Photograph: Courtesy Julieta CervantesStereophonic
  • Theater, Drama
  • John Golden Theatre, Midtown West
  • Recommended



5 out of 5 stars

In bigger digs on Broadway, Stereophonic still rocks.


Time Out says

Broadway review by Adam Feldman 

David Adjmi’s intimately epic behind-the-music drama Stereophonic has now moved to Broadway after a hit fall run at Playwrights Horizons. At the smaller venue, the audience felt almost immersed in the room where the show takes place: a wood-paneled 1970s recording studio—decked out by set designer David Zinn as a plush vision of brown, orange, mustard, sage and rust—where a rock band is trying to perfect what could be its definitive album. Some fans of the play have wondered if it could work as well on a larger stage, but that question has a happy answer: Daniel Aukin’s superb production navigates the change without missing a beat. The jam has been preserved.

With the greater sense of distance provided at the Golden Theatre, Stereophonic feels more than ever like watching a wide-screen film from the heyday of Robert Altman, complete with excellent ensemble cast, overlapping dialogue and a generous running time: Adjmi divides the play into four acts, which take more than three hours to unfold. This length is essential in conveying the sprawl of a recording process that goes on far longer than anyone involved had planned, but the play itself never drags. As the band cracks up along artistic, romantic and pharmaceutical fault lines—fueled by a constant flow of booze, weed and coke, often late into the night—we follow along, riveted by the details and the music that emerges from them. There’s nary a false note. 

Stereophonic | Photograph: Courtesy Julieta Cervantes

Stereophonic’s unnamed five-person band closely resembles Fleetwood Mac, and the yearlong struggle depicted in the play echoes the notoriously disharmonious recording process that led to the smash 1977 LP Rumours. This band includes three British holdovers from a previous incarnation—Simon (Chris Stack), its even-keeled drummer and manager, and a married couple, the self-contained keyboardist Holly (Juliana Canfield) and the perpetually blotto bassist Reg (Will Brill, hilariously adrift)—as well as two Americans: the perfectionistic guitarist Peter (Tom Pecinka), who arrogates the role of producer, and his longtime girlfriend, Diana (Sarah Pidgeon), who is just beginning to find confidence as a songwriter. Joining them for the project is budding engineer Grover (Eli Gelb), who mans the mixing table with technical help from Charlie (Andrew R. Butler). All of them are driven, but at different speeds and in different directions.

Stereophonic | Photograph: Courtesy Julieta Cervantes

At times the band members move behind the glass of the soundproof recording room, where they are exposed to us like goldfish, to lay down music for the album: original songs by Arcade Fire's Will Butler that perfectly fulfill their role in the play. Butler’s songs are retro-styled with a modern touch that transcends pastiche; you believe, as you should, that they could eventually yield a terrific album. But we never get to hear their final versions. The band is most joyfully in synch in the second-act closer, “Masquerade,” feeding off each other’s creative energy, but mostly we experience the songs as fragments of various sizes: drafts, instrumental lines, vocals to be patched in. Stereophonic effectively dissects its own songs—with key help from Ryan Rumery’s astute sound design—to show how they change, how much work goes into changing them, and how multiple components combine into art that is more than the sum of its pieces.

Stereophonic as a whole does something similar: With sharp-eyed but open-hearted insight and humor, Adjmi builds scene upon scene, teasing out relationships in well-observed exchanges among two or three characters and then feeding them into a complex mix. And all the layers come together beautifully in Aukin’s staging, from the heightened-verité design—Enver Chakartash’s fabulous costumes make you want to run straight to a thrift shop—to the seamlesly collaborative acting. The result is richly satisfying multitrack production.

Stereophonic. Golden Theatre (Broadway). By David Adjmi. Music and lyrics by Will Butler. Directed by Daniel Aukin. With Sarah Pidgeon, Tom Pecinka, Will Brill, Juliana Canfield, Chris Stack, Eli Gelb, Andrew R. Butler. Running time: 3hrs 5mins. One intermission. 

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Stereophonic | Photograph: Courtesy Julieta Cervantes


Event website:
John Golden Theatre
252 W 45th St
New York
Cross street:
between Seventh and Eighth Aves
Subway: A, C, E to 42nd St–Port Authority; N, Q, R, 42nd St S, 1, 2, 3, 7 to 42nd St–Times Sq

Dates and times

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