Review Roundup: BURN ALL NIGHT at the American Repertory Theater

American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) presents the premiere of Burn All Night, running now through September 8, 2017 at at OBERON, 2 Arrow Street, Cambridge, MA.

In an age of uncertainty, four lost souls come to the city in search of themselves. An unflinching look at being young on the eve of global catastrophe, this world premiere musical directed by Jenny Koons (A Sucker Emcee, In This Moment) and choreographed by Tony nominee Sam Pinkleton (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) features a synthpop score by Teen Commandments members Van Hughes, Nick LaGrasta, and Brett Moses with a book and lyrics by Andy Mientus ("SMASH").

The cast includes Krystina Alabado (Spring Awakening) as Holly, Ken Clark (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) as Zak, Lincoln Clauss as Bobby, and Perry Sherman(Fun Home) as Will with an ensemble including Gabrielle Carrubba, Aurie Ceylon, Marquis Johnson (Disney's Beauty and the Beast), Ashley LaLonde (Violet), AJ Rafael, MJ Rodriguez (Trans Scripts, Part I: The Women), and Jamar Williams (Witness Uganda). The band includes Maddie Jay on Bass, Maxime Cholley on Drums, Claudio Raino? on Guitar, and Michael Mastroianni on Keys.

The creative team features scenic design by Sara Brown (The Shape She Makes), costume design by Evan Prizant, lighting design by Bradley King (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812), sound design by Jessica Paz (Dear Evan Hansen), and music direction by Cian McCarthy (The Book of Mormon).

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Wicked Local (Iris Fanger): Blessed by a terrifically talented cast accompanied by a four-piece band of Berklee College of Music students and alums, and with director Jenny Koons' sure hand on an uncertain tangle of plot lines, "Burn All Night" treads an uneasy line between concert-circuit culture and a theatrical format. The story is familiar but the solution to the problems comes courtesy of Mother Nature, worked over by the excesses of our civilization. The props - a mic planted on the side of each performer's face, a phone held resolutely in each one's hand - let us know we are in the here and now, even if the timeline is blurred.

WBUR (Jeremy D. Goodwin): In its best moments, "Burn All Night" conveys the confusing difficulty of asserting your own identity when everything around you is changing. The sense of young people experiencing the world as something that spins, by turns, much too fast and much too slow, is potent. This show presents a winningly energetic performance by its ensemble and band, and I found myself rooting for it all to come together. But with its visions of the personal and of the universal both similarly muddied, its impact winds up as something less than apocalyptic.

Boston Globe (Patti Hartigan): But the talent and enthusiasm of the ensemble cannot mask the thinness of the musical. The "immersion" concept is just that - a concept. Director Jenny Koons uses the entire space, with the actors singing on platforms amid audience members in the "standing room" section. (Other audience members sit in seats surrounding the floor.) The spectators in the "immersion" area just stand there without much interaction. Choreographer Sam Pinkleton has the ensemble perform butt-shaking, dance-club moves, and the dancers execute them with youthful energy. But full immersion never really happens. You just have to get out of the way to avoid being run down by a giant cube.

Art Fuse (Bill Marx): Not really. The latest egregious example of head-banging banality, the musical Burn All Night, is receiving its world premiere at the ART's club-theater environment OBERON, for which it was specifically developed. We know important issues are being bravely faced in the show because Paulus notes in the program that the piece was "inspired by youth culture on the eve of global catastrophe." Heavy, man. Of course, all kinds of people are going to die when the world ends - old, poor, middle-aged, lots of non-Americans. But sure, let's spotlight the demise of NYC's young, clueless, and beautiful. These are not your run-of-the-mill kids, but privileged types, wannabe artists who seem far more interested in who is sleeping with who than with the fate of the world. And that is as it should be. Issues like Global Warming are for the non-young to worry about. Kids, with their disposable income and exuberance, should treat the eve of destruction as they do here, as an inspiration for a dance-a-thon. Party like it's 1999! Raise the hedonistic temperature and melt some more icebergs.

Check back for more reviews as they come in!

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