The Harold Arlen revue The Wonderful Wizard of Song has received mixed notices for its Off-Broadway premiere at St. Luke’s, where it has settled for an open-ended run after a national tour. The creative team includes George Bugatti (concept, book), Sam Arlen, Nigel Wright (concept), Harold Arlen (music), Gene Castle (direction, choreography), Andrew Smithson (music direction), Steve Rawlins, Arty Schroeck, Chris Hoffman (arrangements), Josh Iacovelli (sets, lights), Steve Colucci (sets), and Amy Pedigo (costumes). The cast includes George Bugatti, Marcus Goldhaber, Joe Shepherd and Antoinette Henry.
Ron Cohen (Back Stage): The Wonderful Wizard of Song is a likable and brisk survey of composer Arlen’s work. … The problem is that up to halfway through the proceedings are fairly perfunctory. The show doesn’t really begin to burrow into the emotional richness of the canon until a sequence labeled “Saloon Medley,” in which Bugatti’s rendering of “The Man That Got Away,” its Ira Gershwin lyric sex-changed to “gal,” is galvanizing in its mix of anger and regret and ties in smartly with “One for My Baby” and other numbers. The show could use more of this type of exploration. It’s certainly a professional and entertaining offering, but Arlen’s music and his lyricists can support and deserve more.
Sandi Durrell (Examiner): The music is deliciously divine but, unfortunately, the revue doesn’t get off the ground as it could if it had a stronger, slicker cast to match the musical treasures. … Happily, Antionette Henry is in the mix and comes up as the star of the show! Ms. Henry exhibits the depth and raw emotion that make her songs come alive. … There’s lots of backstage gossip that helps to enliven and some good video slides especially the personal ones of Arlen. … If you treasure the music of iconic songwriting legend Harold Arlen, you’ll walk away singing and humming, which is not a bad thing!
Mark Dundas Wood (Bistro Awards): These singers have some talent, and they seem to sincerely admire the work of Arlen, but do they live up to his legacy? At moments, perhaps – but certainly not consistently. The show is mostly a disappointment. … Many of the key solos fall to big-voiced Henry, who succeeds when she focuses on the melody and emotional content of a song. … Most of the songs heard here have been performed and recorded by so many accomplished singers over the decades that unflattering comparisons are inevitable. … Perhaps if more such rarities had been included, the evening would have seemed more rewarding.