PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 9-15: The Bard Takes Broadway, 700 Sundays and Little Miss Sunshine Open and Rebecca Lawsuit Continues

By Robert Simonson
15 Nov 2013

Bernadette Peters
Photo by Joan Marcus
The varied critical reaction seemed an affirmation of the old adage, "If you like this sort of thing, this might be the sort of thing you like." AM New York called it a "heartwarming and hilarious tour de force" and declared that "one anecdote may start your waterworks flowing, even while you're doubled over in laughter," while the New York Times said "the show rambles for two-and-a-half easy-to-trim hours" and the Hollywood Reporter remarked cynically, that "It can't be said that Billy Crystal doesn't know his audience. They eat up his menu of Jews, jazz and baseball, wrapped in Catskills-inspired comedy and heartfelt Mom-and-Pop sentiment."

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A Bed and a Chair: A New York Love Affair, a unusual collaboration between musical theatre titan Stephen Sondheim and jazz musician-composer Wynton Marsalis, began its limited engagement at New York City Center Nov. 13. Directed by John Doyle, the Encores! special event starred Bernadette Peters, Norm Lewis and Jeremy Jordan, among others.

Opinions on the success of the experiment were split. USA Today was generally pleased, saying, "Under Marsalis' guidance, and that of conductor/music supervisor David Loud, the musicians all mine the playfulness, passion and poignance of the material." But the New York Times commented that, "In general, the mission of this diverting but very awkward special Encores! production, a collaboration between Encores! at City Center and Jazz at Lincoln Center, seems to be to unbutton and unbend the work of the greatest precisionist of all Broadway songwriters. And while I've heard individual cabaret performers successfully take a similar approach, this particular meeting of great talents rarely finds compelling common ground." And the New York Post called the execution "timid — even, at times, downright bland."



All the critics, however, liked the work of performer Cyrille Aimee. "As is, Aimee is the revelation," wrote The Daily News. "This French jazz singer's voice has so much character that all her songs fly — especially 'You Could Drive a Person Crazy.' At one point, she agilely scats and music director Wynton Marsalis echoes her voice with his trumpet. Two words for the moment: totally jazzed."

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Second Stage's production of Little Miss Sunshine, the new musical comedy by William Finn and James Lapine, based on the 2006 road-trip comedy film of the same name, officially opened Off-Broadway Nov. 14.

While the critiques ranged from mildly good to mixed to bad, the general attitude of the reviews was one of disappointment.

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