BROADWAY REVIEWS

BROADWAY REVIEW: Waitress

April 24, 2016: “Sugar. Butter. Flour.” The words are crooned like a lullaby intermittently throughout the musical “Waitress,” bringing a warm blanket of comfort to the troubled central character, stuck in an unhappy marriage and essentially working two jobs, baking pies for the diner where she also puts on an apron to wait tables. In Jessie Mueller, who plays Jenna, that hard-working waitress, this agreeable if unexceptional musical, which opened on Sunday at the Brooks Atkinson Theater, has the kind of vital ingredient any show would benefit from. Ms. Mueller, who won a Tony for her performance in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” possesses a rich, soulful and emotionally translucent voice, and an ability to bring heaping cupfuls of subtext to her acting. But as with the unremarkable jukebox musical that brought her Broadway stardom, Ms. Mueller’s talent often outstrips the material she’s given here. So, incidentally, do the gifts of her supporting cast, who provide brightly colored, vibrantly sung performances. Much of the score, by the pop singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, is appealing, drawing on the sounds of country music reflecting the Southern setting, but also containing more traditional Broadway-pop balladry. But the book by Jessie Nelson, based on the movie written and directed by (and co-starring) Adrienne Shelly, tends to flatten most of the characters into comic cartoons. (To be fair, they do not have much more depth in the movie, from which some of the musical’s dialogue is borrowed.)

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Hamilton

August 6, 2015: Yes, it really is that good. At this point, it would be almost a relief to report that “Hamilton” — the musical that opened at the Richard Rodgers Theater on Thursday night — has shrunk beneath the bloat of its hype. Since it was first staged at the Public Theater this year, this brave new show about America’s founding fathers has been given the kind of worshipful press usually reserved for the appearances of once-in-a-lifetime comets or the births of little royal celebrities. During the past several months, while it was being pumped up and trimmed down for its move from the East Village to Broadway, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rap-driven portrait of the rise and fall of Alexander Hamilton (this country’s first secretary of the Treasury) has been the stuff of encomiums in both fashion magazines and op-ed columns. A friend of mine recently said that there were three subjects she never wanted to see in a newspaper again: Caitlyn Jenner, the Harper Lee novel “Go Set a Watchman” and “Hamilton.”

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Aladdin

March 20, 2014: If a genie had sprung from my teakettle last week and offered to grant me three wishes, I might impulsively have asked to be spared any more children’s musicals. Since a certain blockbuster feline arrived well over a decade ago, Broadway has been lapped by wave after wave of big, often gloppy songfests adapted from animated movies, mostly from the mother ship, Disney. So the prospect of Aladdin, promising another weary night in the presence of a spunky youngster and wisecracking animals, didn’t exactly set my heart racing. But this latest musical adapted from one of Disney’s popular movies, which opened on Thursday night at the New Amsterdam Theater, defied my dour expectations. As directed and choreographed (and choreographed, and choreographed) by Casey Nicholaw, and adapted by the book writer Chad Beguelin, Aladdin has an infectious and only mildly syrupy spirit. Not to mention enough baubles, bangles and beading to keep a whole season of RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants in runway attire.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

January 12, 2014: For purposes of transparency in advertising, “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” should probably be titled “Brooklyn Girl.” This renaming would allow theatergoers to know exactly what to expect of the friendly, formulaic bio-musical that opened on Sunday night at the Stephen Sondheim Theater, starring an immensely likable Jessie Mueller.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: The Book of Mormon

March 24, 2011: This is to all the doubters and deniers out there, the ones who say that heaven on Broadway does not exist, that it’s only some myth our ancestors dreamed up. I am here to report that a newborn, old-fashioned, pleasure-giving musical has arrived at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, the kind our grandparents told us left them walking on air if not on water. So hie thee hence, nonbelievers (and believers too), to “The Book of Mormon,” and feast upon its sweetness.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Phantom Of The Opera

July 1, 2005: The paint on the balconies of the Majestic Theater looks chipped and the electronic drum machine sounds like something left over from a music video from the 1980’s. But “The Phantom of the Opera” really shows its age (17 years and running) when the signature special effect is presented. Musicals have opened and closed in the time it takes that chandelier to lumber to the floor. Looking like one of Ed Wood’s teetering flying saucers, it crashes to the stage with the force of a shopping cart, the biggest, most extravagant anticlimax in town.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Wicked

October 31, 2003: SHE'S flying! She's actually flying!

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BROADWAY REVIEW: The Lion King

November 14, 1997:

Suddenly, you're 4 years old again, and you've been taken to the circus for the first time. You can only marvel at the exotic procession of animals before you: the giraffes and the elephants and the hippopotamuses and all those birds in balletic flight. Moreover, these are not the weary-looking beasts in plumes and spangles that usually plod their way through urban circuses but what might be described as their Platonic equivalents, creatures of air and light and even a touch of divinity. Where are you, really, anyway? The location is supposed to be a theater on 42d Street, a thoroughfare that has never been thought of as a gateway to Eden. Yet somehow you have fallen into what appears to be a primal paradise. And even the exquisitely restored New Amsterdam Theater, a former Ziegfeld palace, disappears before the spectacle within it.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Chicago

November 15, 1996: WHO would have thought there could be such bliss in being played for a patsy?

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BROADWAY REVIEW: My Fair Lady

January 1, 1970: Poor Eliza. It’s not enough that her own father sells her for five pounds to the bully phonetician Henry Higgins. Or that Higgins strips her of her ragged clothes and Cockney accent so she can become a refined if useless lady. No, the former flower girl is also a failure of feminism, if recent criticism is to be believed. Don’t believe it. The plush and thrilling Lincoln Center Theater revival of Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady” that opened on Thursday at the Vivian Beaumont Theater reveals Eliza Doolittle as a hero instead of a puppet — and reveals the musical, despite its provenance and male authorship, as an ur-text of the #MeToo moment. Indeed, that moment has made “My Fair Lady,” which had its Broadway premiere in 1956, better than it ever was.

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