Review Roundup: BROOKLYNITE Opens Off-Broadway

By: Feb. 25, 2015
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Vineyard Theatre's world premiere of the original musical Brooklynite, helmed by Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer (HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, SPRING AWAKENING), opens tonight, February 25th.

Mayer directs a company that features Andrew Call (FOUND, ROCK OF AGES), Gerard Canonico (SPRING AWAKENING), Max Chernin (BRIGHT STAR), Nick Choksi (INDIAN INK, NATASHA, PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812), Tony Award nominee Nick Cordero (BULLETS OVER BROADWAY), Matt Doyle (WAR HORSE, THE BOOK OF MORMON), Carla Duren (110 IN THE SHADE), Ann Harada (AVENUE Q at The Vineyard and on Broadway, CINDERELLA), John-Michael Lyles (ANGELINA BALLERINA), Grace McLean (BEDBUGS, NATASHA, PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812), Tom Alan Robbins (THE LION KING, SUNSET BOULEVARD), Nicolette Robinson("The Affair" - Showtime, "Hart of Dixie" - CW Network), and Remy Zaken (SPRING AWAKENING, THE ANTHEM).

With a completely original book by Peter Lerman and Michael Mayer and music and lyrics by Peter Lerman (winner of the Jonathan Larson Award), Brooklynite is choreographed by Steven Hoggett (THE LAST SHIP, THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, ONCE).

In Brooklynite, Trey Swieskowski is an idealistic hardware store clerk who dreams of becoming a superhero. Astrolass, Brooklyn's most celebrated superhero, is determined to throw in the cape and live like a normal Brooklynite. When they meet they hatch a plan that will change their lives forever. But can they save Brooklyn when it suddenly teeters on the brink of disaster?

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

Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: With a perky pop score by Peter Lerman and a slyly funny book by Mr. Lerman and the veteran Michael Mayer ("American Idiot," "Spring Awakening"), who also directs, the show makes genial sport of both superheroic tropes and the rise of Brooklyn...plentiful infusions of knowing jokes make a nice contrast with the silly Saturday-morning-cartoon gyrations of the plot...Mr. Lerman's songs are smoothly constructed and infectious pop-rock...The performers embrace their characters with gusto. Mr. Cordero bites into his role as the big bad (and dumb) guy. Mr. Canonico, as that speedy Kid Comet, does indeed zip around the stage with brio. Mr. Call and Ms. McLean bicker and flirt energetically in a somewhat unnecessary secondary romantic subplot. In the leading roles, Ms. Robinson sparkles as Astrolass, managing to imbue her moral quandary with something resembling gravitas. And Mr. Doyle sings ardently and acts the lovable geek with winning conviction...the scrappy, no-frills nature of "Brooklynite" feels right for the material, which has the grace not to take itself too seriously. And anyway, lavish and expensive effects didn't do much for a certain other superhero-based musical, did they?

Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: Comic book culture has completely taken over the movies. Must it have the theater as well? That's the churlish reaction induced upon seeing Brooklynite, the campy new superhero musical...This ambitious effort clearly has its sights set on bigger things and boasts a wide array of talent...But the end results seem more suited for the Fringe Festival than a commercial transfer...The thin storyline, which would barely pass muster in a real comic book, is peppered with Brooklyn-related one-liners...Lerman's pop/rock score is merely serviceable, with the musical numbers hardly enlivened by the mundane choreography from the usually reliable and seemingly ubiquitous Steven Hoggett...The performers do what they can to elevate the jokey material, with Doyle and Robinson charming as the borough's would-be savers and Cordero...scoring the evening's few big laughs. Among the remaining performers, the hilarious Ann Harada (Avenue Q) is sadly wasted in a variety of small roles...despite the hard-working efforts of all concerned, Brooklynite never takes flight.

Adam Feldman, Time Out NY: The comic-book musical Brooklynite is super shiny and often pretty cute, but what and whom is it for, exactly?...A harmless two-dimensional diversion, Peter Lerman and Michael Mayer's show has a glossy pop sound and some hipster jokes, but it's basically a throwback to the goofy-campy Batman TV series...Brooklynite is bright but insubstantial: all cape, no powers. Mayer's production at the Vineyard is boosted, though, by a very appealing cast (including Ann Harada, Grace McLean, Andrew Call, Gerard Canonico and Tom Alan Robbins). It will be interesting to see how the show flies in what may be its most appropriate milieu: a high-school auditorium.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: Superheroes aren't the only things zipping around in "Brooklynite." In-jokes also fly in this new musical set in the outer borough. Zingers blast away at the gamey Gowanus Canal, too-cool co-ops and the headache-generating G train. It makes for the musical-theater equivalent of locavore dining -- and that's fun. Ditto the energetic cast. If only the show exerted a superpowerful magnetic field. But no. The score by Off-Broadway rookie Peter Lerman is bright and bouncy but seldom grabs. Lerman's script, co-written with the show's director Michael Mayer, is so fluffy that there's nothing at stake.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: ...this goofy superhero tale has a rambunctious, puppylike energy that makes it hard to dislike. Especially if you accept that, in tone and target audience, it's really a young-adult show...Mayer stages the action at breakneck speed, which leaves little time to reflect on the material's unabashed silliness, along with a pile-up of borough-centric references...The giddy cast zips along Donyale Werle's overstuffed, brightly colored set, and Lerman's songs are fine, catchy pop-rock numbers. But, as in many superhero stories, it's the villain who makes the strongest impression. This one's played with scenery-chewing gusto by Nick Cordero...Whether rousing a squad of nerd minions or trying to seduce Astrolass, Cordero kicks the production into a higher gear every time he's onstage. Comic chops: Now that's a superpower a show can use.

Check back for updates!

Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg

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