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Review Roundup: BENNY AND JOON at The Old Globe Theatre

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Review Roundup: BENNY AND JOON at The Old Globe Theatre

Based on the 1993 movie of the same name with a screenplay by Barry Berman and Lesley McNeil, BENNY & JOON follows the story auto mechanic Benny, his eccentric sister Joon's only care taker. Things become complicated when Sam, with his own eccentric take on the world, steps into the picture and turns everything upside down. BENNY & JOON explores what happens when you step outside of what you know, and take the leap toward love. The world premiere of BENNY & JOON will run at The Old Globe Theatre through October 22.

The cast features Hannah Elless as Joon, Andrew Samonsky as Benny, Bryce Pinkham as Sam, Colin Hanlon as Mike, January LaVoy as Ruthie, and Paolo Montalban as Larry. The cast also includes Natalie Toro, Jason SweetTooth Williams, Jake Millgard, and Katie Whalley Banville.

BENNY & JOON has a book by Kirsten Guenther, music by Nolan Gasser, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, direction by Jack Cummings III, choreography by Scott Rink, scenic and costume design by Dane Laffrey, lighting design by R. Lee Kennedy, sound design by Kai Harada, orchestrations by Michael Starobin, and musical direction by J. Oconer Navarro.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

James Herbert, San Diego Union-Tribune: The show comes armed with plenty of charms, including beautifully appealing performances by Hannah Elless, as the smart but troubled Joon, and Bryce Pinkham, as the mysterious, movie-loving newcomer Sam... Writer Kirsten Guenther deserves plenty of credit for illuminating Joon and her condition with respect and sympathy. It's revealed that Joon is a functioning schizophrenic whose occasional breaks from reality mean Benny (Andrew Samonsky) has to arrange his life around her care. (The film left her diagnosis much more fuzzy.)

Pat Launer, Times of San Diego: I didn't think it would be possible to replicate the quirky sensibility of the movie in a musical. But The Old Globe has done it. This world premiere, with music by Nolan Gasser, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and book by Kirsten Guenther, is totally delightful. It completely captures the whimsy and the serious-mindedness of the film. Bryce Pinkham gives a star-making performance as the idiosyncratic Sam... This uplifting world premiere, six years in the making, feels nearly Broadway-ready, with some tweaks and tightening. Its themes of acceptance and compassion, and its "anything is possible" attitude, seem especially apt at this moment in time.

Welton Jones, San Diego Story: What's really nice about this piece so far - and it does need more tinkering despite its already long list of development efforts - is the sweet, refreshed normality of its texture. There are quirks aplenty among these people but nothing that can't be worked out. Acid drips elsewhere. Here in Spokane of the early 90s, people can figure out how to cope and even find some happiness... Andrew Samonsky is a manly and admirable Benny, seriously respectable from the moment of contact, whereas Hannah Elless is mercurial, quirky and intensely frustrated as Joon. A valuable asset to the project is the deep family connection they provide.

T.R. Robertson, The Vista Press: As older brother Benny, he shows a great range of emotions and a powerful singing voice, ranging from tender moments helping calm Joon when she has one of her episodes, to fits of anger... Elless does a beautiful interpretation of the issues surrounding Joon's mental illness. At one moment Joon seems as "normal" as the next person, at another moment the least little thing can set her off.. An audience favorite is Bryce Pinkham, who plays the eccentric Sam. Pinkham is making his Old Globe debut and has performed in numerous Broadway productions. Using a variety of physical comedy, facial expressions, great roller skating skill, memorable quotes from old movies and spot-on timing, Pinkham makes the unusual character of Sam a delight to watch.

Photo: Jim Cox

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