Rather to my surprise, 700 Sundays was the best of the lot, despite its predictable weaknesses:
Go figure: Billy Crystal, who got his big break playing the first openly gay character on a network TV series, has ended up as a sort of 21st-century Bob Hope, the safe-as-milk middle-aged establishment comic who hosts the Oscars and is now making his Broadway debut with a one-man “play” at the Broadhurst Theatre about his charmed life as a loyal son, husband and father. Small wonder that “700 Sundays,” with advance sales of $8 million plus, is on the inside track to be Broadway’s uranium-plated smash of the season. And here’s the biggest surprise of all: It’s actually a pretty good show. Who says nice guys finish last?
I put “play” in quotes because “700 Sundays,” like so many one-person shows, occupies an uncertain middle ground between standup routine and full-fledged play. Simply to tell the story of your life in monologue form may or may not be interesting, but it’s rarely dramatic in the ordinary understanding of the word, and Mr. Crystal’s luck has been too good to give his long string of essentially benign anecdotes the ruthless forward movement one demands from a play….
Mr. Crystal seems to be aware of the need to ratchet up the tension in his tale-telling, and when he recalls such potentially radioactive events as the death of his father, you can all but see him struggling to drag “700 Sundays” onto a higher plane of expressivity. Alas, he is barely capable of talking for more than 30 seconds without slipping in a punchline–a compulsion that is especially jolting whenever he tries to be serious….
La Cage aux Folles, on the other hand, was…well, read for yourself:
Once upon a time, “La Cage aux Folles” was a sweet little French film about a couple of graying gents, one of them a flouncy-to-the-max drag queen, who run a nightclub in St. Tropez. Stripped of the louche details, it turned out to be an unexpectedly touching study of the surmountable absurdities of middle-aged love and became the sleeper hit of 1978. Five years later, Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman got their hot little hands on this hot little property, pumped in several thousand tons of hot air, and thereby turned it into a monstrously inflated tourist trap of a musical that ran for 1,761 performances. Now “La Cage aux Folles” has returned to Broadway’s Marquis Theatre, there to titillate a new generation of taste-challenged ticketholders.
Or maybe not. Times, after all, have changed greatly since 1983, and what once seemed ooh-so-risqu