NEWSDAY A TALE OF TWO CITIES REVIEW
"Two Cities" musical is not the best, nor the worst
by Linda Winer
A Tale of Two Cities" is a middling Masterpiece Musical, a paint-by-numbers throwback to the late - and, in this corner, unlamented - heyday of novelized epics on turntables. It has lots of nice period costumes and good actors singing their lungs inside out on material that all sounds the same.
The adaptation, music and lyrics, on Broadway after a success in Sarasota, Fla., are all by Jill Santoriello, who proudly describes herself in the program as self-taught and who obviously studied "Les Misérables." The big production has been directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, in his Broadway debut.
Does Broadway need such a show? How desperate is the underserved pop-operetta audience since the latest revival of "Les Miz?" The results, especially considering the relative inexperience of the creators, are surprisingly solid. The show is less bombastic than some examples of the musical-potboiler genre, less foolish than some others. If this sounds like a recommendation, you know whom you are.
The newcomers have been surrounded by an experienced design team - including Tony Walton, who smartly moves the Charles Dickens story through what seem like hundreds of different realistic and abstract locations throughout Paris and London.
And that's just before intermission. Although the show is hardly short, it fast-forwards through the many short scenes in the overpopulated plot as if being speed-read. The generic songs, especially in the long, yet hurried, first act, seem truncated, as if they began and ended at their last stanzas, which make the musical climaxes feel unearned.
The cast is never less than passionately earnest. James Barbour is consider- ably more than that as Sydney Carton, the dissolute English attorney who learns selflessness through love of Lucie (Brandi Burkhardt), who marries the noble French aristocrat (Aaron Lazar).
Barbour has a silky, sulky reptilian charisma and a voice that, for all the monotony of the crooning style, has remarkable range and color. Natalie Toro, as Madame Defarge, the revolutionary who knits, has a pungent Brechtian edge.
Vapid songs drone on about how fine life would be "if dreams came true." Two of the big faceless numbers, significantly, are titled "I Can't Recall" and "Out of Sight, Out of Mind." And so's the show.
Sign up to get email updates of Broadway and Off-Broadway reviews from DidHeLikeIt.com. You can be the first to find out if He liked it!