I’m in this morning’s Wall Street Journal, reporting on this week’s major musical openings:
Uptown at the Broadhurst Theatre, “Never Gonna Dance,”
a fizzy, friendly stage version of the 1936 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie “Swing Time,” is pleasing crowds. Downtown at the Public Theater, Tony Kushner’s “Caroline, or Change,”
a pop opera about race relations in the Sixties, is pleasing critics. You wouldn’t think such different shows could have anything at all in common, but they do: They both play it safe….
I wish I could be more enthusiastic about “Never Gonna Dance,” because I really did enjoy it. The problem is that I don’t enjoy the Astaire-Rogers films–I adore them. Next to that solid-gold emotion, anything else (and anyone else) is bound to come off looking like a pale imitation of the real right thing.
At least “Never Gonna Dance” is entertaining, whereas “Caroline, or Change” is a great big self-righteous bore. Had anyone but Tony Kushner written the libretto, everyone in town would be snorting at this eye-rollingly earnest fable of an angry black Louisiana maid (Tonya Pinkins) and Noah, the shy, effeminate little Jewish boy (Harrison Chad) to whom she teaches a Lesson in Love. Or maybe not, since Mr. Kushner, the Arthur Miller of our time, is not so much a playwright as a cultural politician who has an uncanny knack for telling New York theatergoers exactly what they want to hear–and no more….
Also included are words to the wise about Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife, which transferred to Broadway this week after a successful off-Broadway run at Playwrights Horizons. Here’s the money quote: “This show deserves every prize there is.”
No link, as usual, so to read the whole thing, extract a dollar from your wallet, take yourself to the nearest newsstand, buy this morning’s Journal, turn to the “Weekend Journal” section, and there I am, along with lots of other interesting stuff.