Review Roundup: GOLDEN BOY Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
Opening Night is tonight, Thursday, December 6, for Lincoln Center Theater's 75th Anniversary production of the Clifford Odets classic Golden Boy, directed by Bartlett Sher, at the Belasco Theatre (111 West 44 Street), the same theatre where the play premiered in 1937.
GOLDEN BOY's cast features Michael Aronov, Danny Burstein, Demosthenes Chrysan, Anthony Crivello, Sean Cullen, Dagmara Dominczyk, Ned Eisenberg, Brad Fleischer, Karl Glusman, Jonathan Hadary, Daniel Jenkins, Danny Mastrogiorgio, Dion Mucciacito, Seth Numrich, Vayu O'Donnell, Lucas Caleb Rooney, Tony Shalhoub, Yvonne Strahovski and David Wohl.
GOLDEN BOY has sets by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Catherine Zuber, lighting by Donald Holder, sound by Peter John Still and Marc Salzberg and fight direction by B.H. Barry. GOLDEN BOY tells the story of Joe Bonaparte (Numrich), a young, gifted violinist who is torn between pursuing a career in music and earning big money as a prize fighter.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: The skills [Sher] evinced in that rewarding revival ["Awake and Sing!"] are on view here, too: a knack for making Odets's vernacular language feel like fresh mint instead of stale corn, and a gift for cutting to the emotional quick of a conventionally structured melodrama…As the young hero, who is determined to make himself over into the kind of man the world reveres, Mr. Numrich ("War Horse") moves with an antic grace in the play's early scenes...There is music in the way Mr. Numrich moves that hints at the lyric temperament Joe once felt as a salvation..., and now feels as an inhibiting burden…The process is watched from a distance by his loving father, played with impressive delicacy by a sad-eyed, soft-spoken Tony Shalhoub….Mr. Shalhoub infuses his performance with an elegiac tenderness that never descends into the maudlin…."Golden Boy" is at times dragged down by predictable plot mechanics that obscure the ripped-from-the-gut honesty that glittered more fiercely in earlier Odets plays. Some passages are too bluntly written, tapping out the play's moral message in telegraphic language that makes you wince….But even the play's pulpier excesses...are brought home with conviction by the cast.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: A dazzling revival of Clifford Odets' "Golden Boy" opened Thursday, still packing a punch after 75 years. Tyson could do well to watch how to successfully put together a show about the rise and fall of a boxer…Tony Shalhoub is a stand-out as Bonaparte's father, a role whose lines are written in broken Italian-accentEd English which could be a disaster in the wrong hands...But Shalhoub is so skilled that only a deeply felt character emerges…Numrich, who starred as the young farm boy Albert Narracott in "War Horse," is a nimble former "shrimp with glasses" here, maintaining his air of insecurity despite a toned physique and a solid left hook. The actor nicely does impetuousness and brashness, but also you can feel his inner tumult at betraying his father….Sher has embraced the realism of this dark world - the sweat, gore and rushes of blood to the head. There are passionate kisses but always a lingering threat of violence. The place reeks of leather and failure.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Numrich's riveting performance as Joe Bonaparte -- a violinist who sells his sensitive, artistic soul for a glamorous and lucrative boxing career -- is only one feature that makes this Lincoln Center Theater staging of Clifford Odets' 1937 play a must-see. Director Barlett Sher, who has helmed supERB Productions of American classics ranging from South Pacific to Joe Turner's Come And Gone, has once again compiled a first-rate cast and captured the excitement and emotional resonance that make such works timeless.
David Cote, Time Out NY: That line-like everything in Lincoln Center Theater's powerhouse revival-comes through with brightly burnished force; the jazz rhythms and escapist pang are pure Odets, In a fall already steeped in excellent revivals-Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Heiress and Glengarry Glen Ross-Golden Boy is the champion. Director Bartlett Sher, a superb 19-member ensemble and an ace design crew lift a neglected American classic and send it roaring back into the ring.
Scott Brown, NY Magazine: Sher's found a nice beachhead beyond the squabbles between irony and its discontents: It's a place where the tune calls the piper, not to other way around. To paraphrase the Coen-ization of Odets: You're gonna be hearing about this show. And I don't mean a postcard.
Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: I can't praise Lincoln Center Theater too strongly for daring to revive a near-forgotten, expensive-to-mount play like "Golden Boy," then giving it a production so unostentatiously true to the script that you'll scarcely spend any time at all being impressed by the excellence of its staging. All you'll see is the play, and you'll go home wondering why nobody ever told you how great "Golden Boy" is.
Matt Windman, AM New York: Bartlett Sher, who staged Odets' riveting family drama "Awake and Sing!" in 2006, directs with an emphasis on period style. Nowadays, most play revivals are headlined by a single, well-known film star. "Golden Boy," on the other hand, has been cast with an abundance of excellent stage actors, including not just Shalhoub and Numrich but also Danny Burstein, Jonathan Hadary, Anthony Crivello and Danny Mastrogiorgio. Numrich, who most recently appeared in "War Horse," makes a convincing transition from cockeyed youth to restless and reckless champ while exposing Bonaparte's insecurities. Shalhoub, who is best known for his comedic work, is genuinely touching in the father role. Yvonne Strahovski, one of very few females in the cast, more than satisfies as the seemingly hard-as-nails dame who engages in an affair with Joe on top of her other affair with Joe's manager.
Erik Haagensen, Backstage: In these days of the small-cast, tidy domestic drama, what a pleasure it is to encounter Clifford Odets' soaring, expansive, and tough-as-nails "Golden Boy,"...A sumptuously talented cast of 19 digs into the tale of would-be violinist Joe Bonaparte, who forsakes music in favor of a high-stakes career as a boxer for monetary reasons…Joe is fueled by a rage he can neither articulate nor comprehend, and the extraordinary Seth Numrich makes that central to his knockout performance...Space limitations forbid me saluting all the fine turns in the company. At the top of the heap is Tony Shalhoub's decent, courtly, and finally devastated Mr. Bonaparte. Yvonne Strahovski shines as the sullen Lorna, holding her own in a man's world with engaging feistiness...Danny Mastrogiorgio gets Moody's self-doubt and sweaty hunger for success exactly right, while Anthony Crivello makes a welcome return to the New York stage as Fuseli, scarily psychopathic and shot through with latent erotic desire.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Back on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre, where it premiered 75 years ago, Clifford Odets' boxing saga "Golden Boy" is a knockout, thanks to its 24-karat cast. The 19 actors in the Lincoln Center revival are so good that you look beyond creaks in the melodrama. So good they make up for lead-footed scene changes and sets that are too postcard-pristine for the tale of tangled desires.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: The excellent supporting cast also makes the most of Odets' mix of naturalism and poetry. Shalhoub, in particular, creates a quietly proud rendering of Mr. Bonaparte, a loving, reserved father disappointed by what his son has become. Turns out boxing can do as much damage to your heart as your bones.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Nothing hammers home the anemia of many new plays being presented on Broadway today quite like the comparison of watching a robust nugget from the national theatrical canon such as Clifford Odets' Golden Boy....While aspects of the three-act drama are inevitably dated, what remains most impactful – and is spectacularly well served in Sher's production – is the sheer beauty of Odets' language, with all its jangly musicality, shifting rhythms and flavorful vernacular. That comes from a finely tuned ensemble working in tight harmony…Numrich is especially impressive. Showing a startling leap in maturity and range from his role in War Horse, he charts Joe's heartbreaking corruption from restless uncertainty to fierce, consuming drive...Sher and his actors allow Odets' words to breathe and his characters to acquire three-dimensional form. The result is majestic theater.
Linda Winer, Newsday: The point of this Lincoln Center Theater production is the rare opportunity to see a pivotal American period piece staged deeply into the period by Bartlett Sher ("South Pacific") with a huge, expert cast that only a nonprofit can afford to showcase with such luxurious dedication today on Broadway…In almost three hours, we watch [Seth Numrich] transform physically into a convincing fighting machine and, ultimately, to a barely recognizable monster of sharp edges and shadows….Sher encourages a few actors to lay on the cultural cliches pretty heavily, but, then again, so did Odets. Mostly, the production combines an exhilarating fast-talking swagger with both Odets' real and overwrought lyricism.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: What are the odds of a commercial producer being able to finance the revival of a three-act straight play calling for some 20 thesps decked out in pricey period costumes and performing on a multi-unit set? That sort of reclamation work is generally left to nonprofit theaters, which operate with publicly assisted funding. A half-dozen years after honoring that mandate with his muscular Lincoln Center revival of Clifford Odets' "Awake and Sing," Bartlett Sher returns to the helm with a dynamite version of "Golden Boy." It's no act of charity, either, because the show is killer good.
Adam Markovitz, Entertainment Weekly: We should all be so lucky to end up as spry and sharp at 75 as Clifford Odets' Golden Boy, which debuted on Broadway in 1937 and has been given a handsome revival by Lincoln Center Theater at Broadway's Belasco Theatre. The show's old-country characters and cobblestone street slang may have aged into artifacts of Old New York, but the story still has plenty of energy and surefooted emotion even if it doesn't quite pack a knockout punch….In the play's opening act..., Odets' razor-edge dialogue sets the drama in motion so intelligently and with such casual wit that each scene practically demands its own curtain call. It isn't until the third act that weighty moral issues drag the show down from its high spirits. But by then you'll be seduced fully enough by director Bartlett Sher's light-footed pace and Michael Yeargan's evocatively lean sets to root for Golden Boy to the final round. B+
Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: The play is dated and melodramatic, with slang-filled dialogue that can sound tinny. But it has decent theatrical bones, and if well-acted and offered on a humbly human level, might work well on both personal and political levels. But director Bartlett Sher, it seems to me, goes at it in exactly the wrong way, presenting "Golden Boy" as a loud, brassy, tough-talking period piece. Add in unimpressive performances, and the result is a long evening that, for all its slam-bang moments, is tedious and uninvolving.