NY1 A TALE OF TWO CITIES REVIEW
NY1 Theater Review: “A Tale Of Two Cities”
By Roma Torre
The similarities between the new musical “A Tale of Two Cities” and "Les Miserables" are unmistakable. From the moment the first chords are struck, you may get the sense you've heard it all before.
Both shows are set in and around France during roughly the same period, the French Revolution. The storytelling, the music, the direction, even the orchestrations are just too derivative not to beg comparisons, and guess which one comes out on top?
It's not that “A Tale of Two Cities” is bad. There's much talent and charm to recommend it. And perhaps if “Les Miz” hadn't come first, we might have found “Tale” original at least. But there's clearly an effort to clone the success of the acclaimed decades-old blockbuster musical. And that does a disservice to everyone involved in the current show because they mostly pale by comparison.
Like “Les Miz,” “Tale” is staged fluidly with 1980s-style bombast. The rousing first act’s closing numbers matched up, along with the climactic shootout between the downtrodden working classes and the ruling elite.
Both stories focus on a loving, unjustly imprisoned father, his saintly daughter and her noble suitor. There's a number that even recalls "Master of the House" from “Les Miz,” featuring the very same actor who played the comically villainous Thenardier on Broadway for years.
The composer and book writer, Jill Santoriello, clearly took her inspiration from “Les Miz” with a heavy dose of full-throated ballads and contrapuntal themes but they range from pleasant at best to utterly grating at worst. They also lack Boublil and Schonberg's mastery of the melody.
Dickens’s story of a drunken profligate named Sydney Carton who's redeemed by a good woman is engaging, if not entirely engrossing as it unfolds in highly-abridged fashion. The show's best asset is James Barbour, a charismatic actor with a booming baritone that rocks the rafters. He's matched in voice by lovely newcomer Brandi Burkhardt as Lucie Manette. Gregg Edelman, another “Les Miz” alum, stands out as the goodly Dr. Manette.
Designed to be a crowd pleaser, there's no denying “A Tale of Two Cities” succeeds to a degree. While it’s not “the best of times” in a theater, it is certainly not “the worst of times.” But “Les Miz” has already been there, done that and done that much better.
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