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Posted on 04/21/13
Photo from The Big Knife
Photo: Joan Marcus

C+

Critics seem to agree on one thing, at least: The Big Knife is not Clifford Odets’ best play. Apart from that, reviews are all over the map. Very few are enthused, with a number openly wondering why the Roundabout chose to stage the first revival of an anachronistic melodrama last seen on Broadway for three months in 1949. Most give Bobby Cannavale at least an E for Effort, and many remark on Richard Kind's strong, nuanced performance, but aside from admiration for the sexy set and costumes, this Knife simply doesn’t cut it for the majority.


Posted on 04/21/13
Photo from The Assembled Parties
Photo: Joan Marcus

A-

Critics saddled Richard Greenberg's adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany's, which prematurely closed this past weekend, with a D+ earlier this season. But they're more than happy to give the playwright another chance, and most say that The Assembled Parties is his best work in years (though they're not fans of the title). Many critics refer to this quote, spoken by Jeff (Jeremy Shamos), "It’s like the sets of those plays you love. With the breezy dialogue. They sort of talk that way and everybody’s unbelievably nice and, like, gracious and happy," which pretty much sums up why they like the play. The performances also receive a bulk of the praise, especially those of Judith Light and Jessica Hecht.


Posted on 04/21/13
Photo from The Nance
Photo: Joan Marcus

B+

There is unanimous praise for “masterful,” “brilliant” and “thrilling” Nathan Lane in what Jeremy Gerard of Bloomberg News calls “his best performance since The Producers,” along with admiration for the supporting cast, especially Lewis J. Stadlen and Cady Huffman. At the same time, the play itself, though “ambitious,” is less well-received for its execution, though as Backstage’s Erik Haagensen comments, “as flawed as it is, it’s an important try that’s worth seeing.” Michael Sommers agrees that “[it’s] a flawed yet rich play that offers a great deal of heartbreak and hilarity.”


Posted on 04/17/13
Photo from Motown the Musical
Photo: Joan Marcus

C+

The critics agree: The music (60-plus Motown classics!) is fantastic, but the story, crafted by Berry Gordy is self-serving at best, negligent at worst. (There are many invocations of Jersey Boys, which rises to the level of Shakespeare or O'Neill by comparison.) Design-wise, the show gets a pass, but Charles Randolph-Wright's direction is deemed haphazard. The performers fare well, especially Valisia LeKae as a gleaming Diana Ross. But the consensus is that, with an actual dramatist, Motown could've been an honest-to-goodness hit.


Posted on 04/14/13
Photo from Matilda the Musical
Photo: Joan Marcus

A

It's the most inventive musical to arrive on Broadway since The Lion King (Time), it's even better than The Book of Mormon (USA Today), as classic as Oklahoma! (NY Times). With a few exceptions, critics are absolutely loving the latest import from across the pond. Admiring of Dennis Kelly's faithful adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, dazzled by Rob Howell's wondrous design, delighted by Tim Minchin's catchy songs and cheeky lyrics, enthralled by Matthew Warchus's inventive staging and Peter Darling's choreography, they're throwing out as many superlatives as they can think of. The cast receives high marks across the board: While as luck would have it, only two of the four actresses playing the title role are reviewed here, both Oona Laurence and Milly Shapiro smartly carry this show on their tiny, but sturdy shoulders. And no one—but no one—denies the brilliance and hilarity that is Bertie Carvel's cross-dressing take on the horrid and horrifying Ms. Trunchbull.


Posted on 04/10/13
Photo from Buyer & Cellar
Photo: Sandra Coudert

A-

Theatre critics are very satisfied customers of Rattlestick Theater’s Buyer & Cellar, which the Times' David Rooney calls “a seriously funny and remarkably sustained slice of absurdist whimsy.” New York’s Jesse Green finds Jonathan Tolins’ play “hilarious,” and Michael Urie’s one-man performance is lauded across the board as "delightful," "light and masterful," and "superb." Quips Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press: “Streisand likely won't be coming; you should.” (Note: Many of the reviews below are of the show's original run at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, Apr. 4-May 12, 2012; reviews of the remount at Barrow St. are indicated with an asterisk.)


Posted on 04/09/13
Photo from Kinky Boots
Photo: Matthew Murphy

B+

Most critics can't resist (though many try to) the absolute joy of this new movie-cum-musical. This is despite a near-unanimous acknowledgement of its flaws, most of which revolve around Harvey Fierstein's clichéd, predictable, aggressively uplifting book. Some can't get behind Cyndi Lauper's first stab at a musical score (citing a generic quality), but many think it's a smashing debut for the pop princess. Director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell gets solid marks for his snappy staging, and his cast fares just as well, though Stark Sands's straight man comes off as bland next to the exuberant performances of Billy Porter and Annaleigh Ashford.


Posted on 04/09/13
Photo from F#%king Up Everything
Photo: T. Charles Erickson

B+

Though the title may indicate otherwise, F#%king Up Everything, is, according to critics, a traditional boy-meets-girl musical. Though critics may quibble with some of the obvious hipster jokes and stock characters, they are won over by the sweet story, the young cast, the catchy score, and the clever lyrics.


Posted on 04/08/13
Photo from The Last Five Years
Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

B-

All critics (except for the Times' Charles Isherwood) love director-writer-composer Jason Robert Brown's score, but they also generally agree that this 2001 musical two-hander has some flaws. Namely, that the show's backwards-reeling, Merrily We Roll Along-like structure doesn't allow for much interaction between the couple, so it's never quite clear what draws them together—or apart. While some critics fuss about character likability, most agree that in the lead roles, Betsy Wolfe and Adam Kantor give fine performances, and that as director, JRB nicely balances the blame—and relative likability—of both characters. Enormously popular with schools and theaters across the country and the world, L5Y seems to be that rare gem that will continue to sell out its remaining performances in spite of the Times review.


Posted on 04/08/13
Photo from Saga
Photo: John Stenerson

A

Though it's a puppet show, it's decidedly not appropriate for children. The Village Voice review plants the phrase "rock-solid boner" in its opening line, as if to warn away all the Kermit fans. And then there's the obscenity of the 2008 Icelandic banking collapse, which screwed a whole country. Muppets these are not, though the Times notes a bit of Jim Henson influence in the puppetry of this modern Norse saga. Most reviews call it visually stunning, though some are turned off by the dark turn the tale takes at the end.