BWW Reviews: 700 SUNDAYS is a must-see in Minneapolis
Outside Minneapolis, we're known as a theatre-loving town. For good reason: Hits like THE LION KING did their pre-Broadway runs here to great success. That fact was not lost on one Mr. Billy Crystal, who chose the city to do his exclusive pre-Broadway run before a soon-to-be-triumphant return to the bright lights of Broadway of his one-man show, 700 SUNDAYS. The packed house at Hennepin Theatre Trust's Historic State Theatre certainly did not disappoint Crystal last night; and Crystal charmed the pants off the loving, laughing crowd.
From the first moment Crystal takes the stage, you're either laughing hysterically or shedding tears over the poignant tale of the untimely passing of his father or his mother's death later in life. From Crystal's birth (literally, he replicates that for you), through his All-American and immigrant-influenced childhood, his crazy/funny/talented relatives and his first heartbreak, he's got you in stitches. If you did not study up and learn before-hand about the unique life he led in the ordinary town of Long Beach near NYC, you'll soon learn how he's connected to Billie Holiday, "Rock Around the Clock," and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar among others. And you'll quickly gather where his character influences came from as he tells you the story of his lifetime.
Crystal's expressive facial expressions, which earned him the nickname "Face" as a child, and his ability to do imitations and entertain his family were cultivated by his father from the age of five. Though the senior Mr. Crystal was only around until young Billy was age 15, the profound influence on his son's life is keenly felt in this show. It's also seen: through his father's home 8mm movies and family photographs projected on innovative screens on stage replica of his childhood home, the Crystal family album is a rich history for all who see 700 SUNDAYS. You forget it's a one-man show as the images of his life join him as characters in the show. Crystal also does, as you'd expect, some mean impressions of various people in his life, weaving more characters throughout the 2+ hour performance that make the action come alive. You don't think for a moment about the fact that you're watching one middle-aged guy on stage the entire time as it feels like a cast of many.
This is a show not to be missed by any theatre-loving Minneapolitan or anyone within driving distance because, not only was it funny as hell, it has more heart than you know what to do with. And it may be the only time you'll get to see it so close to home, or ever. A one-man show that's built around the man doing the show has a limited shelf-life. While Crystal has performed 700 SUNDAYS from NYC to Sydney, only 14 other cities have had the opportunity to see it. While he may just keep doing this until he cannot get up on stage and do fart jokes (they ARE pretty funny) any longer, you just don't want to take a chance and miss something like this. Don't delay - with only four more shows in Minneapolis through Saturday, Oct. 26, there won't be any Sundays here, and the tickets are nearly sold out.
Next stop: Broadway.
Tickets prices range from $51 to $134, depending on seating preference, and are subject to change. Additional fees may apply. Tickets may be purchased in person at the State Theatre Box Office (805 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 55402), online at HennepinTheatreTrust.org, through Ticketmaster by calling 800.982.2787 or by visiting a Ticketmaster Ticket Center. Groups of 10 or more should call 612.373.5665 for information and reservations.
Photo: Billy Crystal, courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust