Aladdin. New Amsterdam Theatre (see Broadway). Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin. Directed by Casey Nicholaw. With Adam Jacobs, James Monroe Iglehart, Courtney Reed. Running time: 2hrs 20mins. One intermission. Aladdin: In brief Disney unveils its latest cartoon-to-musical project: the tale of a boy, an uncorked spirit and an aerodynamic rug. Composer Alan Menken adds new tunes to the 1992 original soundtrack, and Chad Beguelin provides a fresh book. Reputed highlights include James Monroe Iglehart's bouncy Genie and the flying-carpet F/X. Aladdin: Theater review by Adam Feldman What do we wish for in a Disney musical? It is unrealistic to expect aesthetic triumph on par with The Lion King, but neither need we settle for blobs of empty action like Tarzan or The Little Mermaid. The latest in the toon-tuner line, Aladdin, falls between those poles; nearer in style (though inferior in stakes) to Disney’s first effort, Beauty and the Beast, the show is a tricked-out, tourist-family-friendly theme-park attraction, decorated this time in the billowing fabrics of orientalist Arabian fantasy. “It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home,” sings the genial Genie (a game, charismatic Iglehart) in the opening song, and that’s the tone of Aladdin as a whole: kid-Oriented. As in the 1992 film, the Genie steals the show from its eponymous “street rat” hero (Jacobs, white teeth and tan chest agleam). The musical’s high point i
Theater review by David Cote“Times are hard for dreamers” sings Amélie Poulain (Phillipa Soo) in the new musical that bears her name, but the lyrics aren’t strictly true. During the intermission-free hour and 45 minutes of this promising but never delivering musical fantasy, you can easily (and frequently) dream up ways the creative team might have better turned the 2001 film into a stage event that didn’t cloy and harden into static quirk halfway through.Adaptation is an ancient and noble art, but some things simply work better on film. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s swoony-cartoony movie, with its saturated reds and greens, manic angles and surreal flourishes (lovelorn Amélie deliquesces in a literal rain of tears!) has an exuberance that makes the baroque whimsy go down like a fine bordeaux.But what’s the theatrical equivalent of a perfectly framed close-up? A three-minute ballad from the heart? Not exactly. So book writer Craig Lucas and songwriters Daniel Messé and Nathan Tysen are at pains to articulate a singable emotional center of the source while staying true to its careening, cinematic narrative. The two duties ultimately cancel each other out.Diligently tracing the Roald Dahl–ish screenplay by Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant, Amélie first introduces a French girl trapped between emotionally stunted parents, a cold-fish father (Manoel Felciano) and a neurotic mother (Alison Cimmet). Mom takes Amélie to Notre Dame, where she’s tragically squashed by a Belgian tourist committing
Theater review by Adam FeldmanBroadway musicals often feature heroines trying to find themselves, but perhaps never as literally as in Anastasia. In 1927 Leningrad, the scrappy, strapping Dmitry (Derek Klena) and the worldly, roguish Vlad (John Bolton) devise a scheme to pass off a street sweeper, Anya (Christy Altomare), as the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholaevna Romanov, rumored to have survived the massacre of the rest of her royal family in the Russian Revolution 10 years earlier. But as the con men school her, My Fair Lady–like, in the ways of nobility—hoping to deceive Anastasia’s grandmother in Paris, the Dowager Empress (an elegant Mary Beth Peil)—it emerges that Anya may be the real Anastasia after all. Who knows? Not Anya: She has amnesia. What former self might be nested like a doll inside her, waiting to be revealed? And might there be other dolls inside that one?As Anastasia piles discovery upon discovery, the happiest surprise is how consistently good the musical turns out to be. Smartly adapted by Terrence McNally from the 1997 animated film and the 1956 Ingrid Bergman movie—with Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens impressively expanding their score from the former—Anastasia is a sweeping adventure, romance and historical epic whose fine craftsmanship will satisfy musical-theater fans beyond the show’s ideal audience of teenage girls. (When I saw it, a second-act kiss was greeted with deafening shrieks of approval.) Director Darko Tresnjak keeps the story swirling
Theater review by David CoteYou’ve heard Hemingway’s blunt formula for writing: “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Annie Baker’s characters more or less follow that advice in The Antipodes, her latest intensely vivid hypnotizing act disguised as a play. A TV staff writer (Danny Mastrogiorgio) recalls an extramarital affair that ended with (deep breath) gory ejaculate in a shower. Later, assistant Brian (Brian Miskell) hacks up a bloody knot of…thread? before shamefully making his exit. Besides these visible exsanguinations, the rest of Baker’s scribes seem to shrivel up over the course of several months, their vital fluids sucked out by intimidating, inscrutable showrunner Sandy (Will Patton).The milieu is behind the scenes of series TV, but Baker (The Flick, John), one of America’s most exacting and exciting voices, does not supplement her income in Hollywood (unlike many playrights). The Antipodes happens to be set in the writers’ room of a supernatural-themed show ruled by Sandy, who demands his ink-stained wretches dredge up their deepest memories or fantasies to fuel the creative bonfire. That means lots of embarrassing or painful recollections of sex and death—and elliptical theory-spinning. It takes place in two unbroken hours (not real time, but linear), and we never leave the corporate conference room.This hermetic premise—executed with gimlet-eyed flair by director Lila Neugebauer—gives Baker (and the audience) permission to view narrative in all it
After many years, the sassy and clever puppet musical doesn’t show its age. Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s deft Sesame Street–esque novelty tunes about porn and racism still earn their laughs. Avenue Q remains a sly and winning piece of metamusical tomfoolery. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.
Theater review by Adam FeldmanThe resonant original musical Bandstand dances a delicate line between nostalgia and disillusion. What it seems to promise, and often delivers, is Broadway escapism: a tale of soldiers returning from World War II into a lively world of big-band music, boogie-woogie dancing and a booming American economy. Donny (the very engaging Corey Cott) assembles a music combo composed entirely of fellow veterans, hoping to win a competition in New York and earn a shot at Hollywood. Sounds like a happy old movie, right? But these soldiers, we soon learn, have trouble getting into the swing of things. Try though they may—through work, repression, copious drinking—they can’t shake off the horror of war. Director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton) doesn’t stint on period vitality; the terrific group dance numbers, including an Act I showstopper called “You Deserve It,” burst with snazzy individuality. But Bandstand’s heart is in its shadows—the entertainers often share the stage with ghosts of lost comrades—and in the persistence of its efforts to shed light on them. That happens, most of all, through music. The actors in Donny’s motley band—Brandon J. Ellis, Alex Bender, Geoff Packard, Joe Carroll and James Nathan Hopkins—play their instruments live (and extremely well), fronted ably by Laura Osnes as singer-lyricist Julia, the widow of Donny’s closest buddy in the Pacific. (Beth Leavel adds welcome comic support as her mother.) As the stakes rise, B
Beautiful—The Carole King Musical shares several virtues with its titular singer-songwriter, among them humility, earnestness and dedication to craft. If Douglas McGrath’s book never achieves the dramatic grit or comic zip of Jersey Boys, at least director Marc Bruni’s production avoids being a brain-dead, self-satisfied hit parade à la Berry Gordy’s Motown. Still, it does seem that stretches of Broadway’s newest jukebox musical consist of situations such as this: “Carole, you’ve got to write us a hit!” “I’ve written something.” “It’s a hit!” Yes, Beautiful loves its diligent, long-suffering pop genius, and invites you to do the same. It’s quite an easy task when you have the phenomenal Jessie Mueller in the lead. The effortlessly appealing star cut her teeth on Broadway flops (the mis-reconceived On a Clear Day You Can See Forever) and in supporting parts (The Mystery of Edwin Drood). Now she’s ready to carry a show. As Brooklyn-raised King, who started churning out teenybopper tunes at 1650 Broadway in the late ’50s, Mueller exudes warmth and common sense, playing up King’s old-fashioned modesty and insecurity without becoming a doormat or cipher. And when she wraps her rich, burnished voice around those hits—“So Far Away,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “It’s Too Late”—they feel as fresh as the day King penned them. McGrath’s deft, wry book tracks its hero’s tortured first marriage to lyricist-partner Gerry Goffin (Jake Epstein) and their friendly rivalry with anothe
If theater is your religion and the Broadway musical your sect, you've been woefully faith-challenged of late. Venturesome, boundary-pushing works such as Spring Awakening, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Next to Normal closed too soon. American Idiot was shamefully ignored at the Tonys and will be gone in three weeks. Meanwhile, that airborne infection Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark dominates headlines and rakes in millions, without even opening. Celebrities and corporate brands sell poor material, innovation gets shown the door, and crap floats to the top. It's enough to turn you heretic, to sing along with The Book of Mormon's Ugandan villagers: "Fuck you God in the ass, mouth and cunt-a, fuck you in the eye." Such deeply penetrating lyrics offer a smidgen of the manifold scato-theological joys to be had at this viciously hilarious treat crafted by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of South Park fame, and composer-lyricist Robert Lopez, who cowrote Avenue Q. As you laugh your head off at perky Latter-day Saints tap-dancing while fiercely repressing gay tendencies deep in the African bush, you will be transported back ten years, when The Producers and Urinetown resurrected American musical comedy, imbuing time-tested conventions with metatheatrical irreverence and a healthy dose of bad-taste humor. Brimming with cheerful obscenity, sharp satire and catchy tunes, The Book of Mormon is a sick mystic revelation, the most exuberantly entertaining Broadway musical in years. The high
Dominique Salerno thinks outside the box while performing inside one. In her intensely creative collective of vignettes, The Box Show, she crams herself into a cupboard-like cube for 90 minutes, and like a magician pulling rainbow-colored strings from her mouth, she keeps surprising you with what she can produce in the space. One sequence is set inside the Trojan horse at the gates of Troy; Achilles has cold feet, and Odysseus and his motley crew—all portrayed by Salerno—must give him a pep talk. In another, Salerno puts jeans and shoes on her arms, then plays out a West Side Story–style dance-floor courtship between her arm-legs and her leg-legs. Other highlights find Salerno portraying a fetus and a self-deprecating Frida Kahlo. It’s often hilarious, but what makes the show most memorable are its moments of darkness, expressed in fleeting, poignant side thoughts and comments. This interplay between light and dark helps The Box Show achieve what every vignette show wants: It is even greater than the sum of its parts.—Gabe Cohn
A boy must choose between his law-abiding, bus-driving father and a smooth-talking mob boss in Chazz Palminteri’s coming-of-age story, which began as a monologue, became a movie and now returns as a Broadway musical. With songs by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater (Leap of Faith), the piece is directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks. Read the full review.
Cagney: Theater review by Raven Snook [Note: This is a review of the production of Cagney that opened at the York Theatre in 2015. The production moves to an open-ended engagement at the Westside Theatre on March 16, 2016, with the same cast.] Biomusicals are tricky. Boiling all the ups and downs of a celebrity’s life into a couple of tuneful hours is tough, but the biggest challenge is finding a performer who can convincingly channel the star. One glance at Robert Creighton, and you understand why this veteran Broadway character actor spent years bringing regional hit Cagney to the York Theatre Company. A compact, quadruple-threat spitfire (he cowrote the songs), Creighton smartly avoids impersonation and lets some of his own personality shine through in his take on James Cagney, the versatile Golden Age of Hollywood icon who was often pigeonholed as a gangster. Yes, Peter Colley’s book is predictable and takes liberties, and Creighton and McGovern’s old-fashioned numbers aren’t as catchy as the George M. Cohan standards used in the rousing USO medley. But the crackerjack six-person cast nails choreographer Joshua Bergasse’s exhilarating tap routines while committing to the emotional core of the story. That makes Cagney a York doodle dandy.—Raven Snook York Theatre Company (Off Broadway). Book by Peter Colley. Music and lyrics by Robert Creighton and Christopher McGovern. Directed by Bill Castellino. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 25mins. One intermission. Throu
Theater review by Helen ShawWhen something flickers, even at the edge of awareness, our hindbrain forces us to look at it. We're all still twitchy from spending millennia on the African grasslands, so it's difficult not to pay attention to a screen as it flashes, imperceptibly, through images and blackness. We're wired for alertness. This is why you can't ignore TVs in bars, and it's also why video on stage so frequently overwhelms the live elements around it. Sometimes theatrical components compete with the lights and screens; sometimes the tension is interesting or valuable. But in the case of the multimedia CasablancaBox at HERE, the physical production simply can't put up enough of a fight.Playwright Sara Farrington and director/video designer Reid Farrington have made CasablancaBox as a sort of “exploded view” engineering diagram of the classic Casablanca, in which we see both the finished 1942 film (projected onto moving muslin flats and mesh handheld screens) and the action of filming those scenes. Actors play not only Humphrey Bogart (Roger Casey), Ingrid Bergman (Catherine Gowl) and Peter Lorre (Rob Hille), but also director Michael Curtiz (Kevin R. Free) and Mayo Methot (Erin Treadway), Bogart's increasingly distraught wife. A cast of 16, dressed in '40s flat caps, hustle props and lights across the tiny HERE stage. We're on the hectic Warner Brothers lot, though we sometimes also glimpse private moments, like bit players (who were often refugees from WWII) kvetchin
Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic musical returns as a taxidermied pet. In other words, this is the same tacky and tedious '80s spectacle that ran an inexplicable 18 years on Broadway. Very little can freshen up the synth-heavy tunes or bolster the scattershot book. If you loved Cats as a kid, this could sour your "Memory." Read the full review
Theater review by David CoteStrangers with candy should be avoided, our parents warn. Roald Dahl urges us to grab the sugary goods—but be prepared for the consequences. Families who accept the treats currently proferred at the Lunt-Fontanne, though, are in for a rough time on Broadway. Joyless, shapeless and grating, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a stale Necco wafer of a musical.Where did such promising material—gut-renovated after its 2013 London debut—go wrong? Let’s start at the top: Eccentric sweets manufacturer Willy Wonka (Christian Borle in fey bully mode) saunters on at the very beginning and tells us he’s on a mission to find his replacement. Farewell, dramatic tension! In the movie, the Wonka legend is built up so that when Gene Wilder appears, it’s a genuine thrill. Here Borle encourages us to loathe Wonka at our earliest convenience; and we know he’s going to favor plucky poor-kid Charlie (Ryan Foust, alternating with two other boys).Wonka then disguises himself as a store proprietor and warbles “The Candy Man,” Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s dreamy ditty from the 1971 film. That number and the rapturous “Pure Imagination” are little oases in the desert of cheap, cynical pastiche that Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman crank out all night.The limping first act is riddled with countless missteps and badly placed songs, sludgy narrative movement and jokes that go splat.Act Two at least has the benefit of seeing the nasty children who’ve won a guided tour of
This John Kander–Fred Ebb–Bob Fosse favorite—revived by director Walter Bobbie and choreographer Ann Reinking—tells the saga of chorus girl Roxie Hart, who murders her lover and, with the help of a huckster lawyer, becomes a vaudeville star.—David Cote Running Time: 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.
Theater review by Sandy MacDonaldOdds are, you already know where you stand on the gun-control debate, and Jason Odell Williams’s sprightly little polemic won’t do much to sway you. Still, he presents his argument so entertainingly, few would object to going along for the ride.Authorial challenge Number 1 is engendering sympathy for the devil, incarnated as Senator Charles Whitmore, Republican of North Carolina, who’s running for reelection on a Christian values platform. Success is all but in the bag—except when, in an awkward moment following the funeral of 29 gunned-down children (schoolmates of his own boys), he blabbed to an independent reporter (blogger) that the incident has shaken his faith in God.As in Tracy Letts’s Man from Nebraska, this epiphany does not go over well with Whitmore’s wife, Sara (Nadia Bowers), a pugnacious and flirtatious Southern belle. Moreover, the Senator doesn’t have the option of taking a bit of downtime in which to explore his newfound agnosticism: he’s scheduled to deliver a clincher speech within a matter of minutes.While Whitmore's campaign manager Alex Klein (Christa Scott-Reed as a nonrancid Kellyanne Conway) ties herself in knots attempting spin control, Sara draws on her inner Lady Macbeth. Both, competing madly, are powerless to prevent the porcine but semi-intelligent senator from going off-script.Williams is adept at jacking up the tension, and he leavens potentially leaden debates with plenty of humor. Much of it transpires betwe
One of the more unlikely musicals on Broadway this season, Come from Away is the tense but humane story of an airport in Gander, Newfoundland, where 38 planes and more than 6,000 passengers were forced to land on September 11, 2001. The book, music and lyrics are by the Canadian team Irene Sankoff and David Hein. Read the full review.
Theater review by Jenna SchererThere's a pervasive sense of soapboxing to Daniel's Husband, Michael McKeever's relationship dramedy receiving its New York premiere from Primary Stages. The play centers on Daniel (Ryan Spahn) and Mitchell (Matthew Montelongo), a longtime couple who seem to have the perfect life. Daniel's an architect and Mitchell's a successful author; they live in a beautifully appointed home (props to designer Brian Prather) where they throw breezy dinner parties for their circle of friends.Naturally, there's trouble in paradise. Daniel wants the two to tie the knot, and Mitchell doesn't believe in marriage—or rather, in the idea that gay men should aspire to heterosexual relationship norms. It's a debate certainly ripe for dramatization, and one whose primacy McKeever puts front and center from the get-go. "Oh God, please! No more politics," Mitchell's friend (Lou Liberatore) cries in the opening moments. But the playwright's point is clear: If you're a member of a minority that's subject to the machinations of the majority, the personal is always political—whether you want it to be or not.Daniel's Husband begins as a genuine conversation, taking up McKeever's chosen topic and letting characters pass it back and forth and chew on its macro and micro implications. McKeever has a keen ear for dialogue, and the ways in which banter can curdle into rancor. But a Lifetime movie–style plot development causes the play to take stark turn, and the chance for subtlet
In this captivating original musical, Ben Platt gives a Tony-caliber performance—funny, sweet, beautifully sung and exquisitely worked-out in its physical details—as a high school student thrust into social relevance after a classmate's suicide. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's score combines well-crafted lyrics with an exciting pop sound, and Steven Levenson’s book gives all the characters shaded motives. The production has moved to Broadway after its sold-out run at Second Stage Theatre. Read the full review.
Theater review by Adam FeldmanWith Lucas Hnath’s lucid and absorbing A Doll’s House, Part 2, the Broadway season goes out with a bang. It is not the same kind of bang, mind you, that ended Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 social drama, A Doll’s House, in which bourgeois Norwegian wife Nora Helmer walked out on her doting husband and young children with a decisive (and divisive) slam of the door. In Hnath’s taut sequel, set 15 years later, the runaway bride—played by the great Laurie Metcalf, with magnificent grit and frustration—returns to confront the people she left behind: her husband, Torvald (a sympathetic Chris Cooper); her now-grown daughter, Emmy (Condola Rashad, poised and glinting); and the family servant, Anne Marie (the uncommonly sensible Jayne Houdyshell).If Ibsen’s play is about suffocation, Hnath’s is about airing things out. Modern in its language, mordant in its humor and suspenseful in its plotting—Nora, now a scandalous writer, needs Torvald’s help to avoid being blackmailed by a judge—the play judiciously balances conflicting ideas about freedom, love and responsibility. And Sam Gold’s exemplary direction keeps you hanging on each turn of argument and twist of knife. Everything about the production works. It’s a slam dunk. John Golden Theatre (Broadway). By Lucas Hnath. Directed by Sam Gold. With Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper, Jayne Houdyshell, Condola Rashad. Running time: 1hr 25mins. No intermission. Through July 23. Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam Kee
The Fantasticks: Theater Review by Adam Feldman[Note: The cast and the name of the theater have changed since this review was published in 2006.] The Fantasticks, which opened in 1960 and went on to run for some 42 years, must at some point have worked like a charm. But whatever magic it once had is in woefully short evidence at the show’s flimsy new revival. The musical itself is a semi-precious trifle: a metatheatrical fable in which a group of players stages the tale of young lovers devided by a wall, with obvious echoes of the Rude Mechanicals’ take on Pyramus and Thisby in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (In this case, the lover’s warring parents are secretly setting them up.) While this strenuously puckish show is never rude, it does feel mechanical. Librettist-director Tom Jones gives a delightful sense of wonder to his scenes as an elderly actor, and his slapstick sidekick, Robert R. Oliver, is a savory ham; newcomer Santino Fontana brings a full voice and suprising shadings to his role as the Boy. But the performances otherwise run like creaky clockwork, and the dialogue—much of it rhyming—has faded. The whole enterprise seems to have been simply lifted from a musty old trunk and plunked down in an equally musty new trunk (the shabby Snapple Theater Center, with its low ceilings and terrible sightlines); and charging $75 for this no-frills, no-thrills experience takes nerve. Those who enjoyed the original should try to remember it as it was, instead of this tourist trap
Self-described “bubble scientist” Fan Yang's blissfully disarming act (now performed in New York by his son Deni, daughter Melody and wife Ana) consists mainly of generating a dazzling succession of bubbles in mind-blowing configurations, filling them with smoke or linking them into long chains. Lasers and flashing colored lights add to the trippy visuals.—David Cote TIME OUT DISCOUNT TICKET OFFER:THE GAZILLLION BUBBLE SHOW It will blow you away!!!Tickets as low as $45 (Reg. $75) Promotional description: The Gazillion Bubble Show will amaze your whole family with mind-blowing bubble magic. Step into an interactive bubble world and be dazzled by spellbinding lasers, spectacular lighting effects and jaw-dropping masterpieces of bubble artistry. It will make you smile, laugh, and feel like a kid all over again! The Gazillion Bubble Show is an unbubblievable extravaganza for everyone, unlike anything you have ever seen before. Adults and children of all ages are sure to be enchanted. You will have to experience it to believe it! THREE WAYS TO BUY TICKETS:1. Online: Click here to buy tickets through Telecharge2. By phone: Call 212-947-8844 and mention code: GBTONYF453. In person: Print this offer and bring it to the New World Stages box officePerformance schedule: Friday ati 7pm; Saturday at 11am, 2pm and 4:30pm; Sunday at 12pm and 3pm Running time: 1hr 20mins. No intermission. Offer valid for all performances through 11/19/17. Blackout dates may apply. All prices include
Theater review by Adam FeldmanIn the first scene of Martin Sherman’s Gently Down the Stream, 61-year-old cocktail pianist Beau (Harvey Fierstein) and 28-year-old lawyer Rufus (Gabriel Ebert) act out the fantasy of many an older gay man. It’s not sex—they’ve already had that, having met on an online cruising site in London—but something perhaps even better: Rufus wants Beau to educate him at length about gay history. “What was Mabel Mercer like?” asks Rufus, and the excitable young man’s curiosity extends beyond mid-20th-century New York cabaret singers. Over the next 13 years of their evolving relationship, Rufus films Beau as he recounts his trials in the pre-equality era (a traumatic banishment from New Orleans, the devastation of AIDS) and moments of joy that poked into his life like rays of sun through regathering clouds. Beau’s memory monologues interrupt the action at regular intervals, or perhaps it might be more accurate to say that the action interrupts the monologues. The 78-year-old Sherman (Bent) does not condescend to the play’s younger characters, the bipolar Rufus and a brash performance artist, Harry (Christopher Sears), whose rendition of “The Man I Love” is both silly and oddly magnetic. But Gently Down the Stream is more interested in telling Beau’s stories, which provide background for his wounded, wary resistance to options (marriage, children) that his juniors take for granted. Since Beau is played by the marvelous Fierstein, who embellishes the rumbling
Tennessee Williams's oft-revived family drama (last seen on Broadway in 2014) returns starring Sally Field as Amanda Wingfield. She plays opposite Joe Mantello as Tom, remembering days gone by, and Madison Ferris as delicate, damaged Laura. The ingenious Sam Gold directs. Read the full review.
Theater review by David CoteThe meta way to review Groundhog Day would be to repeat the same sarcastic, nit-picking paragraph three or four times before softening up and saying aw, heckfire, it’s great!—thus breaking the spell of grouchy repetition. And while there are likeable, inspired elements in this musical adaptation of the great Bill Murray movie, time crawls as you wait for boorish weatherman Phil Connors to surrender to human kindness and true romance.First, let’s salute the heroic Andy Karl as Connors, trapped in a spiritual-temporal loop, reliving February 2 over and over again in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. As he did in Rocky, Karl carries the show with inexhaustible physical and vocal energy, bounding over and around Rob Howell’s whirling set pieces without breaking his fine-honed douche-bag stride. As everyone knows, such comic gusto takes its toll: Four days before opening night, Karl injured his knee—but was deemed well enough to perform on opening night. May he soon bounce back to 100 percent.On to the show itself, whose manic, morphing surface partly hides a deeply conflicted interior. To musicalize an essentially cinematic tale (enabled by montages and quick cuts not achievable on stage), director Matthew Warchus and his design team use a range of theatrical tricks: model cars and houses, body doubles and actors repeating scenes. Unfortunately, the tone throughout is gratingly cartoonish, replacing the dry whimsy of the movie with overwrought clownishness.
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