Friday, April 06, 2007

Critics: Pirate Queen Not See-Worthy

Critics: Pirate Queen Not See-Worthy

Last evening, The Pirate Queen -- costing more than $16 million, making it one of Broadway's most expensive shows ever -- opened to critical pans. It has the dubious distinction of being one of the worst reviewed shows of the entire 2006-07 Theatrical Season.

The "best" of the worst comes from Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press, who writes: "[E]ven Grace (O'Malley) is defeated by this earnest musical adaptation of her life story, a stilted history pageant that is long on looks but woefully short on emotional engagement. The lavish production...telescopes the woman's life into a series of dramatic tableaux that are underlined by a bombastic score courtesy of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg."

Calling it a "loud and restless musical," Ben Brantley of The New York Times dismisses the spectacle: "[E]verything ultimately blurs into what feels like the aimless milling of a crowd on a carnival midway...The Pirate Queen registers as a relic of a long-gone era, and I don’t mean the 1500s. The big-sound, big-cast show pioneered by Messrs. Boublil and Schönberg is now as much a throwback to the 1980s as big hair and big shoulders....(The songs) often have such sweaty, shoehorned rhymes, it is as if they had been invented on the spot."

Using terms like "lumbering epic" and "monotonous," Variety's David Rooney also pans: "Their all-plot, no-heart new show is persuasively sung by a valiant cast, yet it never forges an emotional connection with the audience....[D]espite (the Riverdance) phenomenon being perhaps the world's most over-exposed commercialization of traditional Irish culture, the too-infrequent explosions of step-dancing -- during a wedding, a funeral and a christening -- are the only times The Pirate Queen really comes alive. Whoever thought they'd be waiting impatiently for the next Celtic kickline?"

Making inevitable comparisons ("Les Miserables going out to meet Riverdance and somehow missing the boat"), New York Post's Clive Barnes musters up one and a half stars: "Apart from the repetitive and self-congratulatory music, the only major flaws in the show are the basically banal lyrics and sung-through book....Before long, though, The Pirate Queen capsizes and sinks. There are some gallant attempts at bailing out by the crew of actors and dancers, shakily captained by director Frank Galati and Graciela Daniele, who's credited with the musical staging."

Labeling it "the latest bloated opus from Alan Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg," Elysa Gardner of USA Today bestows a mere one star on the show: "[T]hey've constructed a visual and sonic assault that leaves no audience-pleasing trick untapped. This package is wrapped in a faux-populist, pseudo-feminist story line, revolving around 16th-century pirate chieftain Grace O'Malley, an Irish lass whose skill and fortitude in battle were matched, we're assured, by her passion as a lover and mom....We know the Brits are morally inferior because they dress and speak grandly, and their songs sound like Gilbert and Sullivan rejects, as opposed to the Céline Dion throwaways crooned by the Irish."

Gardner is not the only critic to invoke the "C" word -- Ben Brantley also stated, "Under pressure, this Pirate Queen turns into a Céline Dion screecher." Come to think of it, my own review last October that began with "Think Les Misérables meets Riverdance as ships passing in the night" (thank you, Mr. Barnes!) continued, "Céline Dion herself could not have sounded better, yet I half expected (Stephanie J.) Block to belt out 'My Heart Will Go On.'"

Will the reviews be enough to sink the show? Next stop will be a check on the box office totals, which last week were floating around the 80% capacity mark.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Pirate Queen Attempts Broadway Throne Seizure Tonight (April 6, 2007)
Can Pirate Queen Be Salvaged? (March 23, 2007)
The Hits From Coast To Coast (March 8, 2007)
Swashbuckling On Broadway (February 1, 2007)
SOB Readers Doubt Pirate Queen Will Float (November 21, 2006)
Bailing Out A Sinking Pirate (November 15, 2006)
Critics Assail The Pirate Queen (October 31, 2006)
The Pirate Queen (The SOB Review) – Cadillac Palace Theatre, Chicago, IL (October 30, 2006)
The Pirate Queen Sails Into Chicago Opening Tonight (October 29, 2006)
Pirate Queen to Sail Into Broadway's Hilton Theatre (July 27, 2006)
The Pirate Queen Musical to Sail Into Chicago This Fall (May 15, 2006)

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At 06 April, 2007, Anonymous Chris Caggiano said...

Steve: see my entry today for (1) a shameless plug for your blog and (2) my take on the word "bombastic"

At 06 April, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Chris, Critics everywhere should heed your advice. Better yet, they should check out your excellent site as I do when I start each day. We can all learn from you. (And thanks for the plug!)

At 06 April, 2007, Anonymous Chris Caggiano said...

The late and lamented Spy magazine used to have a section called "Logrolling in Our Time," which was basically about writers trading book-jacket blurbs shamelessly promoting each other.

And your problem with that would be...?

At 06 April, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I loved "Spy." Some of the most ingenious humor on paper.

At 07 April, 2007, Anonymous Corey Jackson said...

Ha. I just went back to my post on this from July of 2006 and there was a comment from you with much scepticism about the director and producers of this effort.

I really thought this had a chance but I hadn't thought of the fact that the Boublil and Shoenberg haven't been on Broadway in a long time, in non-revival form. Also the Riverdance phenom is long over and hardly blends.

I saw some where that Maltby or Shire got invovled. Does anyone know to what extent? Did they write new music for this in hopes of savior?

Another question, why have tryouts in other cities if you are going to bring it to New York no matter what the public thinks of it? This recently occured with High Fidelity as well.

At 07 April, 2007, Anonymous Andrew (a West End Whinger) said...

Wow! This sounds truly terrible. We have booked our flights and are on our way. Pray it doesn't close before we get there. It's an 8 hour flight.

At 07 April, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Corey, As I also stated last summer, I hoped I would be wrong regarding The Pirate Queen.

Unfortunately, Galati has a spotty track record at the helm. Graciela Daniele was brought in for many of the same reasons she was tapped in Ragtime years ago: to help shore up a production and give it needed direction where Galati could not.

Maltby was brought in to shore up the bloated book and lyrics, apparently to no avail.

You're right about the out of town tryout being the place where productions are supposedly perfected prior to Broadway berths. It's just a shame that this one never got close.


At 07 April, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Andrew, Take some heart in the fact that as poorly reviewed as Tarzan was last year, it's still swinging around the Great White Way. And the recent box office figures at the Hilton Theatre aren't terrible.


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