BROADWAY REVIEWS

BROADWAY REVIEW: My Name is Lucy Barton

January 15, 2020: The title character of “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” Rona Munro’s crystalline stage adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s 2016 novel, is hardly a woman of mystery. On the contrary, as embodied with middle-American forthrightness by a perfectly cast Laura Linney, in the production that opened Wednesday at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, Lucy may be the most translucent figure now on a New York stage.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Jagged Little Pill

December 5, 2019: The great news for “Jagged Little Pill,” and for us, is that its creative team, led by the director Diane Paulus, did more than just fiddle with a show that, though blurry, was already entertaining. The overhauled version that opened on Thursday at the Broadhurst Theater is fully in focus: clear in its priorities, rich in character, sincere without syrup, rousing and real. It easily clears the low bar of jukebox success to stand alongside the dark original musicals that have been sustaining the best hopes of Broadway in recent years.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: The Inheritance

November 17, 2019: Ambition and achievement are not entirely commensurate in “The Inheritance.” Its breadth doesn’t always translate into depth. As fine as the acting is throughout — and quietly brilliant when the extraordinary veteran Lois Smith takes the stage, toward the very end, as the show’s sole female character — none of the characters here have the textured completeness of those created by Forster and Kushner. Ultimately, the play twists itself into ungainly pretzels as it tries to join all the thematic dots on its immense canvas. Yet even by the end of the overwrought second half of “The Inheritance,” you’re likely to feel the abiding, welcome buzz of energy that comes from an unflagging will to question, to create, to contextualize, to — oh, why not? — only connect.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: TINA, The Tina Turner Musical

November 7, 2019: Tina Turner gets the bio-jukebox treatment, with all its lows (emaciated storytelling) and one of its peaks (a star-making performance from Adrienne Warren). It’s a good tale, in theory, cut to the pattern of classic drama. Two elemental forces — hurricane-voiced Anna Mae Bullock and typhoon-tempered Ike Turner — are pitted in a struggle that nearly destroys both. But while Ike, for his sins, winds up a pariah and eventually dies of an overdose, Anna, rechristened Tina by her Svengali-like husband, rises from the depths, to greater glory solo than she ever achieved under his boot. More important, as far as pure entertainment is concerned, this story comes with songs that can thrill an audience when rendered as Turner sang them; at this, the musical “Tina,” directed by Phyllida Lloyd, happily succeeds. In a performance that is part possession, part workout and part wig, Adrienne Warren rocks the rafters and dissolves your doubts about anyone daring to step into the diva’s high heels. But what I’ve just described is a rock concert — which is what “Tina” essentially turns into. It’s a blast if that’s what you came for. If you meant to see a true union of song and story, though, you won’t get it here.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: American Utopia

October 20, 2019: Won’t you be his neighbor? David Byrne doesn’t actually make that request in “American Utopia,” his cloud-sweeping upper of a touring show, which opened on Broadway at the Hudson Theater on Sunday. Yet when the silvery, gray-suited pop star poses another musical question — “Will you breathe with me?” — you may find yourself thinking of the theme song of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” I’m not the first person to note similarities between Fred Rogers — the cardigan-wearing children’s television host (and the subject of a new Tom Hanks movie) — and Byrne, the New Wave musician who writhed into the spotlight performing “Psycho Killer” in the 1970s. But as I watched “American Utopia,” the comparison felt especially apt.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Moulin Rouge! The Musical

July 25, 2019: This one’s for the hedonists. All you party people should know that the Al Hirschfeld Theater has been refurbished as an opulent pleasure palace, wherein decadence comes without hangovers. That’s where the euphoric “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” opened on Thursday night in a shower of fireworks, confetti and glittering fragments of what feels like every pop hit ever written. Inspired by the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film and directed with wicked savvy by Alex Timbers, this “Moulin Rouge” is a cloud-surfing, natural high of a production. It has side effects, for sure, including the vertigo that comes from having your remembrance of songs past tickled silly and the temporary blockage of any allergies to jukebox musicals. But for its plump, sleek two-and-a-half hours of stage time, “Moulin Rouge” — which stars a knockout Karen Olivo, with Aaron Tveit and Danny Burstein doing their best Broadway work to date — has the febrile energy you may associate with the wilder parties of your youth, when gaudy nights seemed to stretch into infinity.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Beetlejuice

April 25, 2019: The dead lead lives of noisy desperation in “Beetlejuice,” the absolutely exhausting new musical that opened on Thursday at the Winter Garden Theater. This frantic adaptation of Tim Burton’s much-loved 1988 film is sure to dishearten those who like to think of the afterlife as one unending, undisturbed sleep. Because as directed by a feverishly inventive Alex Timbers, and starring Alex Brightman as the manic ghoul of the title, this production proposes that not being alive just means that you have to try harder — a whole lot harder — than you ever did before. Otherwise, you’ll wind up invisible, with nary a soul to acknowledge your starry self. And in today’s world of chronic self-advertising, this may be the true fate worse than death.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Hadestown

April 17, 2019: All your favorite Greeks are heading somewhere in “Hadestown,” the sumptuous, hypnotic and somewhat hyperactive musical that opened on Wednesday night after its own twisty 13-year road to Broadway. Eurydice descends to the underworld; Orpheus follows to retrieve her. Persephone spends six months aboveground living the good life of summer and song before returning for six months below with Hades. (He’s her husband.) Hermes, of course, has wings on his feet. And the Fates (at least in this version) are always darting about, minding everyone’s business. But watching “Hadestown” unfold so gorgeously at the Walter Kerr Theater, I found myself thinking of other Greek characters: those lucky few saved from heartbreak by radical metamorphoses.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations

March 21, 2019: While honoring all the expected biomusical clichés, which include rolling out its subjects’ greatest hits in brisk and sometimes too fragmented succession, this production refreshingly emphasizes the improbable triumph of rough, combustible parts assembled into glistening smoothness.

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BROADWAY REVIEW: To Kill a Mockingbird

December 13, 2018: As this is a trial, let’s have a verdict: “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which opened at the Shubert Theater on Thursday, is not guilty. Evidence shows that it does not deface the Harper Lee novel on which it is based, as the Lee estate at one point contended. And far from devaluing the property as a moneymaking machine, it has created an honorable stream of income that should pour into the estate’s coffers for years to come. But as any reader of the novel knows, to say something is not guilty is not the same as saying it’s innocent. And this adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” — written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Bartlett Sher and starring Jeff Daniels — is hardly innocent. How could it be? Every ounce of glossy know-how available at the highest echelons of the commercial theater has been applied to ensure its success, both on Lee’s terms and on what it supposes are ours.

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