Promises, Promises opened on Broadway to some mixed reviews. It’s not the worst thing to hit the Great White Way this month, but the show feels listless, measured, dated and a little boring. Critics applaud Sean Hayes’ timing and a standout performance by Katie Finneran, but feel that Kristin Chenoweth is miscast, the choreography uninspired and the set inappropriate. Though no one was expecting a Burt Bacharach/Neil Simon revival to blow the top off of Broadway, critics were disappointed that Rob Ashford didn’t create something a little more exciting and cohesive from the source material and talent on hand.
The New York Times
Even that singing sparkplug Kristin Chenoweth, who stars opposite a charming Sean Hayes in his Broadway debut, seems to feel the prevailing lassitude. Promises, Promises, which features a book by Neil Simon and songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, comes fully to life only briefly, at the beginning of its second act, when a comic volcano named Katie Finneran erupts into molten hilarity. Otherwise the white-hot charms this musical is said to have once possessed are left sleeping. Read the full review.
Most of today’s audience, admittedly, is unfamiliar with the show and won’t carp at the changes. But they might well notice that something is off; “Promises” is like a well-calibrated watch that has been pulled apart and reassembled with a spring missing (or in this case, with a couple of extra parts) … Director / choreographer Rob Ashford is less resourceful than usual and only intermittently effective; his big idea here seems to be to add dancers doing the frug in the background. It is not Ashford’s fault that Michael Bennett’s original staging of “Turkey Lurkey Time,” the big first-act production number, is easily viewable on the Internet; but it is that energy and humor that is altogether missing from the current staging. Neither is the physical production especially helpful. Read the full review.
New York Post
Indeed, the “Will & Grace” star is a revelation. Chuck is a paradox — a self-effacing lead — but the actor handles the transitions between the character’s passive bearing and his active imagination with dexterity. Hayes, Chenoweth and the excellent supporting cast — including Dick Latessa — benefit from Ashford’s direction: The staging of pop songs has rarely been as sharp as it is in this show. On the other hand, Ashford underwhelms as choreographer, which is odd considering the bang-up dances he created for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Cry-Baby.” The biggest letdown is “Turkey Lurkey Time,” an ensemble number with a single purpose: to kill. Here, it delivers only a flesh wound. But this isn’t enough to spoil the fun. “Promises, Promises” is a candy-flavored ride that more than delivers on its title. Read the full review.
For this story to work, both Chuck and Fran must be young and dewy-eyed, just like the movie’s radiant Shirley MacLaine (25 at the time) and charmingly vulnerable Jack Lemmon (34 but seeming years younger). If the characters are older and thus more experienced, their actions become off-putting. Neither Hayes nor Chenoweth can conjure such youth believably … Rob Ashford’s direction prizes yuks over truth, symbolized by a period chair in Sheldrake’s office that exists solely for a visual joke requiring utterly unbelievable behavior from Sheldrake, while Ashford’s busy choreography can’t erase memories of Michael Bennett’s delightfully simple “She Likes Basketball” or orgiastic “Turkey Lurkey Time.” Set designer Scott Pask imprisons the show in a wraparound cyclorama reminiscent of the Berlin Wall. Read the full review.
For much of the time, the production, which opened Sunday, coasts amiably on the considerable appeal of its leading man, Sean Hayes, who is making an impressive Broadway debut … Chenoweth naturally exudes peppiness, a sunny quality that for much of the time has to remain hidden here under Fran’s morose, other-woman persona. Yet she and Hayes score in a quietly effective rendition of “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” the best-known of the songs written specifically for the musical. Ashford’s choreography is efficient if not exactly joyous, even for the show’s biggest dance number, “Turkey Lurkey Time,” a frantic Christmas office party revelry. Read the full review.
Time Out New York
The endearing Hayes excels at his nebbishy physical comedy and zany confidences with the audience, but still seems nervous in the wrong ways when he sings. More problematic is the talented but miscast Chenoweth, who tries to work against her patented micro-Valkyrie persona but remains too strong and mature for Fran. Two famous songs—“I Say a Little Prayer” and “A House Is Not a Home”—have been added for her; although the second one actively contradicts the plot, in a way it is this production’s theme song. Read the full review.
Under Ashford’s hand, what should be machine-oil slick comes dangerously close to sleazy, what ought to be buoyant often feels bloated, and more often than not craft bears more than a passing resemblance to cruft … This is a serious-minded musical comedy, then, that requires everyone work in the same high rise. Ashford’s uneven work with the actors, all-over-the-map choreography, and uncertainty about whether the show should be one- or three-dimensional keep the doors firmly locked. The same indecision can be seen in Scott Pask’s set, which sometimes look like a Laugh In leftover and at other times like it belongs in, well, any other Neil Simon play; Bruce Pask’s costumes also alternate rockily between subdued and zany. Only Donald Holder’s lights paint a consistent picture throughout. Read the full review.