The new American musical Allegiance, inspired by the childhood life of veteran actor George Takei, who also stars in the piece, as does Lea Salonga, officially opened Nov. 8 at Broadway's Longacre Theatre.
The musical tells the multi-generational story of how a Japanese-American family’s life was upturned by their internment in a camp during World War II.
Critics thought the show the show earnest and ambitious, but not necessarily successful in its aims, deeming the book and score only serviceable and generic. The phrase "well-intentioned" came up.
"The show wants to illuminate a dark passage in American history with complexity and honesty," wrote the Times, "but the first requirement of any Broadway musical is to entertain. While well-intentioned and polished, Allegiance struggles to balance both ambitions, and doesn't always find an equilibrium."
AP was having none of it, saying, "internment camps, racial discrimination and an atomic bomb blast are challenging topics to incorporate into a satisfying night of theater. The heavy-handed, cliche-driven Allegiance which opened Sunday at the Longacre Theatre tries to take on all three — but does so unsuccessfully in a bombastic and generic Broadway musical. It has an ambitious agenda — touching on pride, citizenship, degradation, interracial romance, bravery and honor — and it's too much."
Taking a more positive tack was USA Today, which said, "the new musical that opened Sunday at Broadway's Longacre Theatre, is as corny as Kansas in August and as obvious as Lady Gaga on a red carpet. But darned if it won't get a grip on your heartstrings."
Also opening on Broadway this week was the Young Vic's Olivier Award-winning production of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, directed by acclaimed Belgian director Ivo van Hove, at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre.
Van Hove made his Broadway debut with his stark, experimental take on the Miller classic. It received great reviews in London, and the Broadway mounting features much of the same cast, including Mark Strong as troubled Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone, Nicola Walker as Eddie’s wife Beatrice, and Phoebe Fox as his niece Catherine.
The Times called the production "magnificent," adding, it "takes you into extreme emotional territory that you seldom dare visit in daily life. At the end of its uninterrupted two hours, you are wrung out, scooped out and so exhausted that you're wide awake. You also feel ridiculously blessed to have been a witness to the terrible events you just saw."
AP was in agreement, calling the show, "a stunning, imaginative theatrical experience, an impassioned interpretation that really brings the heat to Miller's gripping drama...van Hove has stripped it down to a stark set that resembles a boxing ring."
Time Out New York said Strong, "gives a performance of harrowing intensity as doomed Eddie Carbone...Van Hove stages this elegant and lean tale with almost perverse understatement," and then added a word of advice, saying, "Our directors need to study how [van Hove] strips away anything inessential to the text and lasers in on breathing, moving bodies in space."
Not everyone was happy. The Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout, who tends to hold tastes roughly as conservative as the paper he write for, said "Mr. Van Hove is so determined to put his personal stamp on A View From the Bridge that he doesn't seem to care whether any of his over-familiar avant-garde tricks are organically related to the script. Instead, they're poured over it like a rancid sauce."
Rancid sauce, anyone?
Producers of David Mamet’s new drama China Doll have decided this piece of china has a few chips and needs a repair job. They have pushed back the opening night by two weeks. The production stars Al Pacino.
The new American drama, which began previews Oct. 21 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, was scheduled to open Nov. 19; it will now open Dec. 4.
In a press statement the producers said, "The move allows the creative team additional time to work on the play before its world premiere."
New York Post columnist Michael Riedel has been dogged in chronicling backstage and onstage difficulties with the show during previews, noting that Pacino has had trouble recalling his lines, and Mamet hasn’t been on hand to make any script changes.
The limited engagement, originally scheduled for 87 performances, subsequently announced an extension to 97 shows.
Also opening this week was the St. Ann's Warehouse production of the London-based Donmar Warehouse’s Henry IV, which features an all-female cast and is set against the backdrop of a women's prison, and directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Lloyd also directed Donmar's landmark, all-female re-imagining of Julius Caesar, which was hailed on all sides two seasons back.
Did critics think this go-round as successful?
The Times thought so, saying, "Ms. Lloyd’s Henry is, among other things, a celebration of the metamorphic wonder of live stage acting, and of the distinctive insights it affords as we watch people transform themselves into others. It’s an ideal inaugural production for the newly relocated St. Ann’s, a bastion of adventurous theater, which has now settled into handsome riverside quarters in a 19th-century tobacco warehouse in Dumbo."
New York magazine was torn, writing, "the acting, where permitted to be so, is thrillingly successful. But insofar as the production is also a serious attempt to see what new meanings and colors a female perspective, and a prisoner’s perspective, might uncover in the material, it is hampered by a countervailing tone I can only describe as cutesy."
And Hollywood Reporter was decidedly among the unconverted: "Even if you accept the concept, the results are somewhat baffling. Since the setting is the prison gym, the presence of exercise equipment makes sense. But why is there kiddie furniture and toys, a beanbag chair, a DJ spinning tunes, and that most clichéd of contemporary Shakespearean production devices, a percussionist? Along with some anachronistic language, such as a reference to Miss Piggy, absurd touches abound…. It's all very silly and distracting, and a shame, really, since the ensemble is fully capable of effectively putting over the play in straightforward fashion."
Looks like Hamilton and Burr may duel again.
The Tony Awards Administration Committee assembled Nov. 12 for the first time this season to determine the eligibility of ten Broadway productions for the 2016 Tony Awards. Among the shows considered was Hamilton.
Both Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays the title role of Alexander Hamilton, and Leslie Odom, Jr., who plays his arch rival and eventual killer Aaron Burr, will be considered eligible in the Best Performance by an Actor/Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical categories. Both are shoo-ins to get nominated.
Tony nomination certificates at ten paces?