Friday, September 19, 2008

A Tale of Two Reviews

A Tale of Two Cities (the musical) had its opening last night. I was very curious to read the reviews, and the NY Times' Ben Brantley did not so much review it as take a hatchet to it... and the cast. Not a single thing of significant value did he find. The Post, on the other hand, gave it a more reasonable review, saying the music was like Les Miz plus dishwater (I'm willing to go along with that, though I don't think it's all true) but giving Barbour a rave and kudos to the rest of the cast, though I was surprised to see Natalie Toro go unmentioned. Brantley called Barbour 'grotesque.' I mean, that's just unreasonable. I would have understood if he had called him hammy, overacting, or pompous; I did notice the second time I went to see it that all the cast (including Barbour) had started to make their acting larger, which is not always better. But grotesque? That's a hell of an adjective to apply to any half-decent acting job, let alone a show-carrying performance. In any case, I would have forgiven grotesque for the sake of that voice.

It's not the first time I've disagreed massively with a Times review this month. Christopher Isherwood reviewed the new Spring Awakening cast and seemed so enamored with them and their dewy young complexions that I snorted. I think this is a case of the critic sitting in a good seat -- or at least not in the back row. Maybe I'm wrong; I'd love to know where he did sit. Personally, I recognize that the actors' youth and good looks suited the roles to a tee. However, sitting in the last row in the mezzanine, one naturally cares more whether the acting and singing have a great impact. Subjective, of course, since the teenagers in the row below us were delighted no end. No doubt that the cast are all lovely and talented, but the review was just... peculiar.

Ah, critics.

3 comments:

MissTari said...

hi, Heidi! I still haven't seen Tale of Two Cities, but I find that Brantley is generally more interested in how snarky he can sound instead of honest criticism. but generally, if he likes a show, I won't like it and vice versa...

Heidi said...

Hey, Tari! Don't think I've looked at Brantley's reviews consistently enough to know a pattern, but there certainly are plenty of critics who are more interested in their review than the show. Well, I hope your logic holds, because several of my friends bought tickets after hearing me talk about the previews.

Tale of Two Cities Musical said...

Hi,
I thought you might be interested in another “Tale of Two Cities Musical” that is wending it's way to Broadway (Perhaps via Boston). This one has a distinctively low budget so far but a very singable score and an engaging book. You might want to check out some of the songs. http://www.taleoftwocitiesmusical.com/