Review: Billy's Buddy Is A Boffo Broadway Baby On The Boards in MR. SATURDAY NIGHT

Mr. Saturday Night is now streaming on BroadwayHD.

By: Dec. 05, 2022
Review: Billy's Buddy Is A Boffo Broadway Baby On The Boards in MR. SATURDAY NIGHT

Welcome to another installment of our thoughts on some streaming theatre coming to you from the fab children at BroadwayHD! So jump in the stream with Bobby, and let's see if our rainbow lands on a pot of gold.

This week, dear lovely readers, BroadwayHD, the premier theatre streaming service, has PREMIERED their video of Billy Crystal's Broadway musical adaptation of his Academy Award® nominated golden flop MR. SATURDAY NIGHT. Starring... HIMSELF in his own Broadway musical that he, himself, adapted from his own movie that he, himself, wrote and directed might be drifting into a YENTL-like territory of creative self-embellishment, BUT (like La Barbra's masterpiece of Jewish storytelling) Billy's Buddy is a Borschtbelt beauty.

Bringing along his co-writers, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, adding in musical master Jason Robert Brown & witty lyricist Amanda Green, wisely bringing along his pal David Paymer (who was the aforementioned film's Oscar Nominee) to co-star, and giving it all into the care of director John Rando & choreographer Ellenore Scott, Crystal ensured himself that (much like the 1992 film that marked his directorial debut) MR. SATURDAY NIGHT would be a creative triumph for his unjustifiably short six-month run.

For those of Bobby's readers who may have seen Billy's movie in 1992 (all 1 of yo... Oh wait... they died) or those in NYC who went to see the show, you know as well as Bobby does (now) that this story is a gold mine of entertainment. The story of Buddy Young Jr. (born Abey Yankleman), who went from entertaining his family in the living room to a summer lodge success that lead to a standup comedy career and television stardom and then all the way back down to gigs in nursing homes, is positively full up with yuks and clucks and schmucks to keep you laughing for the show's slightly overlong 2 ½ hours. Honestly, the one raindrop in our rainbow review here is that they could've stood trimming 15 or so minutes off of that running time, but Bobby is not deducting any points this round because we had such a good time.

Brown & Green's masterful score captures, in words and music, a pastiche style encompassing the golden age of television comedy (WE'RE LIVE) and modern, rehab-ridden '80s-'90s anxiety, (THERE'S A CHANCE), all mixed in with an old-school Jewish comic's perfect TIMING (see what Bobby did there, cuz that's a song in the show, TIMI...meh, skip it).

Now, Billy is not alone this time on the Broadway, as he was for his 700 SUNDAYS (twice), besides his pal Paymer, as his brother Stan, Crystal is joined by only six other actors. It is rare that a full musical plays our street with such a trim company, but these dynamos are dynamite. In the principle players' category, we have Tony Award® nominee Shoshana Bean as Buddy's daughter Susan, providing the requisite neurotic family estrangement needed to add to Buddy's show biz woes, Tony Award® winner Randy Graff as Elaine, Buddy's wife, who is often winded by running around after her spotlight chasing hubby, and Chasten Harmon as Annie Wells, Buddy's equally exhausted but fresh-faced new agent tasked with reviving the old boy's glory days. These fine actresses play the ladies in Crystal's orbit, and each one gets fine moments to shine, throughout. Bean, with her angst-ridden THERE'S A CHANCE in Act 1 and her spiritual awakening MAYBE IT STARTS WITH ME in Act 2, proves why she got that Tony Nom. Graff, who spends Act 1 making Crystal & Paymer's duets into trios, gets to hit it out of the park with her opus to needing a vacation from Buddy, TAHITI, leaving us to wonder why her Tony nod... nodded off. Chasten Harmon, who has spent FAR too many years away from our stages, takes Buddy's crap in TIMING, and then lifts him up with WHAT IF I SAID in ways that made Little Bobby lean toward the flat screen feeling that it is a blessing to have her back.

Now, three words MUST be said about the 3 players of the supporting cast... FAB-U-LOUS. Taking on roles ranging from summer lodge waiters (and customers) to comedy writers and variety show cast members in a veritable 100-yard dash of who can do a quick change the fastest, Jordan Gelber, Brian Gonzales, and Mylinda Hull (each with a half dozen credits on the Broadway) run around fully populating Buddy's world, singing and dancing, yucking it up, pitching the straight lines, punching the punchlines, playing it for laughs, and playing it for heartfelt schmaltz. These three maniacs are unstoppable and, trust Bobby, we don't want them to stop. Each deserves each of their moments in the spotlight, and thanks to fantastic chemistry with their fearless leader (Crystal) who gives them those moments, the measure of their talent and contribution to this story is wonderfully felt. We don't really know if such a Jewish comic story can have a Greek Chorus, but if it is these 3 - Let it all be Greek to us. Gonzales, especially, stands out acting-wise, playing a film director upon whom Buddy pins too many of his hopes.

And now, to the two stars... We meant what we said when we said that it was a wise move to include the gifts of David Paymer again in this version of MR. SATURDAY NIGHT. A ubiquitous character actor with a character face brings his character voice to this show, and while he may not be a "singer," per se, he acquits himself wonderfully, hitting all of his singing notes with the power of a real show biz pro doing whatever he is called upon to do, and going toe to toe with his old friend, in the acting scenes, with the aplomb, timing, and flint-to-steel chemistry that is the hallmark of their work together.

What can be said about Billy Crystal? On the subject of chemistry, it should be said that if you can't find it with Billy, then you are in the wrong business. Listening IS the art of acting and Billy is never JUST listening to his scene partners, he is letting them talk in an active way that gives them everything they need to do their jobs. Over the years, we have followed and admired the work of this man, including those occasions where he added in a bit of singing here, a song or two there, but now we have seen, heard, and (most importantly) felt the full measure of the man's voice and musicality. And, at an age when a lot of "alte kakers" should hang up their throat spray... Billy delivers with full Broadway credibility. Are these two taking the stage at The Met? No - but for musical comedy characters, these two characters just can't miss.

Finally, the presentation by BROADWAYHD puts the H and the D in High Def entertainment. Directed wonderfully for the camera by Matthew Diamond, this film (our second experience with this streaming app) gave us the old feeling of anticipation and excitement we would get as a little stage-struck rainbow boy back in Texas, waiting for American Playhouse or Great Performances to bring the magic of the theatre to our local PBS station. More and more, as technology advances and our social contract with live entertainment evolves to include streaming at home, BroadwayHD is presenting theatre on stage in ways that make the audience at home feel two complimentary emotions: One, the joy of feeling as though we are actually there, seeing it happen live, and Two, the deep desire to actually go somewhere and see it live. Theatre makers and the unions have long held that if someone can watch what they do at home, they won't buy a ticket at the box office, and that isn't true anymore.

Also, in this time of advancement, they are discovering that it's all one, and are learning to leverage and monetize the streaming box office, and BroadwayHD is leading the way for sure. So, my dearlings, if you have not yet signed up for BroadwayHD... what are you waiting for? With presentations like this one, all of you out there in the hinterlands (and even right here in the city where we keep that street) can get your Broadway fix on the regular affordably, and you can see MR. SATURDAY NIGHT, a show that deserved a much longer run and that, along with BroadwayHD's presentation, gets our resounding ...

4 Out Of 5 Rainbows - Check it out.

Go to your App purveyor on your phone, streaming TV service, or your computer and see what the fab folks at BroadwayHD have to offer.

Listen To The Mr. Saturday Night Cast Album HERE

If you're a BraodwayHD subscriber (or you want to be) MR. SATURDAY NIGHT is streaming: HERE

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