In Memoriam

Stephen Sondheim and Barbara Cook

I haven’t kept up with this blog for a while, but I couldn’t ignore the passing of one of the American theater’s legendary performers: Barbara Cook. She made her Broadway debut in 1951 and was an important part of musical theater history since then — originating iconic roles such as Marian the Librarian in The Music Man and Cunegonde in Candide.

The first time I saw Cook was her 1987 Broadway concert, which heralded the second act of her career. That evening remains among my top theater experiences. As she often did, Cook ended by offering a song without amplification, the way Broadway used to sound. I could hear every syllable with such clarity, even from my seat in the last row of the uppermost balcony at the Ambassador Theatre.

Years later, I got to meet her after a concert version of The High Life in which I performed. Cook, who had starred in the 1961 original cast, was ebullient in her praise of our cast. I was first out of the dressing room, so I was first to be enfolded in her large bear hug.

In 2005, I shared the stage with her during the marathon Wall to Wall Sondheim at New York’s Symphony Space. As part of the Juilliard Choral Union, I sang in the show’s final number. (I’m the one directly behind Cook in the photo.) She was the penultimate performer — proof of her status among actors and among Sondheim interpreters.

“Good night, my someone. Good night, my love.”

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Carousel Review Roundup

Nathan Gunn
and Kelli O'Hara

The N.Y. Philharmonic’s concert staging of the 1945 musical Carousel, based on Ferenc Molnar’s 1909 play Liliom, received near universal acclaim. The concert was taped for “Live from Lincoln Center” and will air starting April 26 on PBS. The creative team includes Oscar Hammerstein II (book, lyrics), Chad Beguelin (adaptation), Richard Rodgers (music), John Rando (director), Rob Fisher (music direction), Trude Rittmann (dance arrangements), Don Walker (orchestrations), Warren Carlyle (choreography), Allen Moyer (sets), Ken Billington (lights), David Woolard (costumes), Tom Watson (hair), and Peter Fitzgerald (sound). The cast includes Kelli O’Hara (Julie Jordan), Nathan Gunn (Billy Bigelow), Stephanie Blythe (Nettie Fowler), Shuler Hensley (Jigger Craigin), Jason Danieley (Enoch Snow), Jessie Mueller (Carrie Pipperidge), Kate Burton (Mrs. Mullin), John Cullum (Starkeeper, Dr. Seldon), Robert Fairchild (Carnival Boy), and Tiler Peck (Louise).

Joe Dziemianowicz (Daily News): Merry-go-round horses hover in the air at odd angles, as though the painted ponies have hit turbulence. The images, seen on stage at Avery Fisher Hall, perfectly capture the soaring songs and dramatic tensions in Carousel. … And it’s breathtaking. Directed by John Rando in a production that feels fully realized even though it is a concert, the show boasts topflight talents from theater, opera and dance. … It starts out as small-town realism and ends up, literally, in the stars. Fitting for this out-of-this-world production.

Elysa Gardner (USA Today): Helmed by John Rando, under the expert musical direction of conductor Rob Fisher, it features a dizzying array of talent. … It would be hard to think of a singer/actress better suited to the role of Julie than O’Hara, whose luminous voice and wholesome but knowing presence have made her one of Broadway’s most reliable and likable leading ladies. … The handsome, charismatic Gunn is an equally ideal Billy, bringing the right masculine energy and angst to the part while also revealing its underlying tenderness.

Erik Haagensen (Back Stage): The evening is rife with soaring voices and lush orchestral sounds, but the drama remains absent. When I don’t shed a single tear at Carousel, something is amiss. … The heroine of the evening is Jessie Mueller, as Carrie. Despite needing to co-exist with a production that has scrubbed out every bit of sexuality and emotional darkness it can, Mueller manages to be fresh, spontaneous, and genuine. … The production drowns the show in syrup and blows nearly 70 years of dust right back on it.

Charles Isherwood (N.Y. Times): From top to bottom this is as gorgeously sung a production of this sublime 1945 Broadway musical as you are ever likely to hear. … Ms. O’Hara and Mr. Gunn’s performance just might be the one I’d choose to memorialize too: both are in ravishing voice. … The measure of any Billy Bigelow must be taken in the celebrated “Soliloquy,” and while Mr. Gunn sings it with impressive musical authority, I found his interpretation lacking in emotional dynamics. … Ms. Peck all but stops the show with her radiant performance in the second-act ballet, choreographed skillfully if somewhat generically by Warren Carlyle.

Brian Scott Lipton (Theater Mania): The Philharmonic’s concert production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s classic 1945 musical Carousel … is a spectacular treat for the ears. … John Rando’s simple production will leave even the most jaded audience member with both a tear in their eye and a smile on their face by the end of the show. … In some ways, however, the evening’s standout performance belongs to the one person on stage who doesn’t sing much: New York City Ballet rising star Tiler Peck. … This musically sublime experience is not to be missed.

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Cinderella Review Roundup

Laura Osnes and
Santino Fontana

The Broadway premiere of the 1957 TV musical Cinderella, based on the fairy tale “Cendrillon” by Charles Perrault, has opened to mixed reviews. The creative team includes Douglas Carter Beane (book), Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics), Richard Rodgers (music), Mark Brokaw (direction), Josh Rhodes (choreography), Danny Troob (orchestrations), David Chase (music arrangements), Anna Louizos (sets), William Ivey Long (costumes), Kenneth Posner (lights), Nevin Steinberg (sound), and Paul Huntley (hair). The cast includes Laura Osnes (Ella), Santino Fontana (Prince Topher), Peter Bartlett (Sebastian), Ann Harada (Charlotte), Greg Hildreth (Jean-Michel), Marla Mindelle (Gabrielle), Phumzile Sojola (Lord Pinkleton), Harriet Harris (Madame), and Victoria Clark (Marie).

Ben Brantley (N.Y. Times): This Cinderella wants to be reassuringly old-fashioned and refreshingly irreverent, sentimental and snarky, sincere and ironic, all at once. … There’s been a whole lot of fiddling with the plot too to give it politically progressive substance and those mandatory messages about self-esteem and self-empowerment. … Of course no one’s really going to Cinderella for its politics. They go for the songs … and, oh yes, the dresses, which have been left to the capable and industrious hands of William Ivey Long. The showstoppers in this version aren’t the songs so much as those instant costume changes from rags to riches by our girl Cindy.

Brian Scott Lipton (Theater Mania): The more-is-more approach of Mark Brokaw’s 2½-hour production often makes this first-ever Broadway rendition of the show far harder to fall in love with than its adorable heroine. … What will enchant audiences of all ages, thankfully, is the sweeping, athletic choreography of Josh Rhodes, lovingly executed by a fine ensemble outfitted in William Ivey Long’s colorful and clever costumes. … This Cinderella too often resembles the kind of overstuffed, over-intellectualized sandwiches found in trendy Tribeca eateries – they sound great on the menu, but once they arrive on the plate, you realize they’re far less appetizing than imagined.

David Rooney (Hollywood Reporter): Cinderella gets off to a halting start and takes some questionable detours. But this pleasurable confection overcomes its conceptual missteps. … Without exception, this is a gorgeously sung production. That makes it easy to forgive the show’s flaws. … The feeling remains that, much like the glass slipper on all those wannabe princesses, the material is an imperfect fit for Beane’s snappy irreverence. But under the gently guiding hand of director Brokaw, this Cinderella makeover nonetheless has enough magic on tap to deliver crowd-pleasing family entertainment.

Marilyn Stasio (Variety): The cheeky humor of Beane’s book comes from imposing modern sensibilities (and contemporary lingo) on timeless storybook figures. … But all these clever alterations radically change the story we all grew with, the tale about how true love rescues a callously mistreated girl from persecution. … Ella is no longer even the hero of her own fairytale. By introducing all those politically correct social issues, Beane has effectively shifted the focus of the story to the Prince, who has fallen down on the job of governing his kingdom. … Cinderella has become a secondary character in a story about a guy who mans up and resolves his identity crisis.

Terry Teachout (Wall St. Journal): The show itself is a gem, a compact operetta with a radiant score, and virtually every aspect of this production is right on target, starting with Laura Osnes. … So what went wrong? Douglas Carter Beane. … It doesn’t help that Mark Brokaw, the director, seems to have told everyone in the cast but Ms. Osnes to camp it up. … Ms. Osnes, a fine singer and a very good dancer, makes the most of Josh Rhodes’s well-wrought choreography and looks great in William Ivey Long’s fancy costumes. … You’ve got a musical that’s resplendent whenever the members of the cast are singing and repellent whenever they stop singing and start talking.

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Wild Bride Review Roundup

Patrycja Kujawska

The Cornish theater troupe Kneehigh has received very positive reviews for the Off-Broadway stop of its U.S. tour of The Wild Bride, adapted from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale “The Girl Without Hands.” The creative team includes Carl Grose (book, lyrics), Stu Barker (music), Emma Rice (adaptation, direction), Etta Murfitt (choreography), Bill Mitchell (sets), Myriddin Wannell (costumes), Malcolm Rippeth (lights), and Simon Baker (sound). The cast includes Audrey Brisson (Girl), Patrycja Kujawska (Wild), Etta Murfitt (Woman), Stuart Goodwin (Father, Prince), and Andrew Durand (Devil), with Ian Ross and Damon Daunno (Musicians).

Jason Fitzgerald (Back Stage): The plot is an ordeal in which both audience and protagonist are left wondering if the experience is going to be worth it. Spoiler alert: It is. The Wild Bride tells an unflinching story with courage and heart. … Stu Barker’s music is the motor that drives the evening; it’s energetic and never boring. Three actors play the hapless bride, each at a different stage of her life. All are spirited and offer a quiet intensity, but it falls to Patrycja Kujawska to perform the part’s most virtuosic segment, during which she transforms first into a beast and then into a princess. There’s little Kujawska can’t do. … The final moments, deliberately unspectacular, are worth the wait.

Charles Isherwood (N.Y. Times): The chiming words “once upon a time” situate us clearly in the realm of the fairy tale, and yet the happily ever after seems a distant dream in this doggedly grisly story. … Ms. Rice, who adapted the tale, smoothly blends measures of fluid choreography into her storytelling. And she unearths surprising nuggets of humor in a tale that seems to become more absurdly dark as it twists along. … I knew I was supposed to be rooting for Team Good, but it was mighty hard to suppress the desire to see the heroine renegotiate Daddy’s deal with the Devil in her favor. But I suppose it’s not really feasible to live happily ever after in hell.

Zachary Stewart (Theater Mania): Who would have thought that so much ugliness could be delivered so beautifully? … Rice has distilled the best of this mythology into a strong narrative which guides this sharp tale of female empowerment in the face of insurmountable circumstances. … This is theater for the era of globalization, where anyone can meet at a crossroads and all are subject to the devil’s machinations. Which is to say, really, that complaints of stylistic inconsistency have no place in the discussion. Kneehigh has no agenda beyond telling a good story, and they do so again with their colorful, worldly Bride.

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Passion Review Roundup

Judy Kuhn and
Ryan Silverman

Classic Stage Company’s Off-Broadway revival of the 1994 Broadway musical Passion, adapted from Ettore Scola’s 1981 film Passione d’Amore, has received generally positive reviews. For the record, the creative team includes James Lapine (book), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics, music), John Doyle (direction), Rob Berman (music direction), Ann Hould-Ward (costumes), Jane Cox (lights), Dan Moses Schreier (sound), Jonathan Tunick (orchestrations), Angelina Avallone (makeup), and J. Jared Janas, Rob Greene (hair). The cast includes Stephen Bogardus (Col. Ricci), Jeffry Denman (Lt. Barri, Mother), Melissa Errico (Clara), Jason Michael Evans (Pvt. Augenti, Mistress), Ken Krugman (Lt. Torasso, Father), Judy Kuhn (Fosca), Orville Mendoza (Sgt. Lombardi), Tom Nelis (Dr. Tambourri), Will Reynolds (Maj. Rizzolli, Ludovic), and Ryan Silverman (Giorgio).

Ben Brantley (N.Y. Times): Mr. Doyle’s Passion – which features a perfectly balanced triumvirate of stars in Ryan Silverman, Judy Kuhn and Melissa Errico – comes across as a pulsing collective fever dream. And it reminds us that out of such dreams a startling clarity can emerge, almost painful in its acuteness. … The production rises and falls on its Giorgio, and Mr. Silverman gives us one to stand in memory. … This is a performance of risk-taking, unconditional emotional commitment. … I didn’t stop to think that I was listening to songs. I was hearing thought. And at moments I was hearing a distillation of pure emotion.

Joe Dziemianowicz (Daily News): The new production … is just plain gorgeous – a feast for the ears and the eyes. No, this vision by Scottish director John Doyle doesn’t smooth out the jagged edges and heavy-handedness of Lapine’s story about a hag and two hotties. But between the ace cast, including its three leads and ensemble, and Doyle’s intimate and elegant staging, flaws recede. … The spare but sleek production, including Ann Hould-Ward’s period costumes and Jane Cox’s painterly lighting, keeps the focus on the music and the cast uniformly delivers. … Passion is the first production from CSC’s Musical Theatre Initiative. Impressive enough to inspire love at first sight.

Erik Haagensen (Back Stage): John Doyle’s intimate chamber production at Classic Stage Company is largely unsuccessful. … On Doyle’s dull, nearly bare unit set (staging Passion without a bed makes as much sense as doing The Music Man without a band), the characters are constantly pacing pointlessly about to music that originally accompanied set changes, attenuating the drama. … Silverman possesses the requisite good looks and sings strongly, but there is little detail to the performance, and the actor is utterly unpersuasive in Giorgio’s change of heart, missing the moment entirely. … Dry, over-intellectualized, and slackly paced, this is a Passion pretty much devoid of it.

Brian Scott Lipton (Theater Mania): Wisely, Doyle has scaled back the piece in numerous ways to better fit CSC’s more intimate space. … The production’s linchpin – and revelation – is Silverman. No doubt, his matinee-idol looks are perhaps the key reason why two women are so attracted to him while his fellow soldiers despise him. Ultimately, though, it’s his extraordinary ability as an actor to navigate Giorgio’s tricky emotional transitions … that make his character so compelling. … While it’s possible some people still might not find this musical’s denouement convincing, I suspect most audiences will fall head over heels in love with this Passion.

Terry Teachout (Wall St. Journal): This Passion is memorable in every way, starting with Judy Kuhn’s quietly fierce performance as the show’s love-besotted anti-heroine. It will be a long time before we see another staging of Passion that speaks so eloquently of the black mysteries of the human heart. … Mr. Silverman is not quite up to the mark set by his colleagues, but he is very good. … Mr. Doyle and Classic Stage Company have given us a great production of a great work of theatrical art. It will move you to the marrow.

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Donnybrook Review Roundup

Jenny Powers (center)

Irish Rep’s revisal of the 1961 musical Donnybrook!, which was adapted from John Ford’s 1952 Oscar-winning film The Quiet Man (itself adapted by Frank S. Nugent from a 1933 Saturday Evening Post story by Maurice Walsh), has received mixed reviews but positive enough to extend the limited engagement by a month. For the record the creative team includes Robert E. McEnroe (book), Johnny Burke (lyrics, music), Charlotte Moore (adaptation, direction), John Bell (music direction), Barry McNabb (choreography), James Noone (sets), Linda Fisher, Leon Dobkowski (costumes), Brian Nason (lights), Zachary Williamson (sound), Robert-Charles Vallance (hair, wigs), and Sven Nelson (props). The cast includes James Barbour (Sean Enright), Samuel Cohen (Mikeen Flynn), Patrick Cummings Gavin), Terry Donnelly (Kathy Carey), Ted Koch (Will Danaher), Barbara Marineau (Birdy), Mary Mallen (Esme), Kern McFadden (Gilbane), Kevin McGuire (Toomey), Jenny Powers (Mary Kate Danaher), and David Silber (Father Finucane).

Joe Dziemianowicz (Daily News): The Irish Repertory Theatre’s enjoyable revival of Donnybrook! lands a couple punches. Considering the less-than-stellar material, that’s something. Robert E. McEnroe’s book boasts few laughs and more than a few stereotypes. The score by Johnny Burke is a meager porridge. But “He Makes Me Feel I’m Lovely” rings with plainspoken prettiness. … Songs are brought nicely to life with four musicians and a capable cast. … Especially good are Kathy Fitzgerald and Samuel Cohen, as a wealthy widow and wily matchmaker. Their chipper duet, “Dee-lightful Is the Word,” lives up to the title. Ditto James Noone’s spinning, shape-shifting set.

Brian Scott Lipton (Theater Mania): A “revisal” of the short-lived 1961 Broadway musical Donnybrook! is being given a spirited production by artistic director Charlotte Moore. But as engaging as these folks can be, especially in the hands of a talented cast led by James Barbour and Jenny Powers, there’s no denying that this musical adaptation of the beloved 1952 film The Quiet Man is far from a knockout. … Of course, some of what might make Donnybrook! feel more full-bodied simply can’t be accomplished here due to the small Irish Rep space. … But I’m not sure if bigger would make this quirky musical worth fighting for.

Marc Miller (Back Stage): The Irish Repertory Theatre … has revived an old second-rank musical that’s nevertheless fondly remembered by enthusiasts and meddled with it so much that what’s onstage is scarcely recognizable. … When you cut a book to its bare essentials or beyond, yes, you speed up the action to suit an attention deficit–prone modern audience, but you also eliminate the ballast of character points and natural stage rhythms that allow us to care about these people. … Fans of golden age musical comedy will probably find things to enjoy in this frantic evening, thanks mostly to the composer-lyricist. But they should be warned that what they’re seeing isn’t really Donnybrook!

Terry Teachout (Wall St. Journal): James Barbour … is a sterling-silver musical-comedy baritone, and Donnybrook! takes wing whenever he opens his mouth. … Ms. Moore has done no small amount of smart musical tinkering, dropping some of the weaker songs and interpolating two blue-chip Burke-Van Heusen ballads. … She’s also tightened up Robert E. McEnroe’s book, and though the results sometimes move too fast, … most of her cuts serve Donnybrook! well. … It’s possible, of course, that the show would work better in a bigger house, but I suspect that the warm, clarifying intimacy of Ms. Moore’s staging is an important part of what brings Donnybrook! to life.

Andy Webster (N.Y. Times): The weather looks fine on James Noone’s set for Donnybrook! … The same could be said of this revival. … That’s no small feat. … James Barbour and Jenny Powers have dignity and verve, and the musical plays up a delightful dalliance between the widowed local landowner (Kathy Fitzgerald) and Innisfree’s resident matchmaker (Samuel Cohen). Terry Donnelly and Barbara Marineau, as village hens, offer vivid, colorful support. Under Charlotte Moore’s crisp direction, the show manages another remarkable feat: looking past the story’s fists to uncover its heart.

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2013 Oscar Awards

Anne Hathaway

Clocking in at  three hours and 35 minutes, this year’s Academy Award presentation saw a democratic spread of trophies among the films nominated, with Life of Pi taking home four statues and Best Picture winner Argo and the musical Les Misérables each winning three. Host Seth MacFarlane began the evening with a tepid tribute to movie musicals, aided by Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron in a rather suave Astaire-Rogers routine to Kern and Fields’ “The Way You Look Tonight” (1936, Swing Time) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe in an under-rehearsed soft shoe to Sammy Cahn’s “High Hopes” (1959, A Hole in the Head), capped off with an inscrutable finale segment of Menken and Ashman’s “Be Our Guest” (1991, Beauty and the Beast).

Later in the evening, all three supporting actress winners from movie musicals in the past decade performed highlights from their Oscar-honored performances. Catherine Zeta-Jones (2002, Chicago) offered Kander and Ebb’s iconic “All That Jazz” and Jennifer Hudson (2006, Dreamgirls) brought the theater to its feet with Krieger and Eyen’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” while Anne Hathaway (2013, Les Misérables) was joined by fellow nominee Hugh Jackman and the entire film cast for Schönberg and Boublil’s “One Day More” as the rousing finale of the “Celebration of Musicals” segment. (Academy officials said all performances were sung live, but it appeared to me that Zeta-Jones was lip-synching.) Another musical highlight of the evening was Barbra Streisand’s “In Memoriam” tribute to composer Marvin Hamlisch, with a poignant performance of the Oscar-winning song “The Way We Were,” which Hamlisch co-wrote with Alan and Marilyn Bergman.

In addition to Anne Hathaway’s win for best supporting actress, Les Misérables was honored for its sound mixing (Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Simon Hayes) and its makeup and hairstyling (Lisa Westcott, Julie Dartnell), converting three of eight nominations. Other musical award winners of the evening included Searching for Sugar Man (Best Documentary Feature) and “Skyfall” (Best Song), co-written by Adele, the girl with the Midas touch this year.

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2013 BAFTA Awards

Anne Hathaway

The 66th British Academy Film Awards were handed out on Sunday at the Royal Opera House in London, in a ceremony hosted by actor Stephen Fry. Ben Affleck was voted as Best Director and his film, Argo, as Best Film. Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) and Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) won honors as Best Actor and Best Actress, and Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables) and Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) picked up the Best Supporting trophies.  Overall, Les Misérables garnered the most awards of the evening, converting four of its nine nominations. In addition to Hathaway’s win, the film took honors for  Best Sound,  Best Production Design, and Best Makeup and Hair.

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2013 Grammy Awards

The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences handed out their 55th annual Grammy Awards last night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, in a ceremony hosted by rapper LL Cool J that was broadcast live on CBS. Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys was the big winner, taking home four awards, including two for the song “Lonely Boy,” while Jay-Z and Kanye West, Skrillex, and Gotye each received three.

The Tony-winning musical Once added to its overflowing trophy case, taking home the Grammy as Best Musical Theater Album for its original Broadway cast recording, besting competition that included the revival cast recording of Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 musical Follies, the revival cast recording of the Gershwins’ 1935 musical Porgy and Bess, the original cast recording of Newsies from Alan Menken and Jack Feldman (who won the Tony for Best Score), the original cast recording of the Gershwin retro musical Nice Work If You Can Get It.

Among the nominees for Best Song Written for Visual Media was the Emmy-nominated “Let Me Be Your Star” (from Smash), by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who lost to “Safe and Sound” (from The Hunger Games), by T Bone Burnett, Taylor Swift, John Paul White and Joy Williams.

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Fiorello Review Roundup

Danny Rutigliano (center) and company

The concert revival of the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning 1959 musical Fiorello!, presented as the season opener of the Encores! series at City Center this past weekend, received mixed reviews but universal acclaim for supporting actor Shuler Hensley. The creative team for the production included Jerome Weidman and George Abbott (book), John Weidman (adaptation), Sheldon Harnick (lyrics), Jerry Bock (music), Gary Griffin (direction), Rob Berman (music direction), Alex Sanchez (choreography), John Lee Beatty (sets), Jess Goldstein (costumes), Ken Billington (lights), Scott Lehrer (sound), and Irwin Kostal (orchestrations). The cast included Kate Baldwin (Thea), Jeremy Bobb (Floyd McDuff), Ray DeMattis (Mr. Zappatella), Erin Dilly (Marie), Jenn Gambatese (Dora), Adam Heller (Morris), Shuler Hensley (Ben Marino), Richard Ruíz (Mr. Lopez), Danny Rutigliano (Fiorello La Guardia), Andrew Samonsky (Neil), Emily Skinner (Mitzi Travers) and Cheryl Stern (Mrs. Pomerantz).

Ben Brantley (N.Y. Times): Let’s hear it for the boys of the American musical. No, not the gentlemen of the chorus. This time I mean those tough, growly guys who wouldn’t know a chassé step unless it kicked ‘em right in the kisser. … Having seen Mr. Hensley’s Ben Marino and his back-room cronies put over a sly showstopper about graft and perjury called “Little Tin Box,” I can attest that they too belong right up there in the Singing Lug Hall of Fame. … Mr. Rutigliano runs confidently with a part he would seem to be born for. … Thank Heaven that Encores! makes it such a pleasure for us to savor the near-greatness of times past and to assess the difference.

Joe Dziemianowicz (Daily News): Like a big air kiss, the show is back to launch the 20th-anniversary season. You gotta love it, right? Unfortunately, no. … In the title role, Rutigliano nails the character’s pro-underdog pugnacity, but never opens a window to his charms. … Now, some good news. Shuler Hensley plays a gruff politico and, with an ace men’s ensemble, hits all the right notes on “Politics and Poker” and “Little Tin Box.” Hensley comes close to earning the exclamation point on Fiorello! Ditto Dilly. She mostly pines as the marriage-minded Marie. … Between Hensley and Dilly, I’m in like with this Fiorello! That ain’t love. But it ain’t nothing.

Brian Scott Lipton (Theater Mania): It’s a rather oddly structured affair that tells us precious little about the so-called Little Flower (played here with suitable gusto by the pint-sized Danny Rutigliano). … We don’t learn much about LaGuardia other than his essential decency, brash attitude, and willingness to take on Tammany Hall. … The great Shuler Hensley, in the production’s standout performance as political bigwig Ben Marino, practically devours the show’s best-known tune, the clever “Little Tin Box,” aided by a first-rate chorus of gentlemen. … How Fiorello! made it to the top of Tony ticket instead of being an also-ran is beyond my powers of explanation. Is it too late for a recount?

Linda Winer (Newsday): The cast is not as delightful or dazzling as it was in 1994. This is especially true in the crucial center, where Danny Rutigliano … too often seems just a mean little man. … The narrative detours and middling humor are not advantages. And yet, despite all this, there is still much to enjoy. … Erin Dilly is terrific as his lovelorn girl Friday. Emily Skinner drops in to belt the torchy-diva number, and Shuler Hensley, despite a growly sound, is a treat as the machine boss. … And there is a dark new song that works beautifully … the last music Bock wrote before he died in 2010. This is its premiere. And this is why we continue to treasure Encores!

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