life-paths are presented in alternating scenes. In If/Then’s conceit (also used in Sliding Doors), Elizabeth (Menzel) gets split into Liz, who pursues love at the expense of a career, and Beth, who lands the fancy job but misses romance.”

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“Can a 40ish American woman really have it all? If you’re Idina Menzel, you can get a hit movie, viral fame as Adele Nazeem, and a meaty role in the new Broadway musical If/Then complete with a soaring 11 o’clock number aimed squarely at your in-leaning target audience. But you’re also the appealing heart of an overly cluttered story, by writer-lyricist Brian Yorkey, that gives more than a passing nod to the 1998 movie Sliding Doors. Menzel’s middle-aged divorcée moves to New York City and explores two separate life paths: In one, she’s Beth and scores a dream job as a city planner but has unfulfilling flings with her married boss (Jerry Dixon) and her nominally bisexual pal (Anthony Rapp). In the other, she’s Liz and settles for a blah teaching job but lands a hunky doctor (James Snyder) who’s more golden retriever than man. (His first-act solo, ”You Never Know,” is a take-a-chance-on-me ode to neutered self-deprecation.)”

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“As one of the few new musicals not based on a familiar film or pop song catalog (or anything else for that matter), If/Then certainly is a breath of fresh air. And despite nagging issues with its overall concept and divided story lines, it is a smart, romantic piece with a well-crafted soft rock score and great performances all around. It also functions as a dynamic and demanding star vehicle for Idina Menzel (aka Adele Dazeem), who is joined by many other strong musical theater performers including Anthony Rapp (Menzel’s Rent co-star), LaChanze, James Snyder and Jenn Colella.”

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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


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


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


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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Next to Normal wins the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

Next to Normal has officially won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, lauded by the jury for “expand[ing] the scope of subject matter for musicals.”

The musical joins the ranks of Of Thee I Sing, South Pacific, Fiorello, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Chorus Line, Sunday in the Park with George and Rent as one of the few musicals to earn the esteemed award.

Nominated finalists in the category were the plays The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo by Rajiv Joseph and In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play, but “after a three-fourths vote, the prize went to a musical that had not been nominated by the jury.”

Exciting stuff, no? Congrats to Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey!

Cast for the Broadway Mounting of Green Day’s American Idiot Will Include John Gallagher Jr., Stark Sands and Michael Esper

Producers just announced that John Gallagher Jr. (Spring Awakening), Stark Sands and Michael Esper will star in Broadway’s American Idiot, the new Green Day musical opening April 20 at the St. James Theatre.

Director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening) co-wrote the book with Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong. Music and lyrics are all by Green Day, with songs taken from their albums “American Idiot” and “21st Century Breakdown.”

The other creative team members include two-time Tony Award-winning composer and orchestrator Tom Kitt (Next to Normal), Olivier Award-winning choreographer Steven Hoggett, Tony nominated scenic designer Christine Jones (Spring Awakening), costume designer Andrea Lauer, two-time Tony Award-winning lighting designer Kevin Adams (Hair), Obie Award-winning sound designer Brian Ronan (Cabaret), video designer Darrel Maloney and music director Carmel Dean.

Gallagher Jr., Sands and Esper are joined by Rebecca Naomi Jones (Passing Strange), Christina Sajous (The Wild Party), Mary Faber (Avenue Q) and Tony Vincent (Jesus Christ Superstar) as well as an ensemble that includes: Declan Bennett (Rent), Andrew Call (Cry-Baby), Gerard Canonico (Spring Awakening), Miguel Cervantes (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Joshua Henry (In the Heights), Van Hughes (Hairspray), Brian Charles Johnson (Spring Awakening), Joshua Kobak (Rent), Lorin Latarro (Movin’ Out), Omar Lopez-Cepero, Leslie McDonel (Hairspray), Chase Peacock, Theo Stockman (Hair), Ben Thompson, Alysha Umphress, Aspen Vincent and Libby Winters.

The cast will be appearing with Green Day at the Grammy Awards, singing “21 Guns.” (The Grammys will air on CBS on Jan 31 at 8-11:30 PM).

Can’t wait for this one to hit the Great White Way! Apparently, it’s turning musical theater on its head.

Another movie being adapted for the stage – Bring it On: The Musical

Bring it On: The Musical is an adaptation of the smash Hollywood film of the same name. With direction/choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler (In the Heights, 9 to 5, The Apple Tree), a book by Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), music by Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) and Tom Kitt (Next to Normal, 13, High Fidelity), lyrics by Amanda Green (High Fidelity) and orchestrations/arrangement/music supervision by Alex Lacamoire (In the Heights, Wicked), I don’t see how this could possibly fail.

The show is looking to mount a regional production in 2011, followed by a national tour. Though no Broadway production has been mentioned, with these names on board, I’d be very surprised if this show didn’t eventually make it to the Great White Way.

Michael Mayer to Direct and Tom Kitt to Arrange Green Day’s American Idiot for the Stage

Okay, okay so they may not have announced plans to take the show to Broadway just yet, but I just have to share this one:

Berkley Repertory Theatre is premiering a stage adaptation of Green Day’s Grammy-winning multi-platinum album American Idiot. Yes – album concept to stage a la The Who’s Tommy. I personally adore this album and think it has the right tone for a musical, but who am I? Some blogger. True, it could fall on its face, but you might not think that when you hear who’s involved:

Tony Award-winner Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, Thoroughly Modern Millie, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Triumph of Love) will direct. Tony Award-winning orchestrator and composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal, 13, High Fidelity) will be arranging, orchestrating and music supervising. Others on the creative time include Olivier Award-winning choreographer Steven Hoggett, Tony nominee Christine Jones (sets), two-time Tony winner Kevin Adams (lights), Baryshnikov fellow Andrea Lauer (costumes) and Obie Award winner Brian Ronan (sound). And it’s being co-produced by the people who brought Spring Awakening to Broadway. I’m jumping up and down and they haven’t even announced the cast yet!

I broke my own rule of only talking Broadway musicals to share this with you. Here’s hoping they don’t make a complete lier of me and actually take this one to Broadway!

EDITED 8/3/09

It just keeps getting better!

They just announced the cast for the Berkley Rep’s American Idiot and it’s just as fabulous as the creative team: John Gallagher Jr. (Spring Awakening), Matt Caplan (Rent, South Pacific), Michael Esper (A Man for All Seasons), Mary Faber (Avenue Q), Rebecca Naomi Jones, Christina Sajous and Tony Vincent! (Jesus Christ Superstar).

The rest of the ensemble includes Declan Bennet (Rent, London’s Taboo), Andrew Call (Cry-Baby, Glory Days, High Fidelity), Gerard Canonico (Spring Awakening), Miguel Cervantes (Happiness), Joshua Henry (In the Heights), Brian Charles Johnson (Spring Awakening), Chase Peacock, Theo Stockman (Hair), Ben Thompson, Alysha Umphress, Morgan Weed and Libby Winters.

May need to make a trip to SF to see this show…

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Tom Kitt Wins Dramatists Guide Award for his Next to Normal Score

The Dramatists Guild of America announced Tom Kitt as the recipient of this year’s Frederick Loewe Award for Dramatic Composition for his score for Next to Normal.

Have you bought the CD or seen the show yet? You really should – it’s amazing.

The other Dramatists Guild Award recipients for this year are David Ives, Polly Pen and Lanford Wilson.


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