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.