In Case You Missed It: Duncan Sheik Is Having a Busy Season and Do Critics Have Faith in Amazing Grace?

News   In Case You Missed It: Duncan Sheik Is Having a Busy Season and Do Critics Have Faith in Amazing Grace? It’s summer on Broadway, but you can still see some action on The Street.

The new Broadway musical Amazing Grace, which played a sold-out world premiere in Chicago, officially opened July 16 at the Nederlander Theatre. Josh Young stars in the story of faith that marks the Broadway debut of songwriter Christopher Smith. The show is directed by Gabriel Barre and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli. And the cast also includes such Broadway veterans as Tom Hewitt and Chuck Cooper.

Amazing Grace attempts to tell the story of well-known, inspirational, secular hymn of the show’s title. Young plays John Newton, a willful and musically talented young Englishman, who is "coming of age as Britain sits atop an international empire of slavery, he finds himself torn between following in the footsteps of his father – a slave trader – or embracing the more compassionate views of his childhood sweetheart."

Did Newton and his timeless tune deserve a musical all to itself? The Times didn’t necessarily think so, saying, "Unfortunately, while aspects of Newton's tale are indeed noteworthy, maybe even amazing, the musical itself unfolds as an overstuffed history lesson trimmed in melodrama, with a standard-issue romantic subplot and some dutiful attempts to explore the lives of the slaves," adding, “Smith's score is pleasant and serviceable."

A few critics complained of an unsubtle story, heaps of melodrama, and a British mega-musical style score, including Time Out New York, which tartly remarked, "Sadly, a complete showbiz neophyte decided to turn it into a Les Miz-style melodrama, and the crude result has been buffed to a high sheen by a talented cast and crew with $16 million at their disposal. If only some of that filthy lucre had gone to script doctors and ghostwriters instead."

Variety through the show might have an audience out there, saying, "Christian congregations and other faith-based groups should respond to this epic-scaled saga... But ye of little faith will find it tough sledding." The Chicago Tribune, which saw the play when it ran in Chicago, said, "Amazing Grace wants to tell the story of a conversion...But it feels rushed and unsatisfying, although not as sudden as the appearance of the title song at the conclusion of the night, even though we are hungry for more exploration of its genesis and legacy."

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Elsewhere on Broadway, life’s going to be different in Times Square from now on. Because Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acclaimed new musical (which is actually set in the same time period as Amazing Grace), finally began Broadway performances July 13 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre (former home of Miranda's Tony-winning In the Heights).

The new musical explores the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton through the contemporary rhythms and language of rap, and has been a sensation since opening earlier this year Off-Broadway, finding its way into the national conversation, and being a constant topic of conversation around theatre world water coolers.

Miranda is still in the title part, and Jonathan Groff is King George III, having taken over the role from originator Brian d’Arcy James. Also in the cast are Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton, Christopher Jackson as George Washington, Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler, and Daveed Diggs as Marquis De Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson.

Hamilton will officially open Aug. 6. Even though most New Yorkers are on vacation around that time, believe me, they’ll hear about it.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and cast
Lin-Manuel Miranda and cast Photo by Joan Marcus

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Duncan Shiek is going to have a big season.

In February 2016, Broadway previews have been scheduled for American Psycho, Shiek’s stage musical adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel. Just last week it was announced that the Deaf West revival of Shiek’s Spring Awakening (co-written with Tony winner Steven Sater) will arrive on Broadway this fall. That limited run will depart in January, just before Psycho begins.

The new show has a libretto by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. The playwright has experience writing about off-balance characters: he was one of the writers of Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark.

The precise date and theatre for Psycho have not been announced, but the show's official website, which has recently gone live, says it is "coming" in February 2016. The site also displayed the logo art for the first time. A March 2016 opening had been announced in an earlier Equity casting notice.

Benjamin Walker, who starred in the title role of Broadway's Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, will play serial killer Patrick Bateman in show, according to an earlier report on Showbiz411.com, which has not been confirmed by the production. The musical was previously stage in London.

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There is more casting for the upcoming revival of She Loves Me.

Jane Krakowski will return to Broadway in the production of the Bock and Harnick's piece, which will star Laura Benanti and Josh Radnor as the show’s secret pen pals who are too busy annoying each other at work to realize they’re meant for each other.

Also joining Krakowski (as Ilona) are René Auberjonois (as Maraczek), Gavin Creel (as Kodaly), Nicholas Barasch (as Arpad) and Peter Bartlett (as Head Waiter).

Performances will begin Feb. 5, 2016, prior to an official opening March 3 at Studio 54.

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