THIS WEEK @ JK's TheatreScene

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Well, my "little vacation" ended up lasting two and a half years... funny how life steers your life in directions you weren't planning on. I'll start off with occasional posts, but I fully plan to resume this blog to full speed by the new year.

I hope you'll come back for frequent visits, to see new reviews, to share opinions, to take a survey (or two), and to celebrate the shows and show people that have made the TheatreScene!

Jeff

Thursday, June 25, 2015

THEATRESCENE THURSDAY: Your Broadway Musical Report Card

Last week's Trendsday Poll asked you to grade all of last season's new musicals and musical revivals. Almost 150 of you took on the challenge of being an armchair critic, and here are your results!  I included your average grade (naturally!), the range of grades you gave (very telling), the percentage of you who didn't see each show, along with my grade (since I didn't review shows for awhile last season).  All-in-all, you and I were pretty in sync!  And, for the most part, I think we were in line with the general critical and box office response to the shows.

See for yourself:

NEW MUSICALS
SHOW
YOUR AVG.
GRADE
GRADE
RANGE
DIDN’T SEE
THE SHOW
JEFF’S
GRADE
Holler If Ya Hear Me
D
C+ - F
60%
n/a
The Last Ship
A-
A - B
0%
A
Honeymoon in Vegas
B
A+ - B-
12%
B
An American In Paris
A-
A+ - B-
0%
A-
Finding Neverland
A-
A+ - C-
13%
A+
It Shoulda Been You
C
B - C-
13%
C-
Fun Home
A+
A+ - C
0%
A+
Doctor Zhivago
F
C - F
30%
D
Something Rotten!
A
A+ - B
0%
A
The Visit
A
A+ - D+
20%
A+

  • Interesting that a bunch of us theater lovers generally felt the same way about these shows as the critics, with the notable exceptions of The Last Ship and Finding Neverland.
  • I think our range of grades for The Visit speaks clearly to the controversial, challenging nature of this show. Unfortunately, this is why we are far from a time when the masses will embrace such shows.
  • I'm guessing that you are faithful readers because, on average, we see eye-to-eye on shows?  My grades were close to your average! (For those of you who asked, my comments about not fully reviewed shows are at the bottom of today's blog...)

NEW MUSICAL REVIVALS
SHOW
YOUR AVG.
GRADE
GRADE
RANGE
DIDN’T SEE
THE SHOW
JEFF’S
GRADE
On The Town
B+
A+ - C+
0%
B-
Side Show
A
A+ - B
0%
A-
On the Twentieth Century
A-
A+ - F
0%
D+
Gigi
B-
A+ - C-
15%
B
The King and I
A
A+ - C
0%
A
  • Again, we were consistent with each other, though we liked Gigi  more than the critics and On the Town slightly less.
  • The range of grades on On the Twentieth Century is very interesting.  More of you loved it than not, but I'm not alone in thinking it was more train wreck than express!
My thoughts on unreviewed shows:


  • Honeymoon in Vegas: Very enjoyable, traditional musical.  Funny and tuneful with good dancing.  Tony Danza was decent; Brynn O'Malley did everything she could with an underwritten part; Nancy Opel chewed the scenery just a bit too much for my tastes.
  • An American in Paris: The best dancing Broadway has seen in years, and the staging was smooth and flowing. Book was nicely emotional, but didn't know when to end it.  Show dragged in Act Two, especially after the title ballet.  I don't get why people felt the scenery was so stunning - I found it drab and too small.  The dancers were at the top of their form, but leads were either great dancers and lousy actors, or just the opposite.  Notable exceptions were the superb Max von Essen and Jill Paice.
  • Finding Neverland: I loved almost every single minute of it! I found the entire production enchanting, and found the modern edge to the score and Mia Michael's choreography to be an exciting juxtaposition to the "historic" period of the story.  Loved all three leads, the boy who played Peter.  Hated the fairy joke, the Cheers joke, and the "what the fuck" joke, all three of which pulled me out of the story. I was a crying mess at the end.  Can't wait to see it again!
  • It Shoulda Been You: Funny in spots, nicely staged, and a cast that was excellent with material that as sit-com level as best.   The score was serviceable and, again, funny in spots. 90 minutes felt like 3 hours, though. It would have been cheaper to stay home and watch TV.  At least there are commercials!
  • Fun Home: My new Next to Normal. Superb in every way, and even better than off-Broadway. Alison Bechdel is a true hero. Laughter through tears will always be my favorite emotion.
  • Doctor Zhivago:  The best thing about this loud, boring and unnecessarily gory mess was the table.
  • Something Rotten!: A riot, with great scenery and costumes.  The cleverness wears a little thin at times, but overall, it was a great combination of old school traditional and modern smart humor.  Casey Nicholaw sure knows how to stage this kind of show - the dancing was as exhausting to watch as it must be to perform! The main cast is excellent (with special love for John Cariani, Christian Borle and Heidi Blickenstaff - who needed more to do!) and one of the best ensembles of the season,
  • The Visit: This is EXACTLY the kind of show I love!  You have to think, it draws you in and keeps you there - John Doyle was in top form!  Chita was sublime, and the company superb - I had no problem with Roger Rees.  And the score!  A masterpiece by the masters.  Like most of their shows (especially like The Scottsboro Boys) this last entry by Kander and Ebb will be embraced by the masses about 20 years from now when they catch up to its brilliance.


  • On the Twentieth Century: I love me some Kristin Chenoweth, but, really... how does she stay so thin when she eats so much scenery 8 times a week?  Overwrought, decidedly un-funny, and a score that was remarkably droning.  When the best thing about a show is 4 tap dancing porters on a stage full of Broadway's best talent, it says a lot about how bad the show is.
  • Gigi: I found it to be a pleasant surprise.  Not great, but not bad, either.  Did I go in with low expectations?  Yes.  I thought Vanessa Hudgens was very good, and hope this won't keep her from trying another show. Dee Hoty was good, too, and Corey Cott was hot to look at but only good, too.  Howard McGillin was terrific, but way underutilized.  Victoria Clark, as always, was sublime.
  • The King and I: Visually stunning for both its initial excess and later minimalism, it is the epitome of the adage, "They just don't write them like this anymore."  Kelli O'Hara as, as always, superb, if subdued, and her chemistry with Ken Watanabe was palpable from the back row of the mezzanine.  Ruthie Ann Miles was excellent and Tony-worthy.  I do have to say, though, that Catherine Zuber's costumes and Christopher Gatelli's choreography, while lovely to look at and superbly executed, were not new in any way.  Just look at pictures from previous productions. That they were both Tony nominated (and she won!) is disappointing.  I guess there is excellence in quantity alone?  And if Jerome Robbins were alive today, there'd be a law suit over "Small House of Uncle Thomas." Still, I can't argue that this revival was truly excellent overall.
Here's to an exciting 2015 - 2016 season!

Jeff

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