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Broadway Review Roundup: THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE - All the Reviews!


Roundabout Theatre Company is presenting the new Broadway musical THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE, starring two time Tony® Award-winner Donna Murphy, directed by Leonard Foglia. THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE features book & lyrics by Iris Rainer Dart and music by Mike Stoller and Artie Butler. 

The cast also features Alexander Gemignani (Moishe), Christopher Innvar (Chaim), Nicole Parker(Red), Rachel Resheff (Jenny), Hal Robinson (Doovie, Rabbi Velvel), Lewis J. Stadlen (Avram Krinsky), Joyce Van Patten (Chayesel), Chip Zien (Yossie Pinsker), Brad Bradley, Rachel Bress,Jeremy Davis, Emilee Dupre, Maya Goldman, Louis Hobson, Shannon Lewis, Jessica Lea Patty, Andie Mechanic, Megan Reinking, Jeffrey Schecter and Paul Anthony Stewart.

Once the darling of the Yiddish Theatre in pre-war Poland, now a grandmother in New York City, Bubbie has had quite a life. But what will it all mean if she can't pass on her stories to the next generation? Though her granddaughter is enchanted by her tales, her daughter Red will do anything to keep from looking back. A fiercely funny and deeply moving new musical that spans three generations, THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE celebrates the importance of learning from our past, and the power of laughter.

THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE opened officially on Thursday, April 28th, 2011. The limited engagement is scheduled to run through June 19th, 2011.

Let's see what the critics had to say....

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Without Ms. Murphy this well-meaning Roundabout Theater Company production - which has a book and lyrics by Iris Rainer Dart and songs by Mike Stoller and Artie Butler - would be thin treacle indeed. As it is, even Ms. Murphy (who also gets to portray the various characters that Raisel plays onstage and on screen) has trouble generating the kind of energy that makes an audience sit up and smile, or sit up, period.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Murphy, as usual, loses herself in the part, which requires her to shift between time periods, often while remaining on stage...Unfortunately, the book and lyrics - by "Beaches" novelist and first-time Broadway story writer Iris Rainer Dart - and music - by Mike Stoller ("Smokey Joe's Cafe") and Artie Butler (who wrote the pop standard "Here's to Life") - don't always rise to Murphy's high standard.

Elisabeth Vincintelli, New York Post: Above all, star Donna Murphy is a Tony winner who's lit up the likes of "Passion" and "Wonderful Town." Here, she works tirelessly to perform CPR on a DOA's not just the music that's subpar: The book is full of holes, and pulls at the heartstrings without earning its pathos, ensnaring good supporting performers like Alexander Gemignani (Paul's son), Nicole Parker, Chip Zien and Christopher Innvar into a gooey mess.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: The story might have been better served as a four-hanky screen tearjerker, but Murphy elevates the hackneyed material. Her Raisel is a difficult woman whose warmth toward her granddaughter contrasts with her needling criticism of her daughter...Bottom Line: Donna Murphy's customary poise and humor bring some unifying force to a tonally discordant show heavy on clichés.

Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: Much talent has been squandered on this stale confection, starting with that of Ms. Murphy, who switches from youth to old age and back again so deftly that you'll smile each time she does it. The cast is full of pros (it's always a joy to see Lewis J. Stadlen at work), and Andy Blankenbuehler, lately of "In the Heights," has staged the musical numbers with pleasing skill. If you have an unusually high tolerance for sentiment, you might find "The People in the Picture" barely endurable.

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: The Broadway season came to a close last night with the opening of "The People in the Picture," a slight and sentimental new musical starring Donna Murphy as a Jewish woman striving to make peace with the past and her estranged daughter. The show features strong performances and an evocative staging by Leonard Foglia in his first Broadway musical. But a cliched story as well as surface-skimming and tonally uncohesive songs keep it from developing into a fully compelling portrait and persuasive heart-tugger.

Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: In Donna Murphy, the creators have a shimmering star who can play a tender, doting grandma and yet evoke Lombard, that irresistible mix of winks and minx. But along with some syrupy writing, a mean streak runs through this show. For the first half, Jenny's mom, Red, is played (by Nicole Parker) as a strident over-achiever, hardened to her own mother's suggestion that she quit her job and care for her daughter herself.

David Sheward, Backstage: Late in the second act, there is a moment when the secret has been revealed...Dart and company milk the moment for maximum hankie usage and several choruses of the sentimental "Saying Goodbye." A plethora of tear-inducing triggers, including a Camillelike death scene, are yet to come. Fortunately, the score-featuring flavorful music by the legendary Mike Stoller (of Leiber and Stoller fame) and Artie Butler and amusing lyrics by Dart-doesn't hit us over the head like the book.

Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly: If Ned Flanders and his fellow amateur thespians on The Simpsons staged a Springfield community musical about Jewish grandmothers and Yiddish theater in pre-war Poland and called it The Plotz Thickens!, they could do no worse than The People in the Picture, now singing and dancing near the footlights of desperation at Roundabout Theatre Company's Studio 54.

Howard Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer: When The People in the Picture, a world premiere production by Roundabout Theatre Company that stars the estimable Donna Murphy, isn't falling under the weight of heart-clogging sentimentality, it's offering a spate of lackluster numbers that suggest what the Fiddler on the roof would be like were he relegated to the basement - it's the difference between kosher and kosher-style.

Linda Winer, Newsday: It feels ungrateful to dismiss any new musical that offers Donna Murphy a chance to play a Nazi-oppressed Polish star of the Yiddish theater and an old Jewish grandmother in New York, to be so persuasively comic and tragic, to use so many parts of her marvelous voice in traditional Broadway ballads, operetta, vaudeville and the ancient stirrings in the klezmer music.

Robert Feldberg, Everything ultimately comes together in a scene of great emotion, but one that's out of step both with the tone of the rest of the play and with what we've learned of Raisel as a character. "The People in the Picture" seems to have been a labor of love for Dart, but, without freshness, wit or dramatic imagination, it's not much of a musical.

Steve Suskin, Variety: The 2010-2011 Broadway season wisps to a close with "The People in the Picture." Holocaust-themed song-and-dancer is a thoroughly earnest endeavor, but earnestness doesn't necessarily ensure entertainment. Donna Murphy works extra hard as a glamorous Polish actress-turned-doddering Jewish grandmother, but to little avail.

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