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Review Roundup: SCANDALOUS Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Kathie Lee Gifford's musical about evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson is too bombastic for its own good.

Brendan Lemon, Financial TimesNeither a must-see juicy disaster (that might have required Gifford herself to inhabit the primary role) nor a surprising, damn-the-critics success, Scandalous features a tremendously hard-working ensemble and a tremendously hard-working star: Carolee Carmello, as Aimee. Walt Spangler’s diamond-shard Art Deco set glitters, David Armstrong directs with some flair, and I have never seen such a display of hallelujah hands outside a gospel church service.

Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg:  The songs are nearly all ear drum-shattering anthems as Aimee turns sinners into believers across the Roaring Twenties. There is no discernible point of view in evidence about any of this. For a show about an evangelical, “Scandalous” is oddly devoid of the words Jesus Christ -- an indication, perhaps, that the authors didn’t want to rub the Broadway audience’s collective face in too much of that, you know, religious stuff. “Scandalous” is as ecumenically innocuous as it is pointless.

Robert Feldberg, So, although Carmello, who's onstage for almost the entire evening, gives a knock-out performance, pulling off gospel numbers and novelty songs with equal mastery, her character remains remote. The score, with music by David Pomeranz and David Friedman, is serviceable, and often performed very loudly. Welcome contributions are made by the amusing Roz Ryan, playing a Kansas City madam turned McPherson assistant, and George Hearn, as the evangelist's sweet-natured father. But "Scandalous," despite its title, is remarkably tame.

Michael Musto, The Village Voice: Broadway's new Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson might sound like a female Leap of Faith, but it's actually Chaplin The Musical with girls' clothes...But Scandalous is a way more schizo show…Act One is filled with way too many bombastic songs--basically one musical breakdown after another for the lady evangelist--but there's fire there, and some kind of electricity that reminded me of the better bits from Carrie the Musical. And Broadway favorite Carolee Carmello is committed and powerful in the role of Aimee…Act Two is a mess. It's alternately campy and dull, featuring a stock black character and ending with one more screechy number…But though the show does slide into a pit of absurdity, it would be scandalous to say it's all just junk. Good for lyricist and book writer Kathie Lee Gifford for stretching with something this ambitious.

Suzy Evans, BackstageWhen Carmello sings, there’s magic in the theater, even if David Pomeranz and David Friedman’s tunes are generic (Gifford also gets a credit for “additional music”). Joel Fram’s music direction and vocal arrangements, though, are an absolute delight. The revival scenes feel like a religious experience, thanks to a winning ensemble and Lorin Latarro’s peppy choreography. Puzzlingly, set designer Walt Spangler’s clunky white altar staircase never leaves the stage. (There has to be wing space at the Simon, right? Why would there be an altar on the farm where Aimee grew up?) The entire cast is fantastic. Roz Ryan gives Carmello some scene-stealing breaks as brothel owner–turned–revival assistant Emma Jo Schaeffer. Candy Buckley fills the bill as Aimee’s overbearing mother, and Edward Watts believably morphs into two characters, husband Robert and love interest David Hutton.

David Cote, Time Out NY: I have seen worse shows than Scandalous (Good Vibrations and The Pirate Queen were more painful to sit through), but few as wild-eyed and zealously wrongheaded. Carolee Carmello’s strident, belt-first-ask-questions-later approach to McPherson leaves very little room for subtlety or growth. We follow the evangelist from a repressive childhood in Canada (she loves Shakespeare; Mom thumps the Bible) through early, failed attempts to preach on street corners to her evolution into the head of a media-savvy evangelism empire.

Matt Windman, AM New York: The Tony Award for fearless determination - if such a thing actually existed, ought to go to Kathie Lee Gifford. She has been developing and promoting her musical "Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson" - for which she wrote the lyrics, book and even some of the music - for more than a decade…"Scandalous" is like a combination of "Leap of Faith," another musical about an evangelist, which flopped last spring, and "Chaplin," also a bland bio musical...The score - the work of no less than three composers - mainly consists of generic samplings from various genres: Irish jig, beer hall anthem, tambourine-shaking prayer and so on…Carolee Carmello, who has spent the past few years alternating between the tryouts of "Scandalous" and stints in "Mamma Mia!," throws all of her dramatic and vocal intensity into the role, but it is an off-putting, aggressive performance.

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