Review Roundup: 700 SUNDAYS Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
Billy Crystal returns to Broadway to kick off a 9-week-only limited engagement of his Tony Award-winning, record-breaking play 700 Sundays. The show opens tonight, November 13, at the Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street) and runs through Sunday, January 5, 2014.
700 SUNDAYS, an autobiographical journey, is an original two-act play in which Billy plays numerous characters that have influenced who he is today. It deals with his youth, growing up in the jazz world of Manhattan, his teenage years, and finally adulthood. It is about family and fate, loving and loss.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: But despite added jokes about Obamacare and Rand Paul, 700 Sundays is a memory piece that pretty much remains the warmhearted, moving and extremely funny night out that it was back in 2004...Additional material is supplied by Alan Zweibel and Des McAnuff's direction keeps the evening moving swiftly and seamlessly, but with all due respect to their contributions you're not likely to leave the theatre thinking of anyone else but Billy Crystal. As a performer who has been welcomed into American homes for decades via television appearances, he's once again returning the favor by inviting you to his home.
Jason Zinoman, The New York Times: With Mr. Crystal, jokes move quickly; everything else is slow. The show rambles for two-and-a-half easy-to-trim hours...At the show's heart, which is worn on its sleeve among other places, is an adoring portrait of his father, who died when Billy was 15...All the reverent stories don't add up to a flesh-and-blood character. Jack Crystal remains remote, larger than life, which may be where Mr. Crystal wants to keep him. It's the kind of show that you wish your son made about you.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: There is loss everywhere - jazz dies, his mom dies, neighborhoods change, his beloved Yankees decline and memories fade. But Crystal, under Des McAnuff's tight direction, never gets maudlin. He always knows when to dispel the darkness with a laugh...Crystal prowls the stage in slacks and a loosened tie with ease and perfect timing in front of a facade of his childhood home at 549 East Park Avenue in Long Beach. He does brilliant imitations and jokes about whacky relatives as the theater fills with the sounds of Dixieland Jazz.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: 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. Back on Broadway with 700 Sundays almost a decade after the solo stage memoir broke box office records and landed him a special Tony Award, Crystal again shows his gift for taking an Eisenhower-era childhood that was both ordinary and exceptional, and rendering it universal for a nostalgic public. Whether or not our experience overlaps with that of the hardworking performer, his family reminiscences strike chords.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: It's next to impossible to experience Billy Crystal's still side-splitting "700 Sundays"without recalling the absurdist characters and hallmark moments of your own youth. The veteran entertainer, a city slicker-turned-awards-show-hosting-juggernaut, has turned the story of his own coming-of-age into such a relatable piece of theater that any one anecdote may start your waterworks flowing, even while you're doubled over in laughter.
Matt Windman, AM New York: Dozens of autobiographical one-person shows have come and gone since Billy Crystal stormed Broadway in 2004 with "700 Sundays," his Tony-winning tribute to his father, who died of a heart attack when Crystal was just 15 years old, and growing up in Eisenhower-era Long Island with an unshakable desire to become an entertainer. Seeing as few of these shows, if any, have surpassed Crystal's heartwarming and hilarious tour de force, it's a pleasure to have it return for a run before the "Les Miz" revival takes over the Imperial Theatre.
Rafer Guzmán, Newsday: Named for the too-few number of days that Crystal had with his late father, "700 Sundays" is an irresistible blend of Borscht Belt shtick and heartwarming schmaltz. Crystal, still a savvy crowd-pleaser at 65, also salts this comfort food with just the right amount of coarse humor. The jokes sometimes sound pre-modern -- retail-obsessed Jews, Italian meatheads, hulking black high-schoolers -- but never mean-spirited. Only an entertainer as big-hearted as Crystal could make such stereotypes sound so affectionate.
Elysa Gardner, USA TODAY: At the Imperial Theatre, where Sundays opened Wednesday, Crystal proves an impressively spry senior, even doing a cartwheel at one point. But it isn't youthful energy that seems to propel his rapid-fire delivery as much as a sense of urgency that his story, and the story of his extended family, be shared again...Fortunately, any hints of self-conscious, kumbaya-ish social commentary are folded seamlessly into the comedy, which is gently irreverent, endearingly good-natured and, yes, funny. Your tolerance for Yiddish and penis jokes might be tested, but Crystal and original director Des McAnuff sustain a knowing goofiness that makes it all go down smoothly.
Jessica Shaw, Entertainment Weekly: Billy Crystal loves to command a stage. In a laugh-out-loud - if quite long - revival of his 2004 one-man, autobiographical show 700 Sundays, you can practically hear his heart soaring as he recounts wacky and sentimental stories about his childhood...Many of the stories are riveting (I could hear a whole show about Billie Holiday, a pal of Billy's father, taking a young Billy to see his first movie, Shane). Others drag on for too long (Crystal looooves a fart joke). Still, it's hard to begrudge the guy, who, at the show I attended, was so eager to stay in the spotlight after two-and-a-half hours that he continued telling stories after a long standing ovation and even did some impressive-for-a-grandfather moves. A-
Jesse Green, Vulture: At one point in the return engagement of 700 Sundays, Billy Crystal recalls the first comedian he ever saw: an old-school tummler, circa 1958, prowling the stage at Kutsher's "like a panther." All these decades later, Crystal impersonates this creature, with his disowned aggression and tired shtick - "Good evening, ladies and Jews" - way too well, and not just because he quickly borrowed the material to perform for his family back home in Long Beach. Crystal, now 65, is himself a brilliant repackager of tired material, with the timing of that panther, if a humbler presentation. (He wears, instead of a tux, black jeans and a sweater.) But make no mistake, he will eat you if you let him.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: No need for faking it during "700 Sundays," Crystal's big-hearted and seat-shakingly funny one-man memoir. The laughter and poignance he generates are the real deal.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: You may not want to miss this chance to see a master entertainer ply his trade - not to mention the rare opportunity to relish real, live Catskills humor on Broadway. (Alan Zweibel, one of the original "Saturday Night Live" writers, contributed additional material.)
Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: When Crystal comes onstage, he begins with an edge: Audiences like him. They've been responding for years to his quick wit and aura of wholesomeness tinged with a bit of boyish naughtiness. To his great credit, he doesn't coast on his credentials. In "700 Sundays," he delivers the full measure of his talent.
David Cote, TimeOut NY: I won't flatter Billy Crystal by saying he hasn't aged a bit: He's a little older and slower than when he debuted this theatrical memoir on Broadway nine years ago. True, the 65-year-old looks amazingly young (how he avoids aging is one area not mined for humor). But what really stands the test of time is 700 Sundays itself, an unabashedly sentimental but laugh-filled portrait of the artist as family clown, nerd and Jewish everykid. While most comedians revel in tortured childhoods or horrid parents, Crystal proudly lets his normal flag fly.