(l to r) Beanie Feldstein and Ramin Karimloo in ‘Funny Girl.’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy)
April has been a busy month, as is tradition on Broadway each year. Shows look to cram in their opening nights just in time for Tony Award nominations (which have been pushed back this year due to COVID and will be announced on May 9). In the past week alone, Mr. Saturday Night, Funny Girl, and The Skin of Our Teeth all opened — what did critics think of these three distinct works?
Mr. Saturday Night opened earlier this week, marking the Broadway return of Billy Crystal, revisiting a role he made famous in the 1992 movie of the same name. The musical garnered mixed reviews; per Chris Jones, your feelings about the musical may depend on how you feel about its star. “Indifferent about Crystal? Move on down the street, sucker. Love him? You’re in musical-comedy heaven,” he wrote for NY Daily News.
Laura Collins-Hughes for The New York Times said, “As a piece of theater, the show is a bit of a mess; the jokes, even some of the hoary ones, work better than the storytelling, and the acting styles are all over the place. Still, it makes for a diverting evening.”
Funny Girl stars Beanie Feldstein; if there weren’t already comparisons to the original star, Barbra Streisand, the production also opened on that icon’s birthday. Adam Feldman for Time Out New York gave the show two stars. “It is unfair, but unavoidable, to compare Feldstein to Funny Girl’s original leading lady, Barbra Streisand, who was not only a fresh comic talent at the time but also one of the greatest vocalists in Broadway history,” he said. “When Feldstein makes her first appearance, stares into an invisible mirror and delivers her famous opening self-affirmation (”Hello, gorgeous!”), the crowd goes wild. But then she starts to sing.”
Helen Shaw, for Vulture, gave the production and its star a negative review: “I can picture a version of Funny Girl that makes that case — that an odd lady with an odd voice nevertheless had it. But Feldstein doesn’t give us that, either. Vocal issues, you can work around. But presence? That one, you gotta have.”
The Skin of Our Teeth, Thorton Wilder’s classic revitalized by director Lileana Blain-Cruz, garnered more positive reviews. The New York Times‘ Alexis Soloski wrote, “The Skin of Our Teeth is a big play. In Blain-Cruz’s maximalist hands, it gets even bigger, the stage overflowing with flowers and lights and dazzling, playful puppetry.”
Deadline’s Greg Evans also praised the play, writing, “Blain-Cruz reshapes Wilder’s universe just enough to encompass the Black experience, placing it firmly within the sweep of Wilder’s epoch-spanning tragicomic history of humanity.”
See all of these shows, and many others, as they open this spring, and keep an eye out for Tony Award nominations coming in just a few weeks!