BWW Reviews: SETH RUDETSKY'S DECONSTRUCTING BROADWAY, Leicester Square Theatre, August 10 2014
It's been my privilege to review over 500 shows here. I've been mainly bewitched, sometimes bothered and occasionally bewildered, but I have never been so outrageously entertained as I was by Seth Rudetsky's Deconstructing Broadway. New York Jewish humour, brilliant storytelling, sensational clowning, devastating video and audio clips and a delivery that demands (and I mean demands) that you keep up with the man's obsessions (of which there are many) as they tumble forth at breakneck speed. Ninety minutes flashes by and you're left racing to his youtube channel for more.
But it's the very heart of this extraordinary polymath's show that lifts it from the merely very good to the unmissably fantastic. Drawing on an obsession (you get a lot of that word) that was already established at the age of two, Rudetsky explains why great Broadway songs and great Broadway singers are great - and why the not so great are really, really not so great (fans of Cher and Madonna might want to look away at key moments).
Clips from an ill-fated Princess Diana - The Musical would be funny per se, but analysed in the minute detail that Rudetsky brings to his work, they become a smorgasbord of misconception and mistakes. When Aretha Franklin steps out of her comfort zone to make "I Dreamed A Dream" her own - I regret to say that it doesn't end well. And as for Cher's one-woman take on West Side Story? Judge for yourself!
But this is no late night TV sneer-fest with Ricky Gervais giggling every fifteen minutes and hip young comedians commenting on shows they hadn't seen until the researcher sent them the DVD. Rudetsky's demolition of these nightmarish musical numbers is rooted in his love of the form. We learn exactly what belt is (and who can and who can't do it); riffing is shown at its best and, courtesy of the 12-year-old Rudetsky's audition tape - yes, inevitably, it's "Tomorrow" - at its worst; and Barbra Streisand seems even more unworldly in both a good way and a bad way.
Most of all, we learn new respect for the extraordinary talents of those who make musical theatre, as the love of the genre, present in Rudetsky's every word and movement, floods the theatre. Of the many gifts with which Rudetsky is blessed, it is his power to inspire that surely tops the lot. Catch him when he's next in town and take that musical theatre sceptic with you - they'll be a sceptic no more!