Broadway Theater Review: Finding Neverland & An American in Paris

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Finding Neverland

Official Blurb:  Based on the Academy Award®-winning film of the same name, this breathtaking show follows playwright J.M. Barrie as he summons the courage to become the writer – and the man – he yearns to be. Barrie finds the inspiration he’s been missing when he meets the beautiful widow Sylvia and her four young sons: Jack, George, Michael and Peter. Delighted by the boys’ hilarious escapades, Barrie conjures the magical world of Neverland and writes a play unlike any the high-society London theatergoers have ever seen. It’s a tremendous risk, but as Barrie himself has discovered—When you believe, you can fly

My take:  I had reservations going in to see this musical. In paper it had a lot of ingredients that would appeal to me: it is based on a fabulous movie, Mathew Morrison is involved who I love, and Gary Barlow was involved with the music ( yes I have no problem admitting I used to be a huge Take That fan). However all the drama surrounding the production was giving me some doubts – was there something wrong? I am happy to report that after going to the show, my diminished expectations were not necessary. This show is sweet, magical and emotional. Is it perfect – no, but it is one great night at the theater.

The preview I went to we felt Mathew Morrison was not in his best singing voice,  still I think he does a great performance.  Some of the songs he sings are wonderful and i think he is a great fit for the character.  Laura Kelly is wonderful as Silvia, a great blend of sweetness and strength that the character needs. I am a bit divided on Kelsey Grammer, most of his appearances, especially as hook, had a little bit too slapstick humor for my taste, although his singing voice is much better than I expected. I had no great expectations for the music, i thought that it would be more the production that the music, but there are some strong musical moments. I especially liked the songs: Sylvia’s Lullaby”, “Neverland” and “We’re All Made of Stars”, the last one is adorably sung by the four Llewelyn Davies Boys. I also have to note I loved the colors of the production, there were some spectacular wallpapers!

All in a great family musical, that everyone will enjoy, and most likely will pull at your heartstrings (I shed quite a few tears by the end)

Ending comment: look out for the confetti cloud – this will rank somewhere at the top of my favorite special effects – I need to have my own personal confetti cloud at some point at a party. Also fun facts of the showing,  Harvey Weinstein was attentively hanging out in the back for the whole performance, and the audience had quite a few celebrities in, i caught by me Eoin Macken and AnnaSophia Robb.

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An American in Paris

Official Blurb:  The romantic story of a young American soldier, a beautiful French girl and an indomitable European city, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war, is the stuff of Broadway dreams. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS promises to be the kind of new Broadway musical you thought they didn’t make anymore—a musical filled with beauty, artistry and the unmistakable beat of the human heart. Highly acclaimed choreographer CHRISTOPHER WHEELDON directs a remarkable cast of singers, actors and dancers as they bring the magic and romance of Paris and the timeless songs of GEORGE GERSHWIN AND IRA GERSHWIN into perfect harmony. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS also features a book from Tony Award® nominee and Pulitzer Prize finalist, CRAIG LUCAS, sets and costumes by six-time Tony® winner BOB CROWLEY and lighting by four-time Tony® winner NATASHA KATZ.

My take:  This musical left me a little bit stumped. The main thing is I don’t know wether to define it as a musical or a ballet. If i was judging just the dancing, I would say its a fabulous production on stage. Yet its not a ballet, so as a musical it left me wanting more.  There were things I liked, but the show does not fulfill its potential. It could have been great its just ok. Instead of exciting I get tepid.

Ill go positive first, to the things that I liked. Bob Crowley’s designs were beautiful, I loved the projected drawing that melded into actual effects. The dancing is spectacular, Robert Fairchild is super charming and Leanne Cope is an amazing dancer.

What I didn’t love has to do a lot with the music. Yes the book isn’t great, but there have been musicals with terrible books that i have enjoyed immensely just based on the energy and the music. American in Paris got to use some of the greatest pieces of the American standard songbook, basically Gershwin masterpieces and I feel they are not well utilized. The songs fall flat, and don’t do much to elevate the show. Having seen the Ny Philharmonic New Years Eve show on Gershwin songs with Norm Lewis I came in with high expectations as to what great musical singers would do with these songs, powerful emotional singing that leaves you mesmerized. However, it was not the case. For example what wonders Norm Lewis did with “S’Wonderful,” and “They Can’t Take That Away”, In this show the use is average, with none of the melodic beauties of the being highlighted. The song”I Got Rhythm,” is just not even close to being taken full advantage of it, even though the choreography is great, it does not pop within the show, maybe because of its slow start.  I think in general I was bored, I needed a bit more energy than what the show actually gave me.

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