Review Roundup: GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES
Megan Hilty and Rachel York star in the Encores! production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, whick openedon May 9 at New York City Center. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is directed by John Rando with music direction by Rob Berman and choreography by Randy Skinner and will play for seven performances, May 9 – 13, at New York City Center, 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.
Set in the Roaring Twenties, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes follows the madcap adventures of the original "dumb blonde," Lorelei Lee (Hilty), as she sets sail for Europe with her best friend Dorothy Shaw (York). Lorelei is engaged to Gus Esmond, the Button King (Clarke Thorell) and has a flirtation with Josephus Gage, The Zipper King (Stephen R. Buntrock). Traveling with them are Mrs. Ella Spofford (Deborah Rush), the richest woman in Philadelphia, her son Henry (Aaron Lazar) and a ship full of colorful characters.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, New York Times: Yet while paying homage to Ms. Channing's inspired angular cartoonishness and to Monroe's surreally curved sensuality, Ms. Hilty finds a middle ground between those extremes that is far from middling. Robust, ambitious and single-minded, her Lorelei is very much of this world, inhabited by that potent and uncompromising life force that propels its possessors to places like the White House, the Super Bowl and the top tiers of megacorporations in addition to efficiently run, expensively upholstered Park Avenue aeries.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: While Megan Hilty's character is still scheming to play Marilyn Monroe in the bio-musical at the center of NBC's Smash, she's wiggling her voluptuous way through one of the star's most iconic screen roles with gusto in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Playing just seven performances as part of the annual Encores! series of semi-staged vintage musicals, John Rando's sparkling production is sheer enjoyment, with some of the most exhilarating jazz vocal harmonies and time-traveling dance breaks to be found anywhere near Broadway. But Hilty's bombshell is the prize.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Hilty isn't a quirky, natural-born comedian. But she dusts her speaking voice with baby powder and tosses around her curves and makes an adorable man magnet. She works every winking laugh line ("Arkansas is where I was ... reared!" gets more giggles than it should) and sells her songs. "I'm Just a Little Girl from Little Rock" and "Diamonds" sparkle.
Michael Sommers, NJ Newsroom: Squeezed into several curvaceous ensembles, Hilty confidently trots through the proceedings as a rather hard-boiled Lorelei seemingly modeled more after a va-va-vooming Monroe rather than Carol Channing, who is said to have originated the role onstage as a cartoonish flapper. A strong, fresh-voiced singer who assumes a mild Arkansas accent for Lorelei, Hilty scores neatly with a spirited "I'm Just a Little Girl from Little Rock" and later marches determinedly through the comical verses of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" like a seasoned campaigner in the battle of the sexes.
Eric Haagensen, Backstage: Rando's smartly paced production revels in the musical comedy arbitrariness of the material. Front and center are Don Walker's colorful orchestrations, played with glistening relish by The Encores! Orchestra under Rob Berman's ebullient baton, and Hugh Martin's indelible tight-harmony vocal arrangements, snazzily delivered by the singing ensemble. Choreographer Randy Skinner's extensive work includes two showstoppers: a sexy romp for Dorothy and the bathing suit–clad U.S. Olympic team in "I Love What I'm Doing," spiffily danced by Luke Hawkins, Eric Bourne, Nick McGough, and Kyle Brown, and a dynamite nightclub number, "Mamie Is Mimi," that evokes the team that originated it, Cholly Atkins and Charles "Honi" Coles. In the latter, the phenomenal Phillip Attmore and Jared Grimes are joined by the equally impressive Megan Sikora. They are to die for.
Steven Suskin, Variety: Big news here is the presence of Hilty, whose Broadway credentials have been overshadowed by her gig as one of the striving actresses in NBC's "Smash." Hilty is very good as Lorelei, but only very good. Carol Channing burst into prominence with her legendary performance in the role; Marilyn Monroe, too, made an indelible impression in the 1953 film version. Hilty's performance is more Monroe than Channing, but the part calls for something more distinctive than a reasonable carbon.
David Finkle, Huffington Post: The truth is that proficient as she may be, she lacks the whatever-it-is -- the je ne sais quoi -- that Channing and Monroe had that made Lorelei such a forceful, such an unforgettable presence. This isn't to say there is any obligation for Hilty to replicate either Channing or Monroe, neither of whom was like the other.
Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: A chief challenge facing Megan Hilty, the ripe, gifted performer playing Lorelei at City Center, is how to give us the character even as she, inescapably, cannot banish Monroe. This would be the case even if Hilty were not currently starring in the television backstage drama Smash, in which she plays a chorus girl vying for the leading part in a Broadway show about Marilyn. It's enough to give one a migraine of meta.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: The lushest nibble in this happy, Jazz Age-set confection is Megan Hilty, who plays gold-digging Lorelei Lee with irresistible va-va-voom. She had her work cut out for her, having to overcome two legends' looming shadows: Carol Channing, who created Lorelei on Broadway in 1949, and Marilyn Monroe, who immortalized her in the 1953 movie. She's even battling her own day gig: Hilty is a regular on the TV series "Smash," where her character is trying to land the starring role in a bio-musical about . . . Marilyn.