Sign Up | Sign In



Posted on 03/22/11
Photo from Spy Garbo
Photo: Jim Baldassare

C-

The line between C- and D+ is a fine one, dear StageGrade reader, and the consensus that emerges about the technically impressive but dramatically inert history lesson Spy Garbo seems to tread between the crevice that separates just-passing notices from admirable-failing grades. Critics universally express fatigue at playwright Sheila Schwartz's information overload, and sincere if cool admiration for Kevin Cunningham's typically impressive multimedia presentation, but the variations in ratings hinge on whether they think the latter mitigates or exacerbates the former.


Posted on 03/21/11
Photo from Hello Again
Photo: Carol Rosegg

B

There's enough critical ecstasy over the return of LaChiusa's 1993 musical roundelay to keep its grade high, though even many critics who admire the piece wonder at the extreme intimacy of Jack Cummings III's SoHo loft staging. For all those who are swept away by the piece's insights into human behavior, by its seductive score, and by the performances of a stellar cast, a few scribes seem more depressed than aroused by the explicit but unloving proceedings. And we trust that all the talk of thrusting men's buttocks will keep John Simon far, far away.


Posted on 03/21/11
Photo from Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Photo: Joan Marcus

B+

Critics widely agree that this stage version of the beloved 1994 film is an energetic explosion of color, ridiculous covers of disco classics, and aerobic choreography. While some feel that these pleasures come at the cost of making sense or providing an emotional experience, but most seem to just give in to the fun. Even critics who had a good time concede that musical numbers are shoehorned into a weak and sometimes laughable book, and that the show is often trying too hard to please, but in the end they can’t resist the glitzy costume design by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, and the overall good-natured silliness of the evening. One strong condemnation comes from Talkin’ Broadway’s Matthew Murray, who wonders what happened to the day when emotional color rather than garish costume design carried the day, echoed by Adam Feldman in Time Out New York.


Posted by Rob Weinert-Kendt at 03/19/11

The biggest news on Broadway over the past two weeks was a show that didn't open, again: Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark, as anyone not living under a rock knows by now, will shut down for a month of retooling minus auteur Julie Taymor, and reopen on June 14. The StageGrade of F+ from critics (and a D+ from community reviewers) still stands, though presumably there will be a new batch of reviews in June; whether we at StageGrade will consider it a new show with a clean slate remains to be seen.

Elsewhere on Broadway, two revivals of straight plays got lukewarm to chilly receptions: Tom Stoppard's Arcadia had most critics singing the play's praises more than the production's, with a B grade, while a starry production of Jason Miller's 1972 Pulitzer winner That Championship Season made many mavens marvel that this creaky, preachy ensemble drama ever took home such an honor; they gave it a C- overall.

Off-Broadway, another revival got even pricklier assessments: Abe Burrows' 1966 comedy Cactus Flower got a thorny D grade, with critics roughly equally deploring the dated play and the lackluster production. A pair of swashbuckling family musicals divided critics: the Peter Pan prequel Peter and the Starcatcher had both fierce advocates and vocal detractors, with a resulting B-, while an adaptation of the classic Treasure Island garnered a C+.

In fact, the best-reviewed show of the past two weeks was a limited run that has already closed: The Rude Mechs of Austin, Texas brought their cult favorite The Method Gun to Dance Theater Workshop and landed a B+ grade.

This coming week, Broadway openings start rolling in earnest, with two big musicals (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and The Book of Mormon) and a play (Ghetto Klown). As always, StageGrade will be on the beat.

Our raffles and giveaways continue apace. Check the StageGrade Facebook page on Monday, Mar. 21 for a chance to win a free ticket to a major upcoming Broadway musical starring a young wizard (any guesses?).


Posted on 03/18/11
Photo from Arcadia
Photo: Carol Rosegg

B+

Are critics stupid? Or do they just think their readers are? It's hard to judge from this crop of reviews, which relentlessly hawk the idea that perhaps Tom Stoppard's masterpiece Arcadia is too smart. Even the glowing reviews make pains to reassure the reader that the play won't commit the ultimate sin of making them feel dumb. It might commit the penultimate sin of boring them, however; according to several of the reviews the production just misses the mark, with an uneven set of performances contributing to a night at the theatre that never quite coalesces. Still, everyone's grateful to have Arcadia back in town and on Broadway, and a minority of critics even thinks this production bests the original.


Posted on 03/13/11
Photo from Cactus Flower
Photo: Carol Rosegg

D

When critics begin reviews by posing the question of why anyone would want to put on your play, you know you're in trouble. Cactus Flower is compared unfavorably to the recent revival of Boeing Boeing, and even to the recent Jennifer Aniston movie Just Go With It (based on the same play), and although some critics can see some potential in Abe Burrows' play, most think it has aged badly. Reviewers almost all fault Michael Bush's direction as plodding and lethargic, and many have harsh words for Anna Louizos' bland and unrealistic set. Some are more sympathetic to the performances of the actors, but more than one reviewer finds Maxwell Caulfield in the lead as being uncomfortable with comedy, and unbelievably over-the-top. The only positive review is Talkin' Broadway's Matthew Murray, who concedes many of the criticisms but believes that the humor wins the day.


Posted on 03/13/11
Photo from Treasure Island
Photo: Ken Howard

C+

On the technical side, it's smooth sailing for this production and its more-than-competent cast, but apparently the bilge pump isn't working, because critics find the script to be waterlogged and bloated, so much so that the whole enterprise sinks. Bits and pieces, like the "superlative" fight scenes or the winning use of a live parrot, keep the audience afloat (albeit aimlessly adrift), and despite "convincingly authentic" gunfire, the New York Times's Neil Genzlinger dutifully reports that "a couple of past-their-bedtime preschoolers...were asleep." Or, as Joe Dziemianowicz of the NY Daily News succinctly puts it, "Yo-ho-ho yields to yo-ho-hum."


Posted on 03/10/11
Photo from Peter and the Starcatcher
Photo: Joan Marcus

B

With grades ranging from Ben Brantley's A+ to Matthew Murray's F-, there isn't a clear consensus on this Peter Pan prequel. But for the most part, critics love the story-theater approach and inventive design elements (costumes by Paloma Young, sets by Donyale Werle, and lighting by Jeff Croiter). There is also much praise for the cast, especially Christian Borle's comedic turn as the pirate Black Stache (following up his Prior in Signature's Angels in America). Where the production fails for some critics is the self-indulgent humor, which most critics credit to co-director Alex Timbers.


Posted on 03/08/11
Photo from The Method Gun
Photo: Alan Simmons

B+

The complexity and fun of this irreverent parody of performance cults--by the Austin, Texas-based company Rude Mechs--is granted by most critics, but whether the play manages to transcend the witty gags and insider jokes about theater is up for debate. New York's Scott Brown is excited by this “fiendish” piece, but other critics observe that it doesn't garner as many laughs as it could have. The unevenness of styles and moments is acknowledged by all, whether seen as a pro or a con, including nudity and balloons, a person in a tiger suit, and an impromptu dance number.


Posted on 03/07/11
Photo from That Championship Season
Photo: Joan Marcus

C-

Most critics agree that 1972's Pulitzer and Tony winner That Championship Season hasn't held up over time, and that this production doesn't offer a compelling case for the play. For one, the play doesn't shock as it used to, especially compared to the works of playwrights like Mamet and LaBute. (Interestingly, both Ben Brantley and Elisabeth Vincentelli mention parallels to another epochal drama of the era, The Boys in the Band.) Reviews of performances from the heavy-hitting cast are all over the field, with each actor getting both positive and negative notices.