Friday, July 18, 2008

What Did Critics [tos] At Title Of Show?

What Did Critics [tos] At Title Of Show?

Last evening, the Broadway incarnation of that downtown favorite [title of show] opened at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre.

Helmed and choreographed by Michael Berresse, [title of show] is a musical starring co-creators Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen as Hunter and Jeff, respectively. The duo are reteamed yet again with their original castmates Heidi Blickenstaff (as Heidi) and the handsome Susan Blackwell (as Susan).

Theatre critics' reviews spanned from huggable huzzahs to visceral boos.

Toasting [tos] as a "peculiar and quite adorable musical," The New York Times' Charles Isherwood glows yet again: "[A]s performed by Mr. Bowen, Mr. Bell, and Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff, the talented girlfriends they rope into their makeshift, make-it-up-as-we-go-along opus, it is genial, unpretentious and far funnier than many of the more expensively manufactured musicals that make it to Broadway these days. Consider [title of show] the class clown of Broadway.... But like all class clowns, it wins you over by making fun of the big shots and bursting with its own distinctive personality."

Praising [tos] as "a sweet, raunchy, and just about irresistible portrait of how and why we tell stories," The New York Sun's Eric Grode is largely enthusiastic: "But Mr. Bell's book and Mr. Bowen's lyrics, along with Michael Berresse's empathic but relatively inconspicuous direction, have worked hard to make the writers-in-a-room dialogue palatable to everyone.... Best of all, the totemic significance of maybe — just maybe — making it to Broadway gives audiences the feeling of being present at not just a very funny musical comedy but at the triumphant end of a fraught and fulfilling road."

Calling [tos] "a clever and often adorable little invention about writing a musical," Newsday's Linda Winer ultimately, reluctantly laments: "Everyone in Michael Berresse's production is quick and charming.... How I wish I could love the show. I wish I didn't feel that I was being manipulated by long-struggling talented people on a guilt trip. Most of all, considering the risk, I wish the offbeat and low-budget show belonged on Broadway -- not incidentally, at the same ticket price as the magnificent and massive South Pacific."

Concluding that "much of its offbeat appeal ('not that there's anything wrong with fluff') has evaporated in the move uptown," Variety's Marilyn Stasio is negative: "[title of show] stands pathetically naked on Broadway.... [S]tripped of satirical edge for its heavy Broadway date, the backstage show by Hunter Bell (book) and Jeff Bowen (score) is revealed in all its narcissism, flaunting its shallow aesthetic values and taking unseemly pride in its inflated ambitions.... [O]n a fresh viewing, the substance of the musical emerges with far greater clarity -- and loses whatever charm sustained it downtown."

Damning it as "a piece of -- oh, let's call it garbage," New York Post's Clive Barnes musters up only one half star: "Originality isn't what it used to be. Take [title of show], a Broadway musical -- 95 minutes long, top ticket price $111.50 -- about people writing about people writing a Broadway musical. These [people] -- who doubtless love [people] -- must be the luckiest [people] in the [world]. Let me set the scene for you. Well, actually, there's not much of a scene to set: This is minimalism shoved down to the vanishing point.... [T]he self-conscious and terminally cute and the pixie-like fey are all mixed up with self-congratulatory smugness..."

Panning the show as "proving that if you have a feel for the lowest common denominator, you can scale unmerited heights," Bloomberg's John Simon is so downright nasty, he even criticizes the audience as having "zero taste" and digs deep: "Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen, who upon dubious credentials fancy themselves book-and-song writers, decide to write a musical about two self-proclaimed gay men trying to write a musical. They enlist the help of `all our friends'' (two, actually): the equally unappealing Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff (everyone here uses real names on stage). Together they proceed to the parturition of 90 minutes' worth of unremitting torture for anyone with a shred of good taste, discernment and normal eardrums."

Can Isherwood's review do for [title of show] what his did for Xanadu? Well, his positive notice, plus lots of enthusiasm from the blogosphere, along with younger audiences dismissing decidedly old school critics like Barnes and Simon, may just provide this [show] with a future.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Opening Night: On With The [show] (July 17, 2008)
Broadway Preview: [title of show] (June 24, 2008)
[title of show] To Headline Broadway (April 4, 2008)
[title of show] (The SOB Review) (October 2, 2006)
Making a Name for Itself: [title of show] Extends (August 16, 2006)

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At 18 July, 2008, Blogger SarahB said...

Go Isherwood go, but geeze, everyone else was grumpy. I think Theatre Kids and the curious will sustain it through the summer.

At 18 July, 2008, Anonymous BroadwayBaby said...

Again, I hate to be the party pooper but would some of the badwill towards this show been prevented had the show been PRICED to reflect its low budget?

I don't understand why prices for shows that are budgeted at upwards of $10m are priced similarly to shows that are budgeted downwards of $5m. Since TOS is geared towards the under-40 market, the regular ticket pricing should also reflect the demographic.

At 18 July, 2008, Anonymous BroadwayBaby said...

Additional reviews:

Bergen Record - "[title of show]," which opened Thursday night at the Lyceum Theatre, may be small - that's the point, actually - but it produces some of the best laughs on Broadway.

Talkin' Broadway- What was once a rigorously original meditation on artistic inspiration is now (to quote from the show) a "toothless, gutless, and crotchless" backstage drama with an unusually peppy setup.

Wall Street Journal - "[title of show]" comes across as a flyweight exercise in narcissism interspersed with fleeting moments of genuineness.


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