In today’s Wall Street Journal I review the premiere of The Royal Family of Broadway in the Berkshires. Here’s an excerpt.
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Barrington Stage Company, one of the best-known theater companies in the Berkshires, has also become in recent seasons a significant force in regional musical-comedy production. In addition to the 2014 Broadway revival of “On the Town,” which originated there, the company has also mounted Broadway-worthy stagings of “Guys and Dolls” and “The Pirates of Penzance,” and in 2004 it served as the incubator for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” the best new musical of the past decade and a half. Now William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin, the authors of “Spelling Bee,” have returned to Barrington Stage with “The Royal Family of Broadway,” and it looks like a winner in the making, a musical that is already uproariously entertaining and has the clear potential to evolve into a bulletproof commercial hit.
“The Royal Family of Broadway” is based on the 1927 backstage comedy in which George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber spoofed the eccentricities of Ethel, John and Lionel Barrymore, who once were America’s first theatrical family but are now mostly remembered only by golden-age movie buffs….
Ms. Sheinkin’s book, which derives in part from an earlier, unproduced script by Richard Greenberg, lifts some of its best lines from the play (“Marriage isn’t a career—it’s an incident!”) and leaves the Roaring-Twenties period setting intact but otherwise goes its own merry way with sure-footed skill.
Shapely melody is not Mr. Finn’s strong suit, and his score, in which Great American Songbook-style pastiche is freshened with his own spiky harmonic language, is somewhat uneven in quality. As a result, the middle of the first act, which contains the least musically memorable songs, sags noticeably. Fortunately, all of the pivotal production numbers, especially Tony’s “Too Much Drama in My Life” and “If You Marry an Actress,” a second-act comic waltz for the five leading men, are show-stoppingly effective….
“The Royal Family of Broadway” reunites John Rando and Joshua Bergasse, the director and choreographer of “On the Town,” “Guys and Dolls” and “Pirates,” who work their now-familiar miracles of wit and flair. They’re an ideal musical-comedy leadership team, the very best we have….
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Read the whole thing here.
The trailer for The Royal Family of Broadway: