Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Were Left Coast Critics Feting A Catered Affair?

Were Left Coast Critics Feting A Catered Affair?

On Sunday, the out-of-town tryout for the John Doyle-helmed A Catered Affair opened at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre.

With book by Harvey Fierstein and score by John Bucchino, the Broadway-bound tuner received two positive reviews, as well as one flat-out pan. But Broadway veteran Faith Prince earned accolades throughout.

Calling it an "assured chamber musical," San Diego Union-Tribune's Anne Marie Welsh celebrates: "Fierstein, Bucchino and the actors explore the characters with a tact and depth beyond that of most contemporary musicals....Prince's beautifully restrained, carefully calibrated and thoroughly unsentimental performance should earn her accolades and awards this spring when the show opens in New York....Doyle's measured direction in the emotional turning points is near perfect....Fierstein and company have already achieved in this artful piece far more than most hard-selling musicals aspire to: They've created real struggling human beings whose deepest feelings are beyond words -- and therefore find true expression in song."

Noting how "John Doyle sets the songs flowing seamlessly out of the dialogue," Variety's Bob Verini is also positive -- mostly: "Much is verbalized in Harvey Fierstein's gritty slice-of-life dialogue and John Bucchino's sensitive lyrics, but the use of silence -- sometimes for as long as 30 seconds -- is remarkable: Few tuner directors would conceive of those quiet moments, and even fewer would dare attempt them....Prince internalizes Aggie's bitterness and self-pity, blossoming beautifully when Winston challenges her to imagine her own ideal wedding in the lovely 'Vision.' (Tom) Wopat is a gruff and powerfully dormant presence on the periphery, and (Leslie) Kritzer pulls off show's toughest assignment in seeking to establish a sense of self while alternately resisting and encouraging the wedding hoopla. Fierstein's reconfiguration of the uncle role, from Barry Fitzgerald's asexual imp to an explicitly gay shop owner whose relationship is on the skids, is problematic."

Deeming the affair "a pointless enterprise," the Los Angeles Times' Charles McNulty mostly pans: "Should we really be trawling for such mediocre source material without a sharp revitalizing vision? (Paddy) Chayefsky's expiration date passed long ago, yet Fierstein serves up the saga as though it were fresh milk....But not even Doyle's boldness can rescue an idea that's inherently at cross-purposes with itself. Does the show want to be stark or saccharine? Brutally honest or comically consoling? Courageously untraditional or only conveniently so?"

Regardless of that last critique, A Catered Affair has extended its San Diego run until November 4. Look for the show to land at Broadway's the Walter Kerr Theatre on March 25.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
San Diego Opening Is Catered Affair (September 30, 2007)
Which Upcoming Broadway Musicals Will You See? (June 15, 2007)
Fierstein To Musicalize Bette Davis' Fave Flick (March 21, 2007)

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At 03 October, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting to note that McNulty panned the production- he is usually very balanced in his reviews and this pan is frankly unexpected. While audiences in San Diego have been very favorably responding to this show, they are very different from NY audiences (for example, SD audiences always give standing ovations to Broadway bound shows, no matter how bad they are --- Last Confederate Widow is only one prime example). I do feel, however, that the NYT's Brantley will be mostly kind to this production even if he has some reservations- he likes Doyle's work, and he didn't outright pan the absolutely mediocre Company revival.

At 04 October, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Anonymous, I disagree with your assessment of Company. I liked it. But your point on Last Confederate Widow is very well taken - I had thought when I purchased my ticket to see it that I'd finally be able to see Ellen Burstyn perform live on stage. But it closed so fast in 2003 (after just one performance) that my hopes were scuttled.


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