Tuesday, September 30, 2014

You Can't Take it With You Opens on Broadway

I intended to write this article yesterday afternoon, but time got away from me, so I am writing it now.  The 5th Broadway revival (and the 6th Broadway production overall) of You Can't Take It With You has opened to Broadway and the reviews are in.  Opinions on the show are decidedly mixed.

Ben Brantley of the New York Times LOVED the show.  He began his review by writing, "The only downside to the unconditional upper called You Can't Take It With You, which wafted open last night at the Longacre Thetre, is that it may strain previously underused muscles around your mouth.  That can happen when you spend two-and-a-half hours grinning like an idiot."  Brantley continues to wax poetic in a glowing review.   Brantley mentions that, while the show is considered a chestnut that shows its age if done poorly, this production has been made sufficiently current that the age is impossible to notice.

Other reviewers didn't agree with Mr. Brantley's review.  Marilyn Stasio of Variety put it thus: "[The play's] license to live the carefree life of children at play, extended by this 1936 comedy classic by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, appealed to a nation sunk in the Great Depression.  But for a modern audience paranoid about 'entitlements', not so much."  Ms. Stasio seems to agree with reviewers from the Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, and the Hollywood Reporter that the production is inconsistent.  They say that the actors seem individually to give competent performances but only as individuals, not as a cohesive ensemble.  James Earl Jones and Elizabeth Ashley are appreciated as the old pros who are trotted out every few years -- isn't it great to see them again after all these years? they all ask -- and they got decent notices from some of the reviewers, but not the standout reviews that will guarantee Tony nominations.  Rose Byrne received mixed notices for her performance, her performance being called everything from, effectively, competent and cutesy to bringing new life to her role.

Everyone across the board appreciated and respected Scott Ellis' direction, enough so that I think he is a clear Best Director nominee come Tony season.  The other clear standout from the reviews is Annaleigh Ashford.  The scenic design also got some good notices when any mention of a design element is unusual.

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