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Posted on 11/21/13
Photo from Little Miss Sunshine
Photo: Joan Marcus

C

"Something Better Better Happen" is the unanimous selection for best song in Little Miss Sunshine. Unfortunately, all agree that something better never actually does happen in this Oscar-nominated-movie-to-musical adaptation. Critics find the stage version faithful to a fault--they just don't see the justification for musicalizing this particular movie. All enjoy the amusing addition of a Greek chorus of tiny pageant tormenters and praise the spunky Hannah Nordberg as offbeat Olive. The rest of the cast struggles in critics' estimation, and composer William Finn is called out for his atypically saccharine songs. Writer/director James Lapine also gets dinged for the characters' lost edges and his sparse staging of the road trip.


Posted on 11/21/13
Photo from The Patron Saint of Sea Monsters
Photo: Joan Marcus

D+

Marlane Meyer's new play leaves critics feeling mostly confused and frustrated. Many say they like the heartfelt closing scene, but find most of what comes before overwritten and strange, and feel a disconnect between the play's over-the-top scenes and the earnest ones. There are some kind words for the actors, especially Candy Buckley, for going along with the zaniness, and for Rachel Hauck's backwoods, animal-filled set.


Posted on 11/21/13
Photo from 700 Sundays
Photo: Carol Rosegg

A-

The return of Billy Crystal’s standup family memoir to Broadway predominantly inspires warmth and nostalgia in reviewers. Sure, it’s basically the same production from 2004, but why mess with a good thing? “Revisiting this very special solo show is like reconnecting with an old friend who has the uncanny ability to tell you the same stories you heard the first time –and still make you double over with laughter,” says Cititour’s Lipton, speaking for many. The few quibbles are about a more melancholy, slightly “maudlin” overlay, particular in the more emotional second act, as well as a sense of performance “autopilot,” given that it’s mostly repackaged from its earlier run. New York’s Green is less impressed than most by the “slickness” of the show, which at its worst “becomes its own opposite: cold and manipulative.”


Posted on 11/15/13
Photo from All That Fall
Photo: Carol Rosegg

A

Critics applaud Trevor Nunn’s “expert guidance” of “one of Beckett's most accessible works and one of the most affecting” (Lighting Sound and America’s Barbour). Like most Beckett plays, it focuses the minutiae of daily life, or in this case, one day in a life, mining both the tragedy and humor of human existence in an unforgettable manner. Bloomberg’s Gerard raves over “the incomparable Michael Gambon and Eileen Atkins, [who] are giving a master class not only in acting but in taking a work never meant for the stage and suffusing it with dramatic life.” Time Out's Cote exhorts: “This limited engagement should be unmissable…Vulgar though it may be for me to flog tickets, I urge: Be wise and get yourself one.”


Posted on 11/13/13
Photo from Twelfth Night
Photo: Geraint Lewis

A+

Performed in repertory with Richard III, Twelfth Night is an unequivocal success, winning standing ovations across the board from the critical crowd. Backed by his colleagues, The NYT’s Brantley avers, “This is how Shakespeare was meant to be done.” Director Tim Carroll and acclaimed actor Mark Rylance win accolade upon accolade for bringing an authentic version of this classic play of mistaken identities, supported by a superlative ensemble. If Twelfth edges out its repertory partner as the better show, it's mainly because of the latter’s unique take on its titular character, but in general, these are relatively minor complaints. Hollywood Reporter’s Rooney speaks for many: “See one [production], see both, just don’t miss this rare chance to experience original-practices Shakespeare done so right.”


Posted on 11/13/13
Photo from Richard III
Photo: Simon Annand

A-

Performed in repertory with Twelfth Night, Richard III is the other half of the Globe productions that have taken Broadway by storm. As the Post's Vincentelli puts it, “You’re not just going to the theater—you’re experiencing what makes it magic.” Though some may find fault with Mark Rylance's untraditional take on this despot (“crusted in silliness," huffs WSJ’s Teachout), most are quite satisfied with his “innovative, sickly comic” and “unexpectedly poignant” performance (Time Out’s Cote), “surrounded by a sublime company, who move seamlessly between the plays.” (Daily News’ Dziemianowicz). In the end, the exhortation is the same for both plays: “So gallop, don’t trot, to the Globe’s repertory production of Twelfth Night and Richard III” (New York’s Green).


Posted on 11/13/13

B

Debra Jo Rupp, best known as the mom on "That 70s Show," takes on the role of pint-sized sex therapist with enthusiasm and heart. While critics recognize the framing device as a bit hokey ("I have company! I didn't see you without my glasses!"), Karola Ruth Siegel's journey through orphanages, kibbutzes, and the Israeli War of Independence to the Sorbonne and New York Presbyterian create a compelling story with the likeable Rupp at the center. But most reviewers wish the story focused more on her life as Dr. Ruth the talk show host and sex therapist, and the way she brought frank sex talk to the mainstream.


Posted on 11/13/13
Photo from Nothing to Hide
Photo: Michael Lamont

A

The critics have nothing to hide in their overwhelming appreciation for this reality-defying magical experience. “Captivating,” “altogether incredible” and “arresting” are but a few of the accolades for Guimarães and DelGaudio, as well as the ubiquitous Neil Patrick Harris, who directs this dazzling duo. These prestidigitationists offer less of a traditional magic show than an experience that defies “traditional concepts of space, time, and logic, as if they were inspiring the laws of physics to rewrite themselves,” (Talkin’ Broadway’s Murray), and their charming showmanship and warm engagement with the audience further elevates the production. Though some quibble about the relative shortness of the show or prefer that the venue was better-suited to the proceedings, nearly all echo Bloomberg’s Gerard: “Don’t dawdle, just go.”


Posted on 11/13/13
Photo from The Jacksonian
Photo: Michael Lamont

B

Critical reaction to Beth Henley's latest play runs the gamut from morbid fascination to puzzlement to creeped-out unease to boredom. Almost every review compliments the veteran cast on their compelling performances as the tragicomic eccentrics who populate The Jacksonian, though a couple are less impressed by newcomer Juliet Brett. Critics generally find Henley's swerve to the stranger, dirtier side of Southern Gothic an interesting (albeit queasy) detour, but audiences accustomed to the comic charm of her previous works are forewarned that this particular trip to Mississippi is a decidedly darker affair.


Posted on 11/11/13

A-

Rudetsky and Plotnick’s musical ode to the disaster films of the '70s has New York critics in stitches. They think the show succeeds as a parody not only of its subject but also of the ubiquitous jukebox musical. Approving nods are given to Plotnick’s direction for achieving the “right balance of smart satire, fluffy comedy, and sweet sincerity” (Theater is Easy’s Silver). And there is unanimous praise for the cast, with particular attention paid to the scene-stealing Jennifer Simard. While critics agree the show could be shorter, this does not prevent it from being an “irresistible,” “delightful,” and “laugh out loud” funny night at the theater.