Review Roundup: THE WINSLOW BOY Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
The captivating new production of Terence Rattigan's classic The Winslow Boy comes to Roundabout directly from The Old Vic Theatre in London. The Winslow Boy, starring Michael Cumpsty, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Alessandro Nivola and Roger Rees, directed by Lindsay Posner, opens tonight, October 17, 2013 at American Airlines Theatre.
A moving exploration of family devotion, The Winslow Boy beautifully illustrates the costs of unconditional love and the rewards that make the effort priceless. When Ronnie Winslow is expelled from school for stealing, it has a resounding effect on the entire family. His father Arthur must pool his resources to hire a lawyer for the boy's defense. His brother Dickie begrudgingly drops out of college and gets a banking job to help with the legal costs. And the fallout from this unexpected predicament puts his sister Catherine's engagement in jeopardy. Though they are determined to defend Ronnie, will the family's sacrifices be enough to clear his reputation and the Winslow name?
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Director Lindsay Posner's swift and riveting production comes to Broadway from London's Old Vic. The entirely recast Roundabout staging revolves around a masterful performance by Roger Rees as ailing family patriarch Andrew Winslow. It's a study in subtle details as he valiantly keeps a brave and noble face during the two years the story covers as his health deteriorates, his judgment is questioned and everything he's worked for seems to be crumbling at the latter stages of his life...Though the play never leaves the Winslow drawing room, Rattigan did a remarkable job of keeping suspense and tensions high throughout the evening with detailed descriptions of what was happening in court. This is The Winslow Boy's first Broadway revival since initially visiting in 1947 and Posner's crackling production makes you wonder what took so long.
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: Anchoring the production is Mr. Rees's perfectly modulated performance as Arthur, on whom the anxiety and notoriety surrounding the case take the most physical toll. When the play begins, he is obviously a man whose physical prowess is on the wane, even if his mind remains sharp, but as the months and years pass, he grows stooped and infirm. Mr. Rees movingly intimates that, underneath his confident exterior, Arthur has also become prey to thoughts of how heedlessly, and perhaps permanently, he has endangered his family's fortunes: his eyes glitter with disturbed imaginings.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: So many things onstage these days champion the notion that change is good - open your mind, learn to love what you fear, embrace the unknown. So it's refreshing to have something that cheers the hopelessly stubborn...The Roundabout Theatre Company has wisely imported much of the show from The Old Vic Theatre in London, including a handsome set and costumes by Peter McKintosh as well as Lindsay Posner's crisp direction, which finds real humor in a play where jeopardy, though localized, is very present...Roger Rees is excellent as the Winslow patriarch, a man whose body is beginning to betray him but whose dry humor and compassion stays intact.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Like some forgotten treasure found in the attic, the Old Vic's radiant revival of "The Winslow Boy" - now presented on Broadway by the Roundabout Theater - practically glows in the dark. Terence Rattigan based his 1946 drama on the actual experience of an upper-middle-class family whose legal defense of a son's honor became a cause celebre when its brief against the English political establishment was debated in London's High Court. A top-drawer ensemble masterfully helmed by Lindsay Posner and headed by Roger Rees do the honors in this tense legal drama, which Rattigan has shrewdly taken out of the courtroom and into the drawing room.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Directed for the screen by Anthony Asquith in 1948, and again by David Mamet in 1999, the play was last seen on Broadway 65 years ago. It's a slow starter, and indeed its unhurried four acts might seem to lack economy for contemporary audiences. But in a production as expertly judged and performed as this one, there's real pleasure in settling into the plush upholstery to savor the nuances of character, the subtle humor and fine shadings of the drama's consideration of justice and honor.
Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: If you want to know how "The Winslow Boy" should be played, look to either of the excellent film versions, which were directed by Anthony Asquith in 1948 and David Mamet (yes, that David Mamet) in 1999. Don't let that stop you from seeing this production, though, in which enough is right to obscure what's wrong. The actors, as I say, are exceptionally fine, especially Ms. Parry, the ever-satisfying Michael Cumpsty, and Alessandro Nivola, who is exceedingly well cast in the show-stopping role of Sir Robert Morton, a languidly haughty barrister who finds himself swept up in the Winslow case far more fully than he ever expected. Moreover, Peter McKintosh's set and costumes evoke with admirable accuracy the "solid but not undecorated upper middle-class comfort" that Mr. Rattigan calls for in his stage directions...And Mr. Posner deserves high marks for not overplaying the possibility of a romance between Catherine and Sir Robert, a coarsening mistake of taste that is made in both film versions of "The Winslow Boy."
Matt Windman, AM New York: One wonders if Lindsay Posner's revival, which was originally done at London's Old Vic, fared better with an English cast in front of an English audience. Here, it comes off as stale and stiff drawing-room fare that only springs to life whenever Roger Rees, who plays the father, seizes the stage in a fit of passion. Later this season, Roundabout will produce Sophie Treadwell's 1928 expressionist drama "Machinal," a brilliant, daring, female-centered work that is a rarity. That promises to be far more exciting than "The Winslow Boy."
Linda Winer, Newsday: Directed with exquisite nuance by Lindsay Posner, the production -- Broadway's first since 1947 -- runs two and three-quarter talky hours and employs 11 delightfully stylish actors to make something magnificently satisfying from a petty, basically irrelevant very English story...Roger Rees is wonderful as father of the boy (Spencer Davis Milford)...But this is a genuine ensemble that makes incredulity seem real and very human.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: How far would you go for family? That's the deceptively complex question posed by "The Winslow Boy," a satisfying, very British drama from the Roundabout Theatre Co. now open at the American Airlines Theatre. In the case of the Winslows, an upper-class clan living in London's Kensington district, the answer is: you go until it hurts, and then you go some more...It's a credit to actor Rees that the dated storyline and Masterpiece-esque class distinctions don't come off as exceptionally antiquated...
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: At its best, the play is an entertaining, and ultimately touching, study of these characters; and the new production -- which the Roundabout Theatre Company imported from London's Old Vic (with a new cast) -- delivers that with predictable warmth and ease. The polished authenticity is established immediately by Peter McKintosh's handsome set, which captures the upper-middle-class comfort of the Winslows' existence in the years just before World War I... As that comfort is threatened by Arthur's crusade, Roger Rees makes the toll physically palpable. Rees' Arthur seems to age before our eyes, growing wearier and more feeble, but retains the overwhelming devotion to Ronnie that transcends family pride. It's impossible not to root for this patriarch, even when his loved ones are frustrated by him...The truth, while more complicated, is no harder to predict than any of the developments in Winslow Boy; but this winsome revival will charm you nonetheless.
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: Roger Rees is marvelous as Mr. Winslow, a principled man with a stubborn streak and a gift for witty asides, who seems to physically wither over the course of the play. Charlotte Parry is equally fine as his idealistic, suffragette daughter, Kate, who willingly forgoes both her dowery and her fiancée to support the cause. Director Lindsay Posner, who previously staged the show at London's Old Vic, brings a crisp precision to the proceedings. But there's only so much you can do with the material, which feels like an over-long and decidedly twee Masterpiece Theatre drama. B-
David Finkle, The Huffington Post: The Winslow Boy is a well-made play, yes, but it deals with a problem for which the solution is patently not well made. To allow the situation to unfold persuasively, Rattigan does some remarkable writing--taking care to give every character the chance to have at least one spotlighted center-stage moment. Those lucky enough to be handed multiple chances to shine are each of the Winslows, the suave Sir Robert, the conflicted John Watherstone and well meaning but unlovable Desmond Curry...But where to begin passing out individual laurels? Probably with Rees, who presents a stern Edwardian gentleman who isn't in the best of health when he first appears and whose resolve slowly takes its visible toll. When Rees impressed Manhattan audiences as Nicholas Nickleby a few decades ago, he was wonderful. He's been wonderful in various assignments ever since, but this may be his best outing since the initial one. Let's just say it is.
Jesse Green, Vulture: Quick and confident characterizations, along with a very delicate balancing of them, are needed to keep a play so full of contrary energies from pulling apart; the Roundabout's 2011 Rattigan outing, Man and Boy, suffered from a too marvelous, overwhelming central performance by Frank Langella. Here, despite Nivola's bravura, the fireworks are better distributed, with Roger Rees, as the curmudgeon, mostly keeping in check his eagerness to amuse. Instead, he carefully delineates the steps along the path of the father's crisis, from gleeful chin-first aggression to obsession to exhaustion to resignation. And Michael Cumpsty, looking like a walking toothache, turns in a beautifully modulated comic performance as the nice man who will never get his girl. Quickly and piercingly he makes it clear that every person's disappointment is the world's.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: In "The Winslow Boy," Terence Rattigan's compelling 1946 drama about family and justice, that declaration echoes loudly. How great it is that the Roundabout revival - Broadway's one and only - gets things so right. Credit director Lindsay Posner, who staged the play at London's Old Vic and recast it for New York. Scrupulously acted and handsomely designed, the show vibrates with humor and genuine emotion.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: As anybody who's ever seen a rom-com knows, the real spark is between Catherine and Morton, whose antagonism morphs into grudging admiration. Watching Parry and Nivola stiffly dance around each other's feelings is melanchic and delightful. Where love's concerned, at least - unlike in a courtroom - there is no clear winner or loser.
Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: "The Winslow Boy" often uses dialogue to fill us in on what we don't see, committing the supposed sin of telling rather than showing. But the failure to stage the climactic courtroom scene is actually one of Rattigan's finest touches. The play is not about whether Ronnie is guilty; it's about the impact on his family. Focusing on its members' reactions, in their home, as they and we ponder whether their quest for truth and justice was worth it, is exactly right.
Roma Torre, NY1: In other hands, "The Winslow Boy" could be slow going at nearly three hours, but director Lindsay Posner deserves much credit for doing great justice to this rich old play.
Adam Feldman, TimeOut NY: The perfectly chosen floral green wallpaper of Peter McKintosh's set forThe Winslow Boy is emblematic of the marvelous attention to detail that distinguishes Lindsay Posner's handsome revival. Terence Rattigan's crisp 1946 drama, inspired by a real incident that polarized Edwardian London, concerns the struggle of middle-class father Arthur Winslow to clear the name of his teenage son, Ronnie (Spencer David Milford)-and stand up for English fairness-after the lad is expelled from a naval academy for stealing a five-shilling postal order.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: Lindsay Posner's elegant staging heightens the spring-wound tension Rattigan skillfully builds. The supporting cast is uniformly first rate, especially Michael Cumpsty as the Winslow's hangdog retainer and Charlotte Parry as the object of his unrequited affection.
Jonathan Mandell, New York Theatre: Billed as a transfer of the production of the play done by the Old Vic in London, the set and costume design by Peter McKintosh emphasizes how British this play - they are both sumptuous and staid. The play, at two hours and 45 minutes (including intermission), takes its time. But the surprising humor, and the vibrant and detailed performances of the cast, especially Roger Rees, who noticeably deteriorates over the two years that the play takes place, and Charlotte Parry as his equally stubborn daughter, offer so much more juice than the more overtly relevant (and far duller) play of Rattigan's that the Roundabout revived two years ago starring Frank Langella , Man and Boy. "The Winslow Boy," the 18th production of a Rattigan play on Broadway, but only the third over the last 40 years, is more likely to make theatergoers wonder whether there is anything else of his as worth reviving.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus