The Band Wagon OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Sara Krulwich
  • NY TIMES

  • NY POST

  • VULTURE

  • DAILY NEWS

  • HR

Opening Night:
November 6, 2014
Closing:
November 16, 2014

Theater: New York City Center / 130 West 55th Street, New York, NY, 10019

Synopsis: 

Based on the 1953 MGM film, The Band Wagon is the classic showbiz tale of a washed-up Hollywood star (Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell) who attempts to make a comeback by doing a Broadway show, and encounters an assortment of colorful characters: a British director who is a genius but has no business directing a musical (Tony Award nominee Tony Sheldon), a leading lady who's never done a show before (Tony Award nominee Laura Osnes), and a composer and a lyricist who are at each other’s throats (Academy Award nominee Michael McKean and seven-time Emmy Award winner Tracey Ullman). All things that could never happen in the New York theater today. Written by Broadway's ultimate insiders, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the 1953 film told its story through Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz’s wonderful songs, including “Dancing in the Dark,” “By Myself,” “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan,” and that great anthem for all of show business, “That's Entertainment." Now five-time Tony nominee Douglas Carter Beane will use the original Comden and Green screenplay (including scenes never filmed) as a basis for this Encores! Special Event, which will be directed by three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF The Band Wagon

    Show Within a Show, Within a Memory

    Ben Brantley

    November 9, 2014: An urgent request to the helium suppliers of New York: Can you please deliver as many canisters of the stuff as you can spare to City Center, posthaste? There’s a big, bright balloon of a show there that just won’t inflate. Even hot air would be welcome, in a pinch. The Band Wagon, which opened on Sunday as an Encores! Special Event that runs through next weekend, looks as if it could be a lark if it could ever get itself airborne. As it is, this adaptation of the beloved 1953 MGM movie musical lies on the stage like a peppy old friend who has been mysteriously felled by depression. “Come on,” you might say to such a friend. “Pull yourself together. You’ve got so much going for you.” And I imagine many of the talented people involved in the production, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, keep saying something similar to one another. Yet this Band Wagon, a troubled musical about a musical in trouble, only rarely shakes off its torpor. It’s not for want of exertion, or for promising and essential ingredients like a rousing vintage score (by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz), a charismatic star (in the person of Brian Stokes Mitchell) and a supporting cast packed with pros polished and quirky (including Laura Osnes, Tony Sheldon, Tracey Ullman and Michael McKean).

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  • NEW YORK POST REVIEW OF The Band Wagon

    It’s short on strutting, but ‘The Band Wagon’ has got legs

    Elisabeth Vincentelli

    November 9, 2014: Noises about a Broadway transfer were buzzing around before the Encores! production of The Band Wagon even opened. The show that just bowed at City Center is a hoot, but it also has a big conceptual problem. Though it’s loosely based on a 1930s revue, The Band Wagon is famous as a 1953 MGM extravaganza featuring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse as washed-out hoofer Tony Hunter and ballerina Gabrielle Gerard. With those stars and characters, you’d be right to assume the backstage romantic comedy features a lot of dancing — fabulously choreographed numbers like “Dancing in the Dark” and “Shine on Your Shoes” rightly belong in Hollywood’s hall of fame. Why director Kathleen Marshall (Anything Goes) decided to cast Brian Stokes Mitchell and Laura Osnes in these roles is a mystery. After all, the two are peerless vocalists but aren’t particularly known for slinky moves. And so Tony and Gabrielle now bond through song rather than dance in the new adaptation by Douglas Carter Beane (Cinderella, Sister Act). It’s a little frustrating, to be sure, that their big love duet might as well be retitled “Singing in the Dark.”

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  • VULTURE REVIEW OF The Band Wagon

    At Encores!, The Band Wagon Searches for Its Fred Astaire

    Jesse Green

    November 9, 2014: The Band Wagon has been a lot of things. First, it was a groundbreaking musical revue, with sketches by George S. Kaufman and songs by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, including the classic “Dancing in the Dark.” Starring Fred and Adele Astaire and a newfangled double turntable, it debuted on Broadway in 1931, near the end of the line for the genre. Two decades later, The Band Wagon became one of the great MGM musicals, directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Astaire again, with Cyd Charisse. The movie grafted a few of the show’s songs, and many others from the Schwartz-Dietz catalogue, into an original story by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. It’s a thorough delight, a fantastic dance piece, and (you would think) ripe for re-stagification. Or perhaps overripe. The Band Wagon now being presented as an Encores! special event at City Center is a reworking of a version first produced six years ago in San Diego, under the title Dancing in the Dark. Everyone associated with that production seems to have vaporized from it except the book writer, Douglas Carter Beane. Beane, who in the meantime updated the television musical Cinderella into a Broadway hit, has retained the overall shape of the Comden and Green story, in which a fading Hollywood star, seeking to rejuvenate his career with an old-fashioned Broadway musical, nearly ends up in a Faustian mess. (Literally: The comeback’s director somehow locates a Goethean allegory in the fluffy material.) But Beane has gone back to original drafts of the screenplay (Comden and Green left the job partway through) and back to the Schwartz-Dietz catalogue as well. The resulting cornucopia includes 11 of the movie’s 14 numbers, completely reordered and used for different purposes, and six interpolated songs. An alcoholic subplot and a romantic backstory, deleted from the film, are reinstated. And, because this is Beane, someone’s gay and proud.

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  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF The Band Wagon

    Presentation by Encores! just misses

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    November 9, 2014: Light-footed and luscious, the classic 1953 MGM film, The Band Wagon, is now an enjoyable stage musical, albeit one hauling too much tonnage. Despite its roster of great songs by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz — like the dreamy Dancing in the Dark and the anthemic That’s Entertainment — the adaptation presented by Encores! lacks wow moments and seldom achieves lift-off. The movie starred Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse and was all about dancing. Hoofing takes a back seat to vocals in this Wagon, but the backstage story stitched together with musical vignettes is basically the same: Washed-up Oscar winner Tony Hunter (Brian Stokes Mitchell) comes crawling back to Broadway and ends up in a disastrous singing-and-dancing version of Faust. Teamwork turns the production — poof! — into a hit. Ah, fantasies!

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  • HOLLYWOOD REPORTER REVIEW OF The Band Wagon

    A not entirely robust vehicle, but worth boarding nonetheless

    David Rooney

    November 9, 2014: On the busy assembly line of screen-to-stage remakes, few properties might seem like more natural fits than the great MGM movie musicals, and this season has not one but three Vincente Minnelli-directed classics being overhauled in fresh incarnations. In the Broadway pipeline are An American in Paris and Gigi, while writer Douglas Carter Beane’s long-gestating rethink of The Band Wagon is getting a test drive as a ten-day special event, courtesy of the Encores! series. On the busy assembly line of screen-to-stage remakes, few properties might seem like more natural fits than the great MGM movie musicals, and this season has not one but three Vincente Minnelli-directed classics being overhauled in fresh incarnations. In the Broadway pipeline are An American in Paris and Gigi, while writer Douglas Carter Beane’s long-gestating rethink of The Band Wagon is getting a test drive as a ten-day special event, courtesy of the Encores! series.

    READ THE REVIEW

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