Review Roundup: BECOMING NANCY Starring Zachary Sayle, Jessica Vosk, and More!
The new musical. Becoming Nancy, is currently playing at Alliance Theatre!
Based on the best-selling British novel by Terry Ronald, this new musical is directed and choreographed by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, Hairspray), with a book by Elliot Davis (Peter Pan, Loserville), and a score by the songwriting team of George Stiles (Music) and Anthony Drewe (Lyrics) (Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Honk!). BECOMING NANCY will open the Alliance Theatre's 51st season on its newly renovated Coca-Cola Stage, September 6 - October 6, 2019. Opening Night was Wednesday, September 18.
In BECOMING NANCY, smarts, talent, and great taste in music may not be enough to get David Starr through 12th grade, where, to his great surprise, he's just been given the female lead in the school play. The unconventional casting sends shock waves through David's small town and before long, it seems like everybody has an opinion on whether David should go on with the show. This huge-hearted new musical weaves a story of family bonds, first loves, and the courage it takes to find your own spotlight.
BECOMING NANCY features Zachary Sayle(Newsies the Musical) as David Starr, Matt Hetherington as Eddie Starr, Sally AnnTriplett (Finding Neverland) as Kath Starr, Jessica Vosk (Wicked) as Aunt Val, Stephen Ashfield (The Book of Mormon) as Hamish McClarnon, Jake Boyd (Wicked) as Maxie Boswell, Jasmine Rogers as Francis Bassey, and more.
Let's see what the critics have to say!
Ashley Elliott, BroadwayWorld: Every note hits perfectly, the pacing is rhythmically sound, and the show as a whole already feels like it could be in the Nederlander or the Longacre. The only facet of the show that could use a little tweaking is some of the patrons might not be able to understand some of the lines due to the accents combined with the quick pace of a few of the numbers. However, that doesn't stop the show from being anything less than exquisite.
Manning Harris, Atlanta In Town: David Rockwell's scenic design is terrific; so are the lighting design (Philip S. Rosenberg) and sound (John Shivers) and costumes (Amy Clark). John Clancy's orchestrations are top-notch. The songs are quite lovely; are they as memorable as those in the original "Oliver!"? Well, I would say it's much too soon to tell, no? The leading players (everyone I mentioned), particular Mr. Sayle, Mr. Boyd, Ms. Vosk, Mr. Hetherington, Ms. Triplett, and Ms. Rogers ("My Skin") are outstanding singers and actors. They will thrill you. When "Becoming Nancy" soars, it easily overrides any moments of uncertainty. This is a life-positive show ("You Matter"); remember that and root for David and Maxie.
Frank Rizzo, Variety: Performances mostly rise above the material. Sayle is likable in the leading role, but his amusing rapport with the audience and plucky way with a song can't substitute for brighter writing. The appealing Boyd makes Maxie's ease with life's challenges a delight - until his character reaches his own personal identity crisis. [...] The other roles are underwritten and obvious to a fault, which echoes many of Drewe's lyrics, though the title song is a clever pleasure as is Maxie's rouser, "I Don't Care." Oddly, the most moving musical moment comes from a pair of secondary characters - David's aunt and a schoolmate (Lizzie Bea) who has the hots for David - in the bittersweet "On the Night Bus." But many of the others are sticky with sentiment, full of handwringing or too on-the-nose in their villainy.
Wendell Brooks, AJC: As written by Elliot Davis (book), George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (lyrics), and directed and choreographed by Mitchell, "Becoming Nancy" is a tonally jarring work that cloaks disturbing stereotypes and offensive language in a hyper-energetic swell of song-and-dance numbers before ending with an anthem of self-love called "You Matter." [...] To be certain, "Becoming Nancy" is lavishly staged, peppered with likable songs, and distinguished by top-notch performances. Scenic designer David Rockwell creates a fabulous, fine-boned high-school gymnasium, sumptuously lit by Philip S. Rosenberg, and Amy Clark contributes costumes that are appropriate to the almost-'80s vibe. Despite the weirdness of the material, the cast soldiers on, and sometimes soars.
Robert Heller, Atlanta Arts Scene: The book by Elliott Davis is wrapped into the songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and a large cast brings the message to you on a great staging by David Rockwell. Zachary Sayle is stage center as young David Starr. He is at a prep school where the drama coach doesn't have enough girls for his cast of an adaptation of Oliver; so he drafts David to play Nancy. That's a problem for many school chums, townies and family. [...] This is a highly energetic show, a little hard to follow in Act I as the numbers are belted out quite loudly in chorus. But, in Act II everything comes clearly into focus and with great aplomb and success. It's not a Cats, or Annie and you won't leave the theatre humming the tunes; but you will leave having the vital messages etched even deeper into your soul and thinking of how we may each help to make a better world.
Kelundra Smith, Arts ATL: This musical is meant to be fun, which it is, but the score by George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (lyrics) is pretty forgettable. The Alliance still hasn't mastered the art of finding a memorable opening number, which is exactly what this show needs. It does have a few standout songs. "On the Night Bus" is a beautiful duet for Vosk and Bea, who lament being single. It's hard to keep a dry eye when David's mom (Sally Ann Triplett) sings about the ups and downs of motherhood in "About Six Inches From Your Heart." The songs "Abigail Henson" and "Just for Today" are fun.
Charlotte Selton, Emory Wheel: The lyrics and music, by Anthony Drewe and George Stiles, respectively, are generally strong, although the saccharine Act One ballad, "Six Inches From Your Heart," brought the show's strong momentum to a dead standstill. "You Matter," the Act Two song intended as an inspirational showstopper, also demands revision. The message is trite and, more crucially, a poor fit for the conflict of the show. If the lyrics must invoke a cliche motivational slogan for the chorus, at least choose one that fits David's character arc, like "Be Yourself." The first three-quarters of the show are well done enough to command a New York or London stage. However, the climax through the conclusion fail to deliver the resolution or growth initially promised. Put briefly, the ending of "Becoming Nancy" is too much of everything. It has too many just-in-time cliches, all of which are predictable but only one of which is necessary. There are two unearned redemption arcs, both of which were hastily built into the second act after no foreshadowing and which resolve within minutes of each other.
Check back for more reviews as they come in!