Wayne Cilento, who has won two Tony Awards for his choreography (Tommy and How To Succeed. . .), is back on Broadway choreographing and directing a musical salute to lyricist Johnny Mercer with the revue Dream
Critics weighed in with their reviews April 3. Here is your chance to add your voice to theirs. Please describe the show in detail: its sets, costumes, dances, orchestrations, and especially the interplay among its stars: Margaret Whiting, Lesley Ann Warren and John Pizzarelli.
Please post your comments -- long or short -- in the Dream topic on the Playbill Message Board.
Please make sure to include your town and state, and (opional) your full e-mail address so you can receive responses.
These are the last reviews that will appear in this space; all future reviews should be posted to the Message Board. Playbill On-Line thanks those who took the time to write: From rschima (email@example.com), New York:
I saw Dream today in NYC and loved it. I am writing this because I have been reading the reviews and have read several times that Dream is essentially geared to older audiences, both because of the music itself and Margaret Whiting's popularity. I understand this reasoning, but I really think the reviewers might want to expand their target audience a bit, or at least take into account that good music can and should be appreciated by people of any age.
I am 22 and enjoyed Dream very much. The music is fantastic from beginning to end. The choreography is incredible and the dance numbers were some of the best I've ever seen. Lesley Ann Warren has a beautiful voice, is a great dancer, and looks absolutely incredible. John Pizzarreli was not in today's performance but his understudy, Jeffry Denman, was great, as were Margaret Whiting and the entire company. I would see Dream again in a second, and I certainly think that a twenty something crowd would enjoy this musical very much. (6/29/97)
Although the critics were quite unenthusiastic about "Dream," and reviews on this page have been mixed, there is much to be said about this show. If you are a serious student of the American Musical Theater, and especially of music of the 30's, 40's and 50's, "Dream" should be quite appealing to you.
In the performance we saw, Leslie Ann Warren was replaced by Mary Ellen Stuart. Ms. Stuart has quite a good voice and stage presence and her integration into the production was seamless. We were quite impressed with the effort of the cast, and couldn't have wanted a finer performance from any of them. No question, however, that Ms. Whiting's voice has lost some.
The choreography and sets were Broadway quality and thoroughly professional. Singularly, the lighting was used quite effectively in dance sequences and well as segues. As others on this page have indicated, there is no story to speak of, but rather a grouping of songs according to very broad categories. There are very few composers in this century which could have an entire show based on popular song. One recent show constructed in a similar way was "Swinging on a Star" which featured the work of Johnny Burke. "Dream" has more elegant sets and more classy "hoofing," however.
This is a show to be appreciated for the music and Mr. Mercer's accomplishments are indeed impressive. There are no helicopters, swinging chandeliers, or street barricades, but more than likely you will leave the theater with a variety of tunes to whistle or hum (with apologies to Sir Andrew.) (5/18/97)
From M. Saunders (saunders.telcores.com) Nashville, TN:
I saw 'Dream' on 5/10/97 (Matinee performance) and have seen the show in it's pre-Broadway tryout here in Nashville, TN. I had read the reviews (mostly mixed to negative) and felt like I could shed some more light on this production.
This show is essentially a musical revue highlighting the music of Johnny Mercer, who I would consider to be one of our greatest songwriters of all time. There really isn't a story; I'm not sure there really is any thread which carries through the production other than Mercer wrote all the songs. The songs don't always flow into one another in the best of manners, and there might be a few dead spots along the way, but overall, I truly enjoyed seeing Dream for the simple reasons that there were so many moments where I was just blown away by either the song, the music, the dancing or the combination thereof. In this case it's the individual parts which you take home more than the concept of the show.
The cast is impressive in the scope of talent; the dancers will knock your socks off: Just TRY not to smile after Nancy Lemenager gets through with the spirited 'Accentuate the Positive' dance number, or when Susan Misner (one of the most magnificent, artistic, stylish and technically superb dancers you'll find on Broadway) wow's the crowd in a great dance number in 'Satin Doll'. The male dancers, particularly Angelo Fraboni and Jeffry Denman, who was swinging the role usually played by Charles McGowan, are quite strong and are featured a lot in the ensemble dance numbers. The tap finale is impressive (and much needed: the pre Broadway production did not have it) Vocally: Jessica Molaskey can melt you with 'Skylark' and then electrify you with 'Something's Gotta Give'. Darcie Roberts rocks in a combination vocal and tap number 'I'm Doin' it for Defense'. Margaret Whiting shines in 'One for my Baby'. The male vocalists are uniformly strong; I couldn't even pick a favorite if I had to.
It's the moments in the show which leave me really liking 'Dream'. Granted, it's not a book show, and granted, there are some flow and structure problems with the show and possibly Lesley Ann Warren is at times miscast, but when the day is done, the bottom line for me is that I saw top flight talent performing wonderful songs and will remember a ton of moments from this show. I won't soon forget Susan Misner's astonishing dancing or Jessica Molaskey's knockout voice or any number of other highlights from 'Dream'. If your taste runs to quality choreography, excellent vocalists and dancers and some great songs and you don't have hangups about a musical revue, most likely you'll find 'Dream' to be to your liking. (5/13/97)
From The Maroneys, Branchburg, NJ:
We saw an early preview and enjoyed it immensely! While we're not sure why there are such diametrically opposed opinions about the show, perhaps the following sheds some light on it. During intermission at the performance we attended the group sitting behind us was looking at the program to see what was coming in the second act. One of the younger members of the group asked a grey-haired companion, "What's a 'Hollywood Canteen', is that a cafeteria at a movie studio?" The companion answered that it probably was. Both the question and the answer were seriously offered. It may be that those who CAN recall what the Hollywood (and Stage Door, for that matter) Canteen was all about can get into this show on a very different level and just LOVE it! We hope there are enough of us to make it last a long time!!!!!! (5/3/97)
From MR CHARLES I MAY:
I saw Dream on Sunday, 4/27/97 and LOVED it! After reading many mixed (at best) reviews, I really didn't expect to enjoy it. Was I very pleasantly surprised!! This is a revue, so people shouldn't go expecting a true "book" musical. What you get is a totally entertaining evening of song and dance. Wayne Cilento has outdone himself. The dance numbers were fantastic. People should go to this show and just sit back, listen to the beautiful music, wonderful Mercer lyrics and watch a chorus of incredibly talented singers and dancers. Margaret Whiting brought a sense of elegance and refinement to the show. John Pizzarelli has that great smooth voice. Lesley Ann Warren was ok, not great. Overall, the show was wonderful. I hope it lasts. (4/29/97)
I saw dream on opening night (April 3) and loved it. I was never so disappointed when reading the reviews. It seems like it's the new chic to be negative about everything that is upbeat, positive, and for lack of a better word...wholesome. I mean complaining about "too many songs?" " There's no sign at the train depot in the opening? Is it supposed to be real?I've never seen a town like this... No one swings on the swing? It's not a new musical, it's a revue...so it's not a musical, and it's not new..." Come on people!
Aren't you taking things (yourselves) a little too seriously? Relax! It's a show. A show full of talented cast members. Great singers, and dancers each with their own personality. I think Wayne Cilento did a terrific job with his staging and choreography. I read somewhere that compared it to a 1960's variety show. That is really an unfair statement. Perhaps this ultra cool, bitter, (no doubt wannabe) should do his homework and look at some old footage of a 60's variety show before making a comment like that.
My friend and I enjoyed the show from beginning to end. The finale with the entire cast was a blockbuster with Charles McGowan leading the company with his dynamic tap style and atheletic ability. John Pizzarelli was lovable with his smooth vocals and witty charm. Margaret Whiting added another dimension to the show. I disagree with those who said she was out of place with a young cast. Comments like that infuriate me, and just perpetuate the gap in this youth oriented society. She was fabulous. A real pro. Brooks Ashmanskas showed his versatility over and over. Jessica Molaskey's comedic timing was a perfect addition, not to mention she can sing! Darcie Roberts has a powerhouse voice and was a perfect dance partner for Charles McGowan. Susan Misner wowed everyone as the "Satin Doll". Not only is she a statuesque beauty, but a beautifully trained dancer. This was definatly an ensemble cast. There was no one star. Lesley Ann Warren was the name at the top, but everyone in the show held their own.
I hope these negative reviews don't stop people from going to see an incredibly entertaining show. I've heard they are still getting well deserved standing ovations. When people leave singing, I think it speaks for itself. (4/9/97)
The very detailed negative commentary about the Broadway "show" Dream was right on the money. I, too, saw this pathetic and disjointed mishmash in previews, and the only reason that I did not join about one fourth of the audience who walked out during intermission was because I was curious to see if they ever made any cohesive point. They did not. What a shame. Johnny Mercer's music was wasted in this miserable production. The show lacks personality, character and has no reason to have made it out of previews. I could not believe that a real choreographer had anything to do with this show. If it lasts through May, I'll be shocked. (4/9/97)
We saw Dream at the preview performance on the March 29 matinee. All of us ( we were 6) loved it. The music was excellent, the staging delightful, and the singing and dancing were excellent. Margaret Whiting can still put over a song. And we felt that Leslie Ann Warren as well as the rest of the cast was great. It is a revue such as Sophisticated Ladies was a few years back. The music was MUSIC, not trash as are some of the newer types of music, where you can't understand a word. The lyrics were beautiful. The entire audience seemed to love it, as was indicated by a standing ovation. This is good, old-fashioned theater. You go out humming and smiling. (4/5/97)
From Matthew Curtis:
Saw Dream the other night and enjoyed it. Margaret Whiting was wonderful and Jonathan Dokuchitz is the best on the stage--He does it all, sing dance and act! What an actor- the show is fun-go and see it!!!! (4/4/97)
From Elliot J. Cohen (AndrewT@sprintmail.com):
I really looked forward to attending a performance of DREAM, which opens tomorrow at the Royale Theatre, partly because I was quite curious to discover what it was; a matter which had not been made clear by either the show's advertising or it's, largely non-existent, pre-opening publicity. Unfortunately, what Dream was became no more evident as the evening wore on. I didn't really figure it out until 20 minutes after the show was over!
Let me first state that Dream is loaded with talent. The cast, largely made up of singing dancers, is very appealing; the staging is generally exemplary and sometimes dazzling; and it boasts one of the best orchestras on Broadway today. However, the show is also loaded with uncertainty as to how all this talent should be presented. The show's biggest problem is that while director- choreographer Wayne Cilento has the title and, one assumes, the attendant power and salary of director, he is not thinking like one at all. The fuzziness of his approach sinks the show and all aboard, with one notable exception.
Conceived by Louise Westergaard and Jack Wrangler, Dream, has no book; literally or by implication. A celebration of the work of lyricist Johnny Mercer, it consists of five set pieces which are overloaded with way too many songs.
We begin, apparently, up in heaven itself. There is the moon, some stars, cloud projections and more dry-ice fog than it took to hide the town of Brigadoon, but there is no Johnny Mercer, no angels, and no Lord on high. What are we doing here? Following an appropriately dreamy music-and-dance opening, we are transported to an unnamed, sleepy town in the deep South, in the 20's. A town- square bandstand appears on stage right; on stage left, a train depot. Framing it all is a moss-laden tree limb. (The failure of the creators to provide us with a specific setting is an unnecessary distraction. To be fair, I see, as I write this, that the program tells me were in Savannah, Georgia. It would have been nice if I had been informed of this at the time by something on-stage. How difficult would it have been for the designer to place a simple sign on the train depot. Any name, in fact, would have satisfied my curiosity.)
As the sun rises, the populace of the town appear. They consist of 3 musicians, who take their place on the bandstand, a couple of local yokels, and five or six floozies who are costumed in light organdy dresses. They deport themselves in a manner well known from American Bandstand but unseen on the streets of any southern town, anywhere, by day or night! The morning (or is it by now afternoon) train arrives. Two traveling salesmen and one traveling singer disembark and interact with the floozies and yokels. Everyone sings and dances up a storm. After a couple of numbers, Lesley Ann Warren (supposedly the star of the show), is brought on. She, it seems, is yet another of the town's fallen women. My reaction on seeing her was, "Sorry, honey. We already have all the floozies we can use."
Ms. Warren sings and is directed to dance wobbly with the others. All the while she threatens to blithely deck or blind someone with her parasol or misstep upon their toes. Is this funny? Is this any way to introduce us to the evening's star? She is then whisked offstage so that the lovely Jessica Molaskey can sing the wistful "Skylark," (music by Hoagy Carmichael). For this purpose a rope swing is lowered from the flies. However it is rigged so that no one can actually swing on it. Pointless? John Pizzarelli then leads everyone in a rousing sequence finale; "The Dixieland Band" (music by Bernie Hanighen). All in all, this portion of the show has used nine songs. There are thirty-four more to come!
I could not, for the life of me, fathom how it was intended I should respond to these proceedings. Was it meant to be an honest evocation of the time and place? Was it trying to be tongue-in-cheek about it? Or was this not meant to be real at all, but rather some Ziegfeld Follies-like extravaganza? Everything I heard or saw on the stage left me feeling more and more confused.b The rest of Dream takes place at 1) an unnamed, unlocated jazz club which wants to be both swank and low-down at the same time; 2) Rockefeller Center's elegant Rainbow Room; 3) World War II's Hollywood Canteen; and, finally, 4) on-stage at the Academy Awards (I defy you to name the year). What transpires in these diverse settings is so repetitive that long before we reached the Oscars I couldn't help thinking, "Gee; haven't I already been here?"
More fuzzy thinking: Mr. Pizzarelli, accompanied by Ray Kennedy on piano and Martin Pizzarelli on bass, is charming, but no one seems to realize that what works in a cabaret needs to be re-pointed slightly in order to be effective in the theatre. Darcie Roberts is asked to perform a military toe-tap to "I'm Doing It For Defense" (music by Harold Arlen), that left me thinking, "Ok, but Shirley Temple could do that when she was six and Ruby Keeler when she was seventy." Brooks Ashmanskas is asked to be cute one moment, suave the next, and then to impersonate Nathan Lane impersonating Carmen Miranda. All of this he (amazingly) does. Jonathan Dokuchitz, dashing of figure, was in fine voice, but when will someone write him a part and give him something to play!
Poor Ms. Warren is particularly ill served. Although her name is top-billed, she is presented as no better than a chorus girl. Half the time she seems to be reprising her movie role of Norma Cassidy in Victor/Victoria. This is eerie since there is already someone on Broadway giving that performance. The rest of the time she is asked to be the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe. She and her costumes have the elan and style to deliver this, but to what purpose? Only at the end of this very long evening, in a straightforward rendition of "Moon River" (music by Henry Mancini), is Ms. Warren allowed to be herself. (This turns out to be way too late to be of any help, but thank you, somebody, just the same.)
It's all a crying shame since what is wrong with Dream is easily fixable, and, as it is, the show affords some real pleasures. Susan Misner and the men dance an absolutely sizzling "Satin Doll" (music by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington). Nancy Lemenager, also partnered by the men, electrifies "Accentuate the Positive" (music by Mr. Arlen). Best of all, though, is Margaret Whiting who alone gets the showcase she deserves. While everyone else is knocking their brains out to make the show's concept work, Ms. Whiting, with style, artistry, sincerity, and more voice left than most people start out with, walks away with your heart and the show.
What Dream is, finally, is The Ghost of the Son of Dancin' II Meets Frankenstein and the Wolf Man. I can't wait to see what the critics and public make of it all. (4/3/97)
From Euclid Peter ( firstname.lastname@example.org) Boston, Mass. Must strongly disagree with the two comments on this show. Saw it a few days ago and wa very impressed. If "Swinging on a Star" can be nominated for a Tony, this show, which is ten times better should also be nominated. People who seem to know nothing about with theatre seem to be the most adverse critics. "Dream " is not a book show and if that's what people want then go see Andrew Webber, or Rogers and Hammerstein. This was a revue of some of the finest popular songs written in this century -- clever lyrics and hummable tunes. The cast was terrific. I have rarely seen such talent. The dancers were not only good looking, but they could both sing and dance The choreography was brilliant and lighting and sets lovely and clever. what does the public want? RENT I suppose with its untalented people and cruddy do-wop dumb songs. Maybe they are old, and young people want rock and rap, but these songs will be sung long after they are not around. Do they ever listen to lyrics?The weakest link in the show was Lesley Ann Warren, but all the others were great. J. Pizzarrelli is a jazz-cabaret singer and he has a wonderful, pleasant soft style. This added to the show, and although it was not supposed to be a book show it did tell J. Mercer's life through hi songs. It may not get good reviews or make the Tonys, but it is still a great show!! From Jim Malloy:
While revues are not exactly my favorite type of musical, this one was, in whole, very enjoyable. Far from perfect, here are the good parts first:
The choreography was exceptional and plenty, which is not the norm in musicals these days, and certainly not in most revues. Wayne Cilento has become quite an impressive choreographer, and it is well evident in this show, especially the knockout final tap number, which had the audience standing and cheering before anyone took their bows (March 29 matinee). Also, you rarely see great dancers AND singers in shows, most have dancers who can carry a tune or singers who move well. Here, all the secondary cast members were exceptional singers and dancers and truthfully, really made the show as enjoyable as it was.
The not-so-perfect parts:
Lesley Ann Warren looks terrific and is still quite a good dancer, but her voice is very weak -- I had to strain to hear the lyrics of Moon River and I was in the 10th row orchestra! Her Blues in the Night number, however, was truly terrific. Margaret Whiting and John Pizzarelli were fine, but he also does not have a strong voice, and Ms. Whiting really was not in it that much to make a real difference. Also, some numbers that did not include choreography were a bit dull, and this revue could surely use 20 minutes of trimming. As I said before, the choreographed scenes were so terrific, that they keep the show moving along much more efficiently than the sung-only scenes. Removing some of those and the show would be better paced.
Ultimately, I feel the same as when I saw Play On! The audience seemed to really respond well, and there is a lot of talent and enjoyment to be had up on stage. I fear the critics will not be too kind to this one either, and that is a shame. I understand this show cost 5-6 million dollars and probably needs strong reviews to stay alive with a cost like that. Perhaps if it were done without some pointless but I am sure expensive sets (trolley car, locomotive at the end) it could survive longer on a cheaper budget. But that choreography should be seen! (4/2/97)
From Theresa Mazzaro:
I am taking your admonition that this show is in previews in account as I write this. This show needs some serious changes. I attended the preview performance on Thursday 3/27/97.
At this particular performance, the voices did not seem particularly strong. Margaret Whiting seemed to speak not sing her numbers and Mr. Pizzarelli's voice was, at times, barely audible during his numbers. Lesley Ann Warren has a lovely voice and did one number extremely well the rest were so-so at best. The staging, especially the Rainbow Room set, was lovely and the costumes were great and in period. So there is some potential here.
The audience seemed to be split in its feeling on the show.During some numbers giggles and snickers could be heard from many throughout the audience (not at comedic moments during the show). Approximately 1/3 of the audience did not return after intermission. This indicates to me that this show needs some work before opening next week. (3/30/97)
Well what can I say about this production except that it is probably going to close within weeks of it's opening. I was unfortunate enough to see the production in previews on March 17th. So where to begin, well I suppose that I should start at the very start, the marketing.
This production has been marketed extremely badly, I live in New York City and have seen all the ads for it in the Times and the way that it has been marketed as this 'new musical'. This to me makes me think that it 1) has a storyline and 2) is something new. Neither of these expectations were filled. Let me just let you know right now that this production is not a 'musical' it is a musical revue. There is no dialogue in this. It is, from beginning to end, all songs, which is fine, but when you market it as a 'new musical' then please deliver a 'new musical'.
Next I went into the theatre and me and my friend sat waiting for the production to start, I do understand that it was a preview, but as we sat there we couldn't help but be disturbed by the constant hammering that was happening behind the stage curtain. We could hear hammering and what I assumed to be pieces of the set falling constantly. This is not a good sign, specially when you have an audience sitting in the theatre waiting for the start of the show.
Then the show started, and I must say the opening number is very nice, it is done behind a scrim, and it is really beautiful to look at and to listen to, and it set me up for a good and interesting story. Unfortunately I was let down, after the first number the scrim went up and out came the first 'set' a train and a bandstand. I had no idea what this set had to do with what was happening on stage, I know some of the songs did loosely relate to the set, but otherwise it was lost on me. Then we get into the costumes, they were bad. The men's costumes were period, but they looked exceptionally tight and each time the men moved, they looked like they were fighting with their clothes. They had to do many large dance numbers in those costumes and it really seemed to restrict their movements. Whoever designed and fitted those costumes should have been shot. The women's costumes were not so bad, some of them were quite nice, but then we come to Leslie Ann Warren's costume, oy, was that bad. Part of this though was also the fact that Leslie Ann Warren is far to old to be playing the cutesy part that she is playing in Dream. It seems to me that she is continuing with the part she took in the movie 'Victor/Victoria'. I couldn't believe that she was trying to play this part, at her age it only serves to make her look ridiculous, it will probably damage her career, not help it.
Basically the whole production lacked story, life, characters, and any point. I sat for two and a half hours, and on my way out I listened to the comments that the other audience members were making, and I didn't hear one nice comment. This 'musical' should either get a quick and drastic rewrite and recast, or die before it opens to scathing reviews. (3/24/97)