Tony Nominations 2016

First of all: Happy Tony day, everyone! I’ll be watching the show from my friend Cheryl’s house and playing Tony Bingo. (Aside: You wouldn’t believe the Hamilton-related prize I have for the bingo winner. ) I had been planning to do a full post on a few of the plays and musicals nominated for a Tony. And here it is, Tony Sunday already, so I’d better get something up before I run out of time! I’m a little behind on plays, to be honest, so I’ll just focus on musicals for today.

Hamilton

hamiltonHamilton is, of course, nominated for nearly everything and a lock to win quite a few awards tonight. I haven’t mentioned Hamilton much on this blog since my original review of the Off-Broadway production. (I’ve been telling people to buy tickets since I first saw the show back in February of 2015. This has the effect of making everyone even more annoyed at my I-told-you-sos than they are at Hamilton’s producers for the ticket prices.) I have since seen it twice on Broadway, and am proud to take full responsibility for introducing nearly my entire family to the show. (They all love it. But then so does everyone.)

What’s left to say? It’s a wonderful show, and it deserves much of the hype it has received. And yet. Like many others, I have been feeling a bit of backlash. I mean, Hamilton is a great show, but there are lots of great shows on Broadway. Can’t get a ticket to Hamilton? Go see Fun Home, or The Color Purple, or Waitress, or Shuffle Along, or any one of a dozen other terrific shows currently on Broadway.

Oh, and one more thing: If you do snag tickets to Hamilton, I’d recommend doing what I did when my mom and sister came to see the show: try visiting Hamilton Grange before your performance. It’s a great and quick tour of his uptown home, and seeing it gives a wonderful context to the show’s history. And if you get the same tour guide as I did, you’ll be amused at how hilariously dismissive he is of the musical. (Ask him if he plans to see it, or if he knows the song “It’s Quiet Uptown”, or what he thinks of the cast recording. It will drive him up the wall.)

Bright Star

bright starI’m going to try and be quick about this, because I’m really trying not to get too negative on this blog these days. I mean, I am sometimes of two minds about this blogging thing altogether. These people are working their hardest to put on a Broadway show, and I come in and announce that it’s no good for x, y and z reasons. It just seems hubristic, right? Who the heck am I to say anything about the ultimate quality of a show? Maybe it was always their dream to get to Broadway. And here I’m dismissing it altogether?

On the other hand, I use this blog as a way to engage with the art that I love. And I pay for most of the shows I see, and the box office is very happy to accept my money. So why shouldn’t I express my opinion? Furthermore, this is not a high-trafficked blog, anyway, so I don’t worry about it too much. But I still don’t want to be mean about shows just for the fun of it. Which is why I never blogged about Bright Star, even though I saw it back in February. I hated it, and I hated it so much that I get a little startled when some people tell me they kinda liked it. My honest opinion is that it would never have made it to Broadway if it weren’t written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell.

Why did I hate it? Well, mostly because of the book. It’s a totally ridiculous story about a fortyish book editor (Carmen Cusack, who is actually really great) who meets an aspiring young writer with a surprising connection to her secret past. (Hmm. That doesn’t sound so bad. Well, it would sound awful if I told you the ridiculous plot twists. Let’s just say the show may or may not feature a baby being tossed off a bridge.) And it’s so, uh, white. (I believe they’re calling it “White Star” over on Twitter.) I don’t know. I mean, writers have to tell the stories they want to tell, but here’s the thing. A story set in the post World War II South that doesn’t even mention that black people exist, or portray any onstage, just seems a little tone deaf in a season of musicals like Hamilton and Shuffle Along.

That said, there’s one thing I did like about Bright Star, and that’s the music. Mr. Martin and Ms. Brickell apparently got the idea for the show from their award-winning bluegrass album. So the songs are good, though the lyrics are pretty trite and ridiculous (“If you knew my story, my heaven and my hell, if you knew my story, you’d have a good story to tell”). The voices and the band and the harmonies sound so glorious in the theater that I was occasionally tempted to forgive the show’s flaws and just flow with the music. Other bluegrass lovers may feel the score washes away the show’s problems, for the most part. But I wasn’t able to overcome my distaste for the story. So I can’t recommend this show.

She Loves Me

she loves meI just saw this one ten days ago, actually, and have been too busy with work and travel since then to write a full blog post about it. Critics have been calling this production a nearly perfect restaging of a nearly perfect musical. I don’t know that I’d go so far, to be honest. I’ve only just realized it, but I have some problems with the show’s writing.

But that sounds a bit negative, doesn’t it? Let’s start with the positive: first of all, the music is just as good as it ever was. Everyone else grew up listening to the cd too, right? (If you didn’t: She Loves Me is based on the same story as You’ve Got Mail or The Shop Around the Corner). What fabulous musical theater songs!

The set is so beautiful that I wanted to get a job at Maracek’s Parfumerie myself — imagine working in that jewel box! Scott Ellis’s direction is smooth, perhaps even occasionally overly slick (I could have done with a little less physical comedy, perhaps). But that’s a quibble. Because best of all is the cast: Zachary Levi is completely charming as leading man Georg, and both Jane Krakowski and Gavin Creel are letter-perfect in their featured roles. This is truly an ensemble show, and absolutely everyone does a wonderful job.

Including leading lady Laura Benanti. Let it be said that I totally love Laura Benanti. She’s a great actress, her voice is lovely and she has fantastic comic timing. Basically, she’s a gift to Broadway and has an awesome Twitter feed to boot. I truly don’t think what I’m about to complain about is her fault. But why is everyone calling this a perfect musical when the character of Amalia is a bit of a mess? This is a girl who charges into a parfumerie and gets a job through sheer moxie. She doesn’t seem shy. She seems awesome! But then her lyrics tell a different story:

Will he like me when we meet?
Will the shy and quiet girl he’s going to see
Be the girl that he’s imagined me to be?

Or:

I make believe nothing is wrong
How long can I pretend?
Please make it right, don’t break my heart….

I don’t know. Maybe I’m being unfair. I guess this is supposed to represent the inner life of the character, but I wasn’t convinced. Because Laura Benanti can play a shy and quiet character. (She won a Tony as Louise in Gypsy for crying out loud.) But this role isn’t shy! She’s open, brash, fun, a little klutzy. Why aren’t her songs more reflective of the character we see in the book scenes?

If your big complaint about a show, though, is a nitpick about some a few of the lyrics for the leading lady, you are sitting pretty. She Loves Me is a great pick if you are looking for a show to take your parents, or your date, or if you just want to take your mind off your troubles, or if you just want to see a musical that truly appreciates ice cream.

The Color Purple

color purpleI was in the ticketholders’ line outside the Jacobs a few weeks ago when I heard the news: Cynthia Erivo was out sick that night. (I do believe I moaned in dismay.) I’d heard so many good things about her performance that I decided to rebook. The box office folks switched my ticket with no extra charges, and the next week I tried again.

And wow. Does she ever live up to the hype! Where do I begin describing her performance? Well, let’s start with this: she’s got a voice and a half. I mean, we’re talking Whitney Houston-caliber vocals. The songs sound incredible. And she is onstage for the vast majority of the show. It must be an incredibly physically demanding role. (How on earth did she run a half-marathon and do two shows, all in one day?) But that’s not really what impressed me so much. Her character, Celie, transforms from an abused and downtrodden girl into an independent powerhouse woman, and is totally believable throughout. She nails the comedic moments, and the drama, and the songs as well. Ms. Erivo is a beautiful lady, of course, but her demeanor in the first act of the show even had me believing it when other characters kept calling her ugly. And then by the end of the end of the show, when Celie has made a new start for herself, I thought “Oh my goodness. She radiates joy.” I’ve said before that expressing joy is what musicals do best, and Cynthia Erivo is doing it better than anyone I’ve seen in a long time. For the first time in my life, I burst into tears at the curtain call. Bravo.

As for the rest of the cast — well, they’re all great. And I don’t mean to pick favorites, but Heather Headley (a new arrival to the cast) is fabulous as Shug (Celie’s friend and sometime love interest). Confident, sexy, warm — no wonder everyone onstage loves Shug so much. It is so good to see Heather Headley on Broadway again. And Danielle Brooks lights up the stage as Sophia, Celie’s ballsy friend.

And what did I think of the show itself? Well, I thought that it seemed like a pretty strong musical, actually. The songs were lively, the story propelled along nicely, the characterization was great, and all in all I liked it a lot.

If my description sounds like it’s a new musical, that’s because it was a new musical to me. I had missed the entire original run of The Color Purple (I don’t recall why — perhaps I was busy ushering?). So who can say if I’d have liked it? The critical consensus is that original was not great, whereas this new production is revelatory. I wonder if that’s really true. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the show, and I would certainly vote for it as Best Revival of a Musical. (And I think it will win! Hooray!) But — and I’m just throwing this out there — maybe the fault is a little more with us than we’d like to admit? Could it be that The Color Purple had virtues that few noticed in the original run? I make this suggestion because my friend Vanessa, who has seen both, seemed a little confused about why this production was considered so superior to the original. I think for those who were looking, The Color Purple was always a little better than what it had been given credit for.

Best of luck to all the Tony nominees and congratulations to everyone one such a stellar season. I feel so lucky to have been a witness to it. Cheers to Broadway!

Review: Thérèse Raquin

Therese RaquinBoy was I deflated when the usher at Thérèse Raquin told me the show was a solid 2 hours and 45 minutes with a 20 minute intermission. Say what? My first thought: Ugh, I won’t be getting home until midnight. My second thought: This is a very good excuse for buying myself and my friend Jessica drinks at intermission. If I’m going to sit through a long, dark, heavy play, at least I could do it with a beverage in hand, right?

As it turns out, though, neither of us felt the need to ply ourselves with alcohol. Thérèse Raquin was compelling, haunting, and overall a very entertaining evening. Nice performances; fascinating story; impressive production. We were both glad we’d seen it. I had seen it years ago (in London) but didn’t remember much about it. Before I forget the plot again, here’s what it’s about: Keira Knightley stars as Thérèse, a passionate young woman caught between desire and duty in nineteenth-century Paris. She and her lover, Laurent, conspire against her annoying ninny of a husband, Camille. Violence, death, madness and revenge all follow. Cue the ominous music, right?

Actually there was a lot of melodramatic music during the show. It feels more like a modern psychological thriller than a 19th century tragedy. The adaptation, by Helen Edmundson, is a sparse, taut retelling of the Zola story, with lots of telling pauses and knowing glances. It’s cinematic, too, in that there are lots of jumps and short scenes. To be honest, chunks of it lacked subtlety. The plot requires Therese and Laurent to be overcome with guilt in the second act, so Madame Raquin turns from an overbearing, domineering woman in the first act into a saintly, self-sacrificing one in the second act.Thérèse desires Laurent, so Thérèse visibly leans towards Laurent. Thérèse is lonely, so she stares out the window and barely responds to the world around her. (She seems a little aspy in the first half of the play, actually.)

That’s basically how Keira Knightley plays it. In the past, I’ve generally liked her performances, but she does bring a bit of a sameness to many of the roles she portrays, and Thérèse is no different. If you have seen her in Pride and Prejudice, or Pirates of the Caribbean, or Anna Karenina, you probably have the general idea of what her performance is like. That said, she does carry the show fairly well, and perhaps I would have sensed more texture in her performance if I had been sitting a little closer. (We were in the center of the mezzanine, and Studio 54 is a large theater. I always feel like intimate dramas such as this should be in smaller performance spaces.) The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent: Gabriel Ebert is perfectly irritating as Camille, Judith Light is phenomenal as Madame Raquin, and Matt Ryan is charming-but-deadly as Laurent.

And the physical production was excellent, too. Now I’m not sure if it was necessary to turn the back half of the stage into a pool, or to have such an intricate household set flying in from the rafters, but it certainly made for beautiful and impressive visuals. (Just looked it up: Beowulf Borritt, of Act One fame, was the designer. No surprise there, then! That man’s a genius.) I do wish the lighting had been a little brighter, however. There’s a difference between “atmospheric” and “hard to see.”

And the show ended at 10:38 (seven minutes ahead of schedule)! So all in all it was a successful evening and a play worth seeing. If you like it dark.

My Grade: B+
Ticket price: Jessica bought them (thank you Jess!)
Worth it: Ask Jess, but I think so
Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes
Standing Ovation Watch: 70%

Review: Into the Woods

Into the Woods playbillThey put up a chalkboard in the lobby of the Laura Pels theater, so theatergoers at the new Roundabout/Fiasco production of Into the Woods can share their own “I wish” fantasies. Last night I noticed someone had written “A Broadway transfer!” Understandable, because it’s always great to have Sondheim shows back on Broadway. Plus this is a can-do, cheerful, likable production, and the audience seemed delighted with it. But seriously: the intimate Laura Pels is already too big for this homemade production. Let’s not ruin it completely by taking it to Broadway, all right?

Here’s what I mean by that: Fiasco is an ensemble theater group that puts on inventive but bare-bones productions of classics. A pair of curtains on a rod, for example, represent ballgowns; a few fluttery slips of paper become a flock of birds. I’d previously seen their phenomenal production of Cymbeline: their accessible, familial, collaborative energy worked beautifully in bringing Shakespeare’s text to life. Now they’ve turned their creative attention toward Into the Woods, which is definitely having a Moment since the movie’s debut a few weeks ago. This production couldn’t be further from the lush, star-studded treatment the movie gets, but to be honest I liked it even better than the film. Well, for the most part. There were definitely a few problems.

Everyone who reads this blog is familiar with Into the Woods, I suppose, but just in case you aren’t: this 1980s musical — one of Sondheim’s most popular — is a mishmash of a number of fairy tales including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk. The first act is mostly light and entertaining; the second act is far darker and sadder. It’s a bit tricky to pull off that change in tone, and I know some critics complained about that when it came to the movie. (Didn’t bother me.)

This Into the Woods works mostly because its cast is so well suited to the material. There is lots of nifty double-casting in the ten-person ensemble. My favorite was that the actress who plays Little Red (Emily Young) also doubles as Rapunzel. They also eliminate the role of the storyteller and narrate the story themselves. Probably appropriate that there’s no one singular storyteller, because Fiasco feels like an old-fashioned acting troupe who have gathered to tell us a story. (In fact, according to the playbill, Jessie Austrian, who plays the Baker’s Wife, is married to Noah Brody, Cinderella’s Prince and the Wolf. How cute! They really are familial!) Fiasco also establishes a rapport with the audience at the beginning of the show, which continues throughout. Meaning: this Into the Woods features a sprinkle of audience participation. (But don’t worry. It’s not that distracting.)

As for the performances themselves, they’re all pretty strong, except possibly Jennifer Mudge as the witch. She doesn’t quite have the necessary charisma, comic timing, or even a believably evil persona. Her transformation into gorgeousness is certainly not a stretch, though. I think she’d have done better as Cinderella or Little Red, to be honest.

James Lapine’s book is still very, very clever and witty (though I’ve still never seen a production that captures its humor quite as well as the original Broadway video does). And Mr. Sondheim is in even better form. When you know a show by heart, sometimes the lyrics become so ingrained in your brain that you barely hear them anymore. (That was the case when I saw the movie a few weeks ago.) Last night, though — perhaps because of the production’s inventiveness — I heard them with a fresh ear, and lyrics like “Princes wait there in the world, it’s true/Princes, yes, but wolves and humans too” seemed especially poetic and moving. I don’t know that it’s his greatest work as a composer, but boy are there some lovely melodies. Particularly “No More”, which was an emotional highlight of this production. Though this production doesn’t really do Sondheim justice, musically. Save for piano, the company plays all the instruments themselves, and the resulting sound is fairly thin. Plus most of the actors are stronger at acting than they are at singing. This production isn’t going to present you with a transcendent aural experience.

The appeal of this kind of production (as far as I’m concerned) is that you could see a dynamic Into the Woods without the Broadway trappings. I got my tickets through my roommate, who has a Hiptix account. At $25 it’s a fantastic deal. At $35-45, it would still probably be a pretty good deal. But if you’re paying more than $50 it might start to feel like you’re paying more than your money’s worth.

My grade: B
Ticket price: $25 (Hiptix)
Worth it: Yes
Running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes with intermission
Standing Ovation Watch: 50/50

Review: The Real Thing

2014-10-09 20.06.11Tom Stoppard intimidates me. How am I supposed to write about someone so brilliant without sounding like an idiot? Exhibit A: I saw a play of his a few weeks ago and couldn’t bring myself to blog about it. Indian Ink isn’t even Mr. Stoppard’s most intellectual piece, but I felt unqualified to say anything notable about it beyond “I liked it but it was perhaps a bit long.” So to make up for my prior silence I’ll risk sounding like a dope and tell you my thoughts on the other Stoppard production currently in town: The Real Thing.

It was my first exposure to the hit 1980s play, a story that focuses on the relationship between witty playwright Henry (Ewan McGregor) and activist actress Annie (Maggie Gyllenhaal). The original Broadway production sounds like a real knockout: Jeremy Irons as Henry, Glenn Close as Annie, and Christine Baranski as Henry’s salty first wife Charlotte. All won Tonys. (Frank Rich on the original production: “Any repeat viewings are likely to be as dazzling as the first.”) Then Jennifer Ehle and Stephen Dillane won Tonys for the lead roles in the 2000 revival, too. (Brantley on the revival: “A rare thing even in what has been an exceptionally strong season for straight plays.”) Third time unlucky: I don’t think the production currently at the American Airlines theater is going to get nearly the same rapturous reception.

I did love parts of it: this is an intelligent play, crackling with wit and ideas right from the start (the show opens with a very clever play-within-a-play). Stoppard’s thoughts on love, writing, literature, marriage, activism, and fidelity are nearly always fascinating; it’s also more accessible (read: a bit less unrelentingly intellectual) than many of his other works such as Arcadia, The Invention of Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll. During the show I kept thinking of various friends who would like to see this play for all its interesting ideas. I also thought Cynthia Nixon gave a nice performance as Charlotte (interestingly enough, she was also in the original production as the daughter). Plus there’s the totally lovable soundtrack full of oldies: Henry loves old bubblegum pop songs (as do I).

But there’s plenty I didn’t care for. Starting with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ewan McGregor. Mr. McGregor’s Henry can fire off zingers with aplomb, but I simply wasn’t convinced he was anything more than a charismatic spokesman for some of Tom Stoppard’s musings. Ms. Gyllenhaal has an entirely different problem: first, she (along with many of the other cast members) seems to struggle with the English accent. More problematically, her stage presence lacks force. That’s partially because she seems to swallow some of her lines, but also because her Annie isn’t a believable activist, or a terribly compelling woman. I do wonder if I’d have connected a bit more with both leads in a smaller space. (I was in the rear mezzanine and had forgotten my binoculars.)

I think my biggest problem, though, is that this production just isn’t directed very well. While perusing the wikipedia entry on The Real Thing, I was surprised at how much I’d missed. For example, Maggie  — according to the stage directions in her first scene — is “very much like the woman Charlotte has ceased to be.” (She is? Nothing of the sort occurred to me when I was watching the show. To be fair, though, I frequently miss a lot of really obvious plot points when I’m watching theater.) The sets were pretty ugly; the ending lacked an emotional payoff. It just never really gelled for me.

In short, from what I understand The Real Thing was a revelation because it showed Stoppard has a heart as well as a brilliant intellect. But I don’t think this production really has enough of a heart of its own.

My Grade: C
Running Time:
2 hours, 20 minutes
Ticket Price:
$25 (Hiptix)
Worth it: Yes, because I’d never seen the play before
Standing Ovation Watch: No

Review: Cabaret

2014-04-16 07.42.31Last night I went to see Cabaret. It was a sort of birthday present to myself, and a farewell to the Roundabout Hiptix program. It’s for 35 and under, so I’ve aged out of it as of today. In fact I’d seen this production before, but not with Alan Cumming. I’d actually seen it with Michael C. Hall and Susan Egan (and I think, Michael Hayden as Cliff? I’d have to dig around and check the Playbill) on one of my visits before I moved here permanently. My sister and I saw it the night after we had attended LaChiusa’s The Wild Party, and I remember thinking, “Wow. Cabaret does a lot of what The Wild Party was trying to do, only much, much better.” The whole production was in terrific shape when I saw it; I walked away thinking that this is definitely one of the greats. Top ten for certain. This is also the kind of musical I’d take a friend who doesn’t like the form, because boy does it ever show you what just how powerful of a medium musical theater can be.

In any case, it was well worth revisiting on a rainy, snowy night in April. First and foremost for Alan Cumming. What a performance. Basically all he had to do was grin during “Wilkommen” and he had the entire audience (including me) eating out of his hand. That naughty smile; that angular frame; that magnetic stage presence. He was the absolute perfect tour guide to Weimar Berlin, both its sexual excesses and its dark foreboding. Boy am I glad he returned to the role, and anyone with a few bucks to spare should go ahead and scoot over to Studio 54 for a real treat.

Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles, on the other hand? Well, the news is not so good in that direction. She’s just all wrong for the part. Her soft, retiring stage presence is basically the opposite of Sally: she doesn’t have the desperation, the charisma, the fearlessness you’d need for a good Sally. She was soft where she needed to be hard and I found myself rarely looking at her onstage. As I told my friend on the way out of the show, I’ve never seen a Cabaret in which the title song isn’t a devastating coup de theatre*, but sadly enough, this is the first. Both of us felt bad for her that she is trying so hard and clearly failing, but then as my friend pointed out, “I have to do things in my job that I’m not cut out for either. It happens to all of us.”

Because Ms. Williams is so uneven, the whole production feels a little out of whack. I don’t remember having a huge problem with the lack of subtlety back when I saw the production in 2000. Back then, it felt harsh, but unflinching and brave. Necessary. This time it was more apparent, and more bothersome. Does everything need to be so… obvious? Rob Marshall’s choreography for a start (constant bumps and grinds everywhere! pelvic thrusts! crotch grabs!), the   concentration camp ending, even the costumes. All this darkness was already in the text and I’m not sure that making everything so utterly blatant is really what this show calls for. We all know how things ended in 1930s Berlin; the Emcee’s “Where are your troubles now? Forgotten! No troubles here!” is all I need. The gas chamber, therefore, was overkill.

I hope that’s not because I’m getting old and prudish. Does turning 36 do that to you?

—–

* — Oh great. Now I’m the type of person who uses the phrase “devastating coup de theatre”.  A hundred apologies!

Review: Violet

A few weeks ago a friend proclaimed Jeanine Tesori as the best composer currently writing for the musical theater. I was surprised to hear her say that so baldly (and I instantly started quibbling with her), though I don’t know why, because I tend to think her scores are delightful.

Beginning, of course, with Violet, which I saw in revival Sunday at the American Airlines theater. If you aren’t familiar with the story: a girl named Violet (Sutton Foster) goes on a bus trip from North Carolina to Tulsa, where she hopes a televangelist faith healer will heal her scarred face. It doesn’t sound like much, and it really isn’t. But what catapults this musical beyond its slight storyline is all that gorgeous music. I’ve listened to the cast recording many times since I originally bought it back in college, but hearing it live in the theater really brought home what an accomplished and impressive piece of work Violet is. Take “On My Way”, the first big number, which manages to transform a few people on a bus to a chorus of faith and hope and yearning. And “Bring Me to Light” — that rare closing number which surpasses every other number that has come before it. (And THAT is saying something!)

But enough about the score, right? We all know the score! How’s the production?

It’s excellent. It retains that Encores feel, though I suppose any show with an orchestra onstage has an Encores feel to me. I only watched a few episodes of Bunheads, but what I did see proved that Sutton Foster showed herself to have a great feel for snarky dialogue. Her Violet is sarcastic and sulky but likable and funny enough to explain why the two soldiers she meets seem so fond of her. (Her accent is also less irritatingly twangy than Lauren Ward’s on the original cd — I may buy this cast recording for that reason alone.) As usual, Violet’s scarred face is left completely to the imagination: No garish makeup at all. I would love to see an actress who’s not gorgeous take on the role, but I suppose that’s asking too much. Joshua Henry (Flick) continues to be terrific in just about everything he does — the audience was so excited by the end of his big number (“Let it Sing”) that the ovations started before he even stopped singing. And Colin Donnell (Monty) is also charming and talented as ever. And I’m not just saying that because I automatically like any actor who has announced themselves to be a Cardinals fan. (Ok, I do automatically like any actor who has announced themselves to be a Cardinals fan, but that doesn’t take away from his performance.)

But seriously. I can’t go on anymore without talking about the book. It just doesn’t really hold up. The characters aren’t fully realized, and worse, neither of Violet’s flirtations seem very plausible. So much so that the love scene at the end was completely out of left field. (And this coming from someone who knows the show and was expecting it!) You just don’t feel like Violet has really connected with anyone, except her late father (Alexander Gemignani — yet another strong cast member). I’d have been so much happier if this show were really about Violet’s personal journey, without the tacked-on romantic happy ending.

Of course, in that scenario I might not get to hear that gorgeous closing number, which atones for many of Violet’s sins. By the end of show, my thoughts amounted to “Wow, hmm, that doesn’t really make any sen— Oh who cares. This song is gorgeous.”