PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 19-25: Another Opening... Or Six

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25 Apr 2014

Sutton Foster
Sutton Foster
Photo by Joan Marcus

It's spring on Broadway, and producers are deploying their usual gambit to kill off all critics once and for all by forcing them to attend and review an endless line of show openings. It never quite works (the reviewers only get exhausted and grumpy, and they were all that to begin with), but you can be sure the showmen will try it again next year.

The past week included six openings: two new plays, one revival of a play and three musical revivals. The line-up began with one of the latter, as the Roundabout Theatre Company afforded Violet — the 1997 Jeanine Tesori-Brian Crawley tuner about a southern girl taking a road trip in hopes of repairing her face and her life along with it — its first chance to bask in the Broadway lights. Sunny musical queen Sutton Foster stars in a production directed by Leigh Silverman.

Reviews were mixed to positive. "The moment also seems ripe for Violet, originally produced Off Broadway in 1997, to be acknowledged as an enduringly rewarding musical," wrote the Times. "But the musical concludes on a satisfying but not too sugary note of uplift." USA Today, however, wasn't so sure, saying "Crawley's sensitive dialogue can drag at times — as can Tesori's rootsy score, which veers from country-flavored ballads to R&B and gospel-tinged production numbers. But Silverman and her cast reward our patience with performances that transcend clichés."

All were sold on the charm, artistry and originality of Foster's performance. "Foster throws herself into this unglamorous role, her face pale and her body propelled into a world of no self-confidence," wrote the Chicago Tribune. "It is a very honorable performance, filled with craft. Foster never condescends, and she clearly enjoys her character's intelligence, although she, too, struggles toward the end with the need for climax and consequence." New York Magazine echoed, "Crawley's dialogue is as pungent and musical as his lyrics. And in Sutton Foster he and Tesori have found the ideal star. Foster has never been a vain actress, but here she seems to relish the opportunity to strip away everything inessential."

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Violet was followed by another show with a star playing a character defined by a deformity. Following a sold-out London run, the Michael Grandage production of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan, starring Daniel Radcliffe, officially opened on Broadway April 20 at the Cort Theatre. The production marks the Broadway premiere for McDonagh's play, which was previously seen Off-Broadway in 1998 at the Public Theater and in 2008 at the Atlantic Theater.

Many critics took time to voice how much they thought Radcliffe has improved as a stage actor. Most were pleasantly surprised. "Of the three Radcliffe performances I've seen on Broadway, this by far is the best," said the Chicago Tribune. "It really breathes as it hobbles along, and yet it's never showy nor overly optimistic. Radcliffe… reveals chops here I've never seen on stage nor screen." The Times agreed: "Mr. Radcliffe — the boy wizard in the immensely successful Harry Potter movie franchise — is entirely convincing as the boy who is regarded as least likely to succeed at pretty much anything in his God-forsaken rural Irish town."

Continued...

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