Time now for my Friday-morning Wall Street Journal drama-column teaser, in which I post excerpts from my reviews of two newly opened Broadway shows, Jersey Boys and Souvenir, and a touring production of The Winter’s Tale that played Brooklyn last week:
Yet another jukebox musical has come to town, and this time I don’t feel like arguing–much. For reasons not obvious to me, “Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons” is not only giving pleasure to paying theatergoers (that part I get) but has also passed muster with certain critics who should know better. Contrary to anything you’ve read elsewhere, it’s nothing more than 32 songs performed on a cheap-looking set by a high-priced lounge band, strung together like dimestore pearls on the most vapid of all-tell-no-show books….
No doubt I’m the wrong person to review this show, seeing as how the hyped-up falsetto yelps of Mr. Valli (convincingly simulated here by John Lloyd Young) give me hi-yie-yives. All I can say is that it would be a lot simpler for everyone involved if they’d just move the whole thing to Newark….
If you know who Florence Foster Jenkins was, you know entirely too much about opera and should enter a 12-step program. Everyone else will need an introduction to the woman about whom “Souvenir” was written, so here goes: Jenkins was a wealthy New Yorker who suffered from the gross delusion that she was a great soprano. In fact, she sounded like a tone-deaf donkey who’d snorted helium, but each year she put up the money to give a recital at the Ritz-Carlton whose tickets were snapped up by opera buffs suffering from the equally gross delusion that it was amusing to watch her act like an idiot in public….
Now Stephen Temperley has turned Jenkins (Judy Kaye) into the butt of a two-person play narrated by Cosme McMoon (Donald Corren), her pianist and vocal coach….
Needless to say, the Tony-winning Ms. Kaye really can sing, which is part of the joke, since it isn’t easy to deliberately sing that badly. In fact, Jenkins’ singing wasn’t nearly as funny as Ms. Kaye’s wicked impression of it–but of course you’ll have figured out by now that I thought most of “Souvenir” to be the opposite of funny. Call me a prig, but there seems to me something fundamentally nasty about such sadistic spectator sports….
Edward Hall’s production of “The Winter’s Tale” has come and gone, having played its six scheduled performances at Brooklyn’s BAM Harvey Theater. Had it been around even a little longer, I would have tried to see it twice. Propeller, Mr. Hall’s all-male company, is my favorite touring theatrical troupe, a gaggle of magicians whose Shakespeare performances, played on the simplest of pack-it-up-and-hit-the-road sets, are briskly fanciful and endlessly imaginative….
Propeller has two more U.S. stops left before it returns to England. “The Winter’s Tale” is now playing through Sunday at the Zellerbach Playhouse in Berkeley, Ca., after which it moves to Washington’s Kennedy Center, where it will be seen next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. If you happen to be anywhere near either of those two cities and can possibly wangle a ticket, start wangling.
To read the whole thing, go here. The Online Journal is free all this week, the idea being that once you’ve tried it, you’ll want to subscribe (which I recommend).
P.S. “Sightings,” my biweekly column about the arts in America, will be appearing in the “Pursuits” section of Saturday morning’s Wall Street Journal. Take a look.