Past Reviews

Broadway Reviews

Theatre Review by Fergus McGillicuddy

New York - April 22, 1999

The Civil War, opening tonight at the beautifully refurbished St. James Theatre, is not a traditional book musical. It is a gloriously formal cantata composed in the vocabulary of popular music and performed with such joy and energy that it literally takes your breath away. With this stunningly successful marriage of old and new musical forms, Frank Wildhorn has broken away from the strict confines and problems of a book oriented format ill suited to his particular talents and created a masterpiece, an enthralling expression of both the best and the worst sides of the transcendent and enduring American character.

The Civil War is such an accomplished and significant theatrical production as to force us to acknowledge a redefinition, a broadening in scope of what is understood as the boundaries of musical theatre, in exactly the same way Sondheim's works forced a reinterpretation and revitalization of the American musical format in the 70s and 80s. Frank Wildhorn has, with The Civil War, opened the door to new, exciting and revolutionary possibilities of what a Broadway musical can be.

The ensemble cast is uniformly brilliant and technically astonishing in performance. This may well be the best sung show Broadway has ever seen. Jerry Zaks direction is above reproach. The set design by Douglas W. Schmidt, lighting design by Paul Gallo, costume design by William Ivey Long, and projections by Wendall Harrington are restrained, appropriate, and highly effective. The sound design by Karl Richardson sets a new standard for quality and unobtrusiveness. If there are any faults in this production, they lie in the unimpressive, predictable choreography or musical staging credited to Luis Perez.

Taken on its own terms and for the cited reasons, The Civil War is the best musical on Broadway, an evening you will remember for a lifetime.

The Civil War by Frank Wildhorn, Gregory Boyd, and Jack Murphy; music by Frank Wildhorn. Directed by Jerry Zaks. Musical staging by Luis Perez. Set design by Douglas W. Schmidt. Lighting design by Paul Gallo. Costume design by William Ivey Long. Sound design by Karl Richardson. Projections by Wendall Harrington. With a 28 member ensemble cast featuring Michel Bell, Cheryl Freeman, Irene Molloy, Michael Lanning, and Gene Miller.

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes including one 15 minute intermission.

Theatre: St. James Theatre, 246 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036. (Between Broadway and 8th Avenue.)

Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM.

Tickets: $20 to $75 (There is an additional $1 per ticket Restoration Charge.)

Audience: May be inappropriate for children 6 and under. Children under 4 are not permitted in the theatre.

Tickets in person: Box Office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday Noon to 6 PM.

Tickets by phone: Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200, or outside the New York metro area (800) 545-2559, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Tickets on-line: NetTiks at

Tickets by e-mail:

Tickets by snail mail: The Civil War, PO Box 998, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108-0998. (All mail orders must include the additional $1 per ticket Restoration Charge.)

Standing room: Available only at the Box Office on the day of the performance and only if the performance if sold out.

Student tickets: Subject to availability, a limited number of $20 student tickets are available at the box office on the day of performance with valid ID.

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