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Ditto Jones, Cotes, Teachout, Shaw, and (mixed) Feldman et all; But it's likely a hit, and a big one
Last Edit: Delvino 07:01 am EST 12/06/19
Posted by: Delvino 06:49 am EST 12/06/19
In reply to: And Peter Marks. Less impressed. - MockingbirdGirl 01:06 am EST 12/06/19

Broadway always needs another big hit, and this may well be it. The reviews are approximately split, but with the Times a rave and critics pick, the plus column is weighted. Good for everyone; it looks like a solid marketing campaign begins immediately. I was interested in much of the thoughtful analysis of where the show's conceit/book derail for some of us. Though pointing this out on the Other Board results in accusations of being a Hater. I'm not hating on this show, and to paraphrase Speaker Pelosi, resent the question. I do think it has focus issues, and these excerpts address points raised in our many discussions.


Jones, in the Chicago Tribune and Daily News:

"And if you want a quick lesson on just how much our culture has coarsened since then, you’ll find one at the Broadhurst Theatre, where lean songs that bled with poetry and irony and fear and rage have been turned into a moralistic musical so over-stuffed and simplistic, so predictable in its hashtags and heroes and villains, as to rip almost all the complexity from the organic and unfiltered human material that provided the source.And if you want a quick lesson on just how much our culture has coarsened since then, you’ll find one at the Broadhurst Theatre, where lean songs that bled with poetry and irony and fear and rage have been turned into a moralistic musical so over-stuffed and simplistic, so predictable in its hashtags and heroes and villains, as to rip almost all the complexity from the organic and unfiltered human material that provided the source."

"The show, which has a slick and oft-satirical design from Riccardo Hernandez, is just so unkind to its central family, dressing them up like they’re pathetic J Crew wannabes in stark contrast with the diverse, way-cool ensemble performing Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s self-actualizing choreography as the unwoke — bathed in unforgiving white light — all writhe through their problems. You’ll likely be put in mind of both “American Idiot” and “Next to Normal,” but neither of those shows were so determined to tell you whom to like."

And David Cotes talks about this issue of polyperspective:

"But all this talent founders on focus. Cody and Paulus fracture the feminine POV into four parts: Mary Jane, Frankie, Jo and Bella. I understand why they did this; it helps spread the weight of trauma and story, ward off bathos and an aftertaste of cliché. But it also dilutes the power of having a protagonist whose journey you follow with the sort of intensity and fidelity that provides the release that only comes, again, with the sheer, freaky force of “You Oughta Know.” Is this Mary Jane’s story? Often, it is—we want to know if she will become a statistic in the Oxycodone crisis. But isn’t Frankie our hero, a smart, fearless woman of color with divided loyalties? Queer and resilient Jo is hilarious and deep, and I could watch her all night. And Bella’s tragedy is horrific, yet she fades into the background, a ghostly victim. Too often you find yourself asking: Whose story is this? If the Morissette catalogue must be parceled among four personas, then drill down on that, and trim away excess narrative and satirical gestures. "

Adam Feldman:

"But Next to Normal has a strong focus on a single story, and an original score created to support that focus. Morissette’s songs, most of them cowritten with Glen Ballard, weren’t designed for that work. Cody has found clever places for some of them—“Ironic” is framed, self-deprecatingly, as a high school student’s gangly attempt at writing poetry—but the balance is off. Two of Morissette’s definitive numbers, “Hand in My Pocket” and “You Oughta Know,” are assigned to the side character of Frankie’s sort-of-girlfriend, Jo (a first-rate Lauren Patten); the latter is a bona fide showstopper, but it’s too big a moment for its place in a romantic subplot. And the show’s defining incident—the sexual assault of Nick’s friend Bella (Kathryn Gallagher) at a house party—is fleshed out much less fully, with a generic rich-white-jock predator as the villain. At a certain point, it starts to feel like several after-school specials crammed into one."

And Shaw in Vulture/NY Mag raises an issue several on this board raised about the family vs chorus:

"Also, who are they? It’s an important plot point that Frankie lives in wealthy Metro-North exurbia, surrounded by and stifled by whiteness. The chorus, however, has been carefully selected for maximum diversity. Frankie’s classmates are walking around in Vineyard Vines, while the ensemble is the entire goth stairwell at the Fame High School for the Performing Arts. Every time they showed up to sing backup for Mary Jane’s latest breakdown, I thought, Guess there was a Rent audition at the Westchester mall. And their presence draws out the team’s worst impulses. It’s right and understandable to consider gun violence in a contemporary piece about teens, but Paulus and Cody do the near impossible: They make the moment absurd. During “All I Really Want,” they have the whole company lie down for a few seconds after the lyric “Here, can you handle this?,” while the screens show an image of a high-school massacre. That’s it. At this point, the show has devolved into the Saturday Night Live skit about a student-written Drama Club showcase. We’re trying to make you think, parents and faculty. Or can’t you handle it?"

Marks hits that point:

"Your own sense of displacement may extend to the work here of choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who adds spasms of voguing and jerky and slithery movement that do, at times, correspond in literal ways to Morissette’s lyrics. As to whether they have anything to say about uptight rich people in a button-down corner of Connecticut, I am — as with so much of “Jagged Little Pill” — unconvinced."

As everyone knows, the full reviews are all available via Playbill.
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