Fall/Winter 2017 on Broadway

David Zinn’s fabulous set and costumes for SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS.

Dear Readers,

Since my last review, I have been withholding; I saw six shows. Why didn’t I write reviews of these shows? Because they were one and all utterly uninspiring. None was so bad as to receive a pithy reproach. Equally, none inspired glee. So here is my short catch-up on this lackluster season to date:

LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONSJohn Leguizamo’s entertaining one-man show includes a short political diatribe which is to be expected considering the “Wall” etc. Not quite the insightful, thrilling journeys we’ve gone through with him in the past, but amusing enough.

METEOR SHOWER – I expected so much more from the author of SHOPGIRL and BRIGHT STAR, this slight play reads like a college exercise in surrealism, but damn, that is a “grade A” cast of comedians and I laughed A LOT during the first 2/3rds.

ONCE ON THIS ISLAND – I’m not one for folk tales about women sacrificing for love. Don’t you think we’ve had enough of that? This show has some great music, some great dancing, but comes off like an overstuffed Disney Caribbean Princess story.

THE PARISIAN WOMAN – Bland show with a bland leading actress. Politics-lite.

SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS – If you know the cartoon, you will love this show. The characters are absolutely spot-on, David Zinn‘s set & costumes are eye-popping. The story is a jumble of unresolved plots and the songs are a jukebox mess.

FARINELLI AND THE KINGMark Rylance is always enthralling on stage, and the castrati-style vocalist supported by original instruments (and no sound system) are stunning. Unfortunately, the play is slight and drags.

So what’s the take away from this mediocre start of the 2017-2018 season? Producers are mostly back-ending the shows to the spring, closer to the TONYS, but once the theaters are all full, there may be a traffic jam and it’s usually the interesting straight plays that lose out when that happens.

I’ll be reporting from LA for the next few months. Stay warm.

THE HONEYMOONERS at Paper Mill Playhouse

The Honeymooners at Paper Mill Playhouse; Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade; from left to right: Leslie Kritzer (Alice), Laura Bell Bundy (Trixie), Michael Mastro (Norton) and Michael McGrath (Ralph)

**1/2

I wanted to like THE HONEYMOONERS, A New Musical Comedy. It has great characters played by great actors; just look at that cast! But what book writers Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss don’t know about the construction of a musical is stupefying. In the first act alone there are two big “let’s celebrate” numbers that are totally unearned. What the hell are they celebrating? All of the comedic “bits” from the original show are here, but they trot them out for display, rather than use them to any effect. The outcome is a string of TV sitcom episodes pasted together with songs thrown in to try to make a musical.

The second act is marginally satisfying, but the music is forgettable and the lyrics are clumsy. If you want to watch “The Honeymooners,” I would suggest YouTube. There are plenty of old episodes there for free. And let’s hope that the next projects for Michael McGrath, Leslie Kritzer, Laura Bell Bundy and Michael Mastro will be worthy of their estimable talents.

Show Site & Info

Show Clip

COME FROM AWAY

****1/2

First, let me put your mind at ease; although this musical takes place on 9/11/01 and the days following, this is NOT a musical about painful memories. It IS a joyous, good-will musical about 9,000 stoic, weather-beaten north islanders defrosting their hearts and opening their homes to give 7,000 displaced people accommodations and hospitality for a few days, and changing their lives in the process. This is the definition of a feel-good musical.

The music ranges from Celtic to pop show tunes. The stories are interesting and honest. The cast of 12 (not a chorus boy among them) play multiple roles as townsfolk and their stranded guests. Plus, it’s always a pleasure to see Jenn Colella and Chad Kimball perform. The Book, Music and Lyrics for COME FROM AWAY are by the husband & wife writing team Irene Sankoff and David Hein, based on their own experience and interviews. (See if you can spot their on-stage doppelgangers.)

This show had MANY out-of-town performances leading up to the Broadway run and it pays off with clockwork precision both in the delivery of the lines and songs. Under Christopher Ashley‘s direction, this cast knows what works and exactly how to milk it.

Clips from the Show

Show Info

Show Site