Review Roundup: Holland Taylor Opens in ANN on Broadway!
ANN, a new play written and performed by Emmy Award-winning actress Holland Taylor, opened last night at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater (150 West 65 Street). BroadwayWorld was there for the big opening and you can check out photos from the curtain call below!
Directed by Benjamin Endsley Klein, Ann has scenic design by Michael Fagin, costume design by Julie Weiss, lighting design by Matthew Richards, sound design by Ken Huncovsky, projection design by Zachary Borovay, wig design by Paul Huntley, and is produced by Bob Boyett and Harriet Newman Leve with co-producers Jane Dubin, Jack Thomas, Mark Johannes, Amy Danis in association with Sarahbeth Grossman, Jon Cryer, Lisa Joyner, Minerva Productions, Lary Brandt, Brian Dorsey, Kate Hathaway, Allison Thomas, Jennifer Isaacson and Lincoln Center Theater. Ann is executive produced by Kevin Bailey.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Charles isherwood, NY Times: To put it as the plain-talking Richards might, this one-dynamo show - Ms. Taylor is the lone cast member - is neither a shapely work of drama nor a deeply probing character study. But admirers of Richards probably won't give a darn. She was a brightly shining political star and an inspiring figure during the years of her renown, and Ms. Taylor is essentially just giving this beloved dame one more chance to bask in the spotlight.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: "Ann" does honor Richards's achievements as governor and, later, as advocate of liberal causes. The warm sparring with Clinton and especially their shared reverence for Congresswoman Barbara Jordan is moving. But this meandering hagiography unbecomes the swaggering doyenne who, for a time, outgunned the sharpshooters around her.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Taylor's Richards is a hoot yet she almost gets upstaged by another character, which is hard to do in a one-woman show. But two purring phone calls between her and Clinton are some of the play's highlights, perhaps proving that only Clinton can outshine Ann Richards.
Michael Musto, Village Voice: In head-to-toe white from her hair on down, Taylor is splendid, capturing the humor, decency, and abrasive energy in the woman while smoothly going from speech to phone call to more yakking.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: It's cliche to say it, but Taylor becomes Ann Richards, mostly thanks to her witty script, and with a nice assist from costume designer Julie Weiss, who's clothed her in a white, all-business jacket and skirt, with a sparkling Lone Star brooch. The transformation is all the more remarkable for the fact that Taylor only once met Richards, when they were briefly introduced at New York's Le Cirque in 2004 by the columnist Liz Smith.
Dany Groner, Huffington Post: The best parts of the show come at the beginning and the end when Taylor is back at the front of the stage, comfortable at the podium, making eyes with the crowd. That's where Richards became most prominent and established herself as a political force. Sure, she needed time to campaign behind the scenes to get voters behind her. But that's the part of politics that's left unseen. We prefer to see our politicians in the spotlight. Otherwise, they look just like the rest of us.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: Taylor's intention is admirable in shining a spotlight on a woman driven by a heroic passion for public service. But the longer the show runs on, the more its lack of shading becomes apparent. She peppers the dialogue with pandering audience nods to racial and gender equality and gun laws. But she glosses over the potentially juicy stuff such as the dirty politics that tried to keep Richards out of office the first time and succeeded when she ran for a second term. It also might have been interesting to include a wry acknowledgment that Richards' failed re-election bid gave her the dubious distinction of opening the door to the political career of George W. Bush.
Roma Torre, NY1: One might easily think that a solo show would be swallowed up on Lincoln Center Theatre's largest stage, but given Richards' dynamism and Taylor's outsize talents, the ladies had no problem filling the space.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Richards is treated, in other words, much like a sitcom character. Her notable achievements are alluded to -- revitalizing the local economy, reforming the prison system, championing civil and reproductive rights -- but in ways that are both simplistic and pedantic. There's also something slightly patronizing about all the "y'all"s and "yegods" with which Taylor -- a Yankee, as she admits in her author's notes -- litters her speech.
Linda Winer, Newsday: Even her defeat by George W. Bush and her cancer, which killed her at 73 in 2006, do not sour her gusto for a fairer government. The production, which already toured Texas, Chicago and Washington, feels primed to get out there on the road again. A "fresh from Broadway" label can't hurt the marketing. Otherwise, this trip does not feel necessary.
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: Taylor, who often plays snarky WASPs on TV shows like Two and a Half Men, looks almost unrecognizable with her high white perm (dubbed 'Republican hair') and Texas drawl ('I wudn't drinkin' for nothin'). She may be a workmanlike playwright, but as a performer she commands the stage with authority as big as Texas itself. No wonder they call it the Lone Star State.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: You can't fault her performance. Strapped in one of Richards' trademark suits, a halo of white hair perched on top of her head, she brings the late politician back to life, dropping bon mots in a light drawl. The problems stem more from the writing. The show's framing contrivance has Richards looking back on her life in a commencement address. This is a cradle-to-grave journey, starting in a Waco lower-middle-class family and ending with the Texan's death of cancer in 2006, at 73.
Matt Windman, amNY: The show would also be better suited for a more intimate theater rather than the extended thrust stage of the Vivian Beamount at Lincoln Center. Still, Taylor gives a dynamic turn that ought to please Democrats and Republicans, Southerners and Northerners alike.
Jesse Green, Vulture: This isn't a political ad, and anyway, the audience is already sold. How could it not be? With no live foils onstage - another unavoidable condition of the genre - Taylor works the room relentlessly. Every laugh is procured and brought home like pork. And while she is a fine enough actress to integrate that kind of wolfishness into her characterization, you can't help thinking it would be nice if she could press some actual onstage, co-star flesh. After all, it's not just a good line and good politics, but good playwriting advice as well, when Taylor has Richards say, near the end, "Why should your life be just about you?"