I saw this musical on 5/7 and wasn’t really thrilled with it. It’s based on the Woody Allen movie, which I love, and is directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, who is brilliant. Richard saw it a few weeks ago and said it was OK but not great. I agree. I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as the movie, but I was expecting it to be better than *Rocky, the Musical*!
A musical comedy needs to soar. I won’t say this show was leaden, but it was definitely earthbound. The only times when it took off were in the numbers for the girls or boys in the chorus. Those numbers were fantastic, and worth the price of admission (admittedly I saw it for cheap - - $50). Any chance to hear “The Tiger Rag” (“Hold that tiger! Hold that tiger!”) is a good thing in my book. The costumes were incredible, by six-time Tony winner William Ivey Long.
The performances were hit or miss. The leading man, the playwright (played by John Cusack in the movie), was played by Zach Braff. He’s cute, and somewhat appealing, and didn’t have much singing or dancing to do, but his character drives the plot, and he wasn’t compelling enough to make it all hold together. It felt like he was playing the Matthew Broderick role in Stroman’s previous triumph, *The Producers*. Marin Mazzie played Helen Sinclair, the grande dame of the theatre (played by Dianne Wiest in the movie, winning an Oscar). I said for years (for years, I tell you!), as soon as I heard the movie was being turned into a musical, I said to anyone who would listen that this would be a perfect role for Patti Lupone. I still believe this, but maybe they thought that Patti, aka The Human Steamroller, would draw too much focus. A valid concern. Mazzie was good, but lacked the grandezza that the role needs.
The strongest performance in the show was by Helene Yorke, who played the dingbat girlfriend of the gangster (played by Jennifer Tilly in the movie). She was hilarious. Everything seemed to come into focus with her performance: Woody Allen knew how to write for the character, Stroman knew how to direct her, and Yorke knew how to put it across.
Stroman’s next project is a new production of *The Merry Widow* at the Met. I hope there’s a lot of dancing - - judging from this show, she’s a better choreographer than a director.