Brooklyn was horrible:
Broadway has a new musical with that rarity of rarities, an original score. That’s cause for rejoicing, right? Er…no. The fact that its songs were custom-written by Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson is the only “original” thing about “Brooklyn: The Musical,” which opened last night at the Plymouth Theatre. Otherwise, it’s 100% recycled–from pure garbage.
“Brooklyn” is one of those shows that is better summarized than reviewed. Ray Klausen’s set, a graffiti-encrusted street scene, contrives to be both rundown and adorably picturesque. The cast consists of five golden-voiced street singers similarly clad in ever-so-stylish rags and tatters. The leader of the pack (Cleavant Derricks) invites passers-by to pause for a moment and listen to the “sidewalk fairy tale” of Brooklyn (Eden Espinosa), a budding young pop singer from Paris who comes to America to search for her long-lost father (Kevin Anderson), a songwriter turned Vietnam vet turned smack-shooting vagrant. All she knows of him is an unfinished lullaby he wrote for his baby daughter, whose mother (Karen Olivo) taught it to her before committing suicide. This touching story sends her skyrocketing to the top of the charts, from which she dislodges Paradice (Ramona Keller), a you-go-girl ghetto diva who thereupon challenges Brooklyn to a winner-take-all singoff at Madison Square Garden, where–
Is that the sound of gagging I hear? Well, at least let me share with you some of “Brooklyn”‘s lyrics, set to the kind of music I think of as Disney Soul: “There’s a story behind these empty eyes/That no one wants to know…I used to sing at Christmas/Now Christmas makes me cry…Now once upon a time/Has never felt more right…Life is like a shooting star/And here is where it’s falling.” The book is of identical quality: “Oh, no, no, don’tchu worry ’bout me none, noooo, I’m just like these here weeds, sprouting right up through this concrete. Yeah, that’s me alright…strong as a city weed.” (That comes straight from the script, in case you were wondering.)
In short, we’re talking “Rent” for the pre-school set, a molasses-coated piece of boob bait whose presence on Broadway, however temporary, is proof that musical-comedy standards never seem to hit rock-bottom–they just sink lower and lower….
(By the way, Ben Brantley of the New York Times is totally on the same page with me about Brooklyn. We even used a couple of closely similar metaphors! Take a look–it’s interesting to contrast our approaches.)
Trying wasn’t horrible, just trite, and was largely redeemed by a remarkable performance:
If you prefer your clich