Friday, September 19, 2008

Critics Mostly Find Musical Tale As Worst Of Times

Critics Mostly Find Musical Tale As Worst Of Times

Last spring, London had its inglorious over-the-top literary-derived flop with Gone With The Wind - The Musical. Apparently, now it's Broadway's turn, as critics gleefully dug and twisted their knives into A Tale Of Two Cities - The Musical, which opened last evening at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

Critics had a dickens of a time with the show, with their reviews taking direct aim at Jill Santoriello, whom many noted began writing the book and score 22 years ago. Helmed by Warren Carlyle, A Tale Of Two Cities is the first -- and one presumes it will long remain the only -- stage musical adapation of Charles Dickens' classic 1859 historical novel opens.

Deriding it as a "lumpish musical adaptation," The New York Times' Ben Brantley pans: "This stolid poperetta, which features book, music and lyrics by Jill Santoriello and is directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, is one of those unfortunate shows that are neither witty in themselves nor able to inspire wit in others. To say it could have been worse -- i.e., gloriously, hilariously bad -- is not a cause for rejoicing."

Deeming Tale as a "middling Masterpiece Musical, a paint-by-numbers throwback," Newsday's Linda Winer provides a somewhat middling review: "It has lots of nice period costumes and good actors singing their lungs inside out on material that all sounds the same.... The results, especially considering the relative inexperience of the creators, are surprisingly solid. The show is less bombastic than some examples of the musical-potboiler genre, less foolish than some others. If this sounds like a recommendation, you know whom you are."

Lamenting that Tale Of Two Cities "is so formulaic it feels recycled and reused, but not refreshed," Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News is more critical in his two and a half (out of five) star review: "The book, lyrics and music are by newcomer Jill Santoriello, who's been working on the project for 20 years. The inexperience is evident from the borrowed moments and characterizations from other shows.... The music should fill emotional gaps, but like stealthy revolutionaries, songs drift in and out without rousing much attention, even anthems belted at maximum volume.... Classics will always have a place on Broadway. The lesson of A Tale of Two Cities is that they need imagination and innovation."

Suspecting that "any show that boasts more producers than leading actors must be suspect," New York Post's Clive Barnes musters up a one and a half star (out of four) review: "Jill Santoriello's book clings closely to Dickens' own, with some nips and tucks, but her lyrics are unimaginative and her music sounds like Les Miz and dishwater.... Here is an attempt at an epic musical with no superstructure to support it.... Helping this low-rent musical rise even to one and a half stars are Tony Walton's ingenious skeletal settings and impressionistic backcloths, David Zinn's stylish costumes and Richard Pilbrow's imaginative lighting."

Calling the "hammy ending" "inexcusable," Bloomberg's John Simon eviscerates the show: "Santoriello's tunes could give 'familiar' a very bad name, although some of them avoid embarrassing indebtedness by virtue of being tuneless. Worse yet are her lyrics, whose inspiration must have been the rhyming dictionary, and a skimpy, pocket-size one at that. As for her book, there is the template of Dickens's tawdry and melodramatic novel, famous for its first line ... and its last ... and for nothing of note in between."

Criticizing "Jill Santoriello's pell-mell pageant of bad wigs, worse lyrics, and a handful of decent melodies," The New York Sun's Eric Grode clearly demonstrates he's seen far, far better shows: "Ms. Santoriello -- who has been working on the score, lyrics, and book since 1986, the heyday for pop-opera treatments of this ilk -- and director/choreographer Warren Carlyle get bogged down in finding room for all the heroism and squalor and vengeance. By the end, Two Cities chugs along like a student scrambling to finish the assigned reading before the test, dragging its hard-working cast along."

So folks, any guesses on just how soon we'll see the closing notices posted?

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Labels: , , , , , , ,


At 19 September, 2008, Blogger Mondschein said...

It was the best of casts, it was the worst of shows.

At 19 September, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


At 22 September, 2008, Blogger Kathleen said...

Sorry, I must disagree and voice my own opinion. Cast and show were fantastic.

At 23 September, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Kathleen, Thanks for your comments. Since I have not have not seen the production personally, what was it about the show that you left you thinking the critics were wrong?


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Technorati blog directory Blog Directory & Search engine
Visitor Map

Powered by FeedBurner