Review Roundup: Barrington Stage's THE ROYAL FAMILY OF BROADWAY With Music and Lyrics by William Finn

Review Roundup: Barrington Stage's THE ROYAL FAMILY OF BROADWAY With Music and Lyrics by William FinnBarrington Stage Company (BSC), the award-winning theatre in downtown Pittsfield, under the leadership of Artistic Director Julianne Boyd, presents the world premiere musical, The Royal Family of Broadway. Performances run through July 7 on the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage (30 Union Street).

The Royal Family of Broadway features a book by Tony Award winner Rachel Sheinkin (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), music and lyrics by Tony Award winner William Finn (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Falsettos, Artistic Producer of BSC's Musical Theatre Lab), and is based on the 1927 original play The Royal Family by George S. Kaufman & Edna Ferber and an original adaptation by Richard Greenberg.

The Royal Family of Broadway features musical direction by Vadim Feichtner (Broadway's Falsettos), is choreographed by Tony Award nominee and Emmy Award winner Joshua Bergasse (BSC's The Pirates of Penzance, "So You Think You Can Dance"), and is directed by Tony Award winner John Rando (Broadway's On The Town, Urinetown).

A brilliant musical comedy, The Royal Family of Broadway is a masterful love letter to the Great White Way. Set in the 1920s and loosely based on the legendary Barrymores, it centers around the Cavendish family of actors: an aging imperious grande dame, a Broadway star looking for love, a self-centered boozy leading man who has fled Hollywood, and a promising ingénue - each having to make pivotal choices in their lives.

The Royal Family of Broadway stars Arnie Burton (Off Broadway's The Inspector General) as "Bert," Kathy Fitzgerald (Broadway's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as "Kitty Dean," Alan H. Green (BSC's Broadway Bounty Hunter; Broadway's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as "Gil," Tony Award winner Harriet Harris (BSC's Sweeney Todd; Broadway's Thoroughly Modern Millie) as "Fanny," Olivier Award winner Laura Michelle Kelly (West End's Mary Poppins) as "Julie," Hayley Podschun (Broadway's Hello, Dolly!) as "Gwen," AJ Shively (Broadway's Bright Star) as "Perry," Tony Award nominee Will Swenson (BSC's The Pirates of Penzance; Broadway's Waitress) as "Tony," and Chip Zien (Broadway's It Shoulda Been You, Falsettos) as "Oscar."

Let's see what the critics have to say!

Jesse Green, NY Times: Mr. Finn's scattershot lyrics don't help: He lurches at rhymes regardless of fit, as if at a sample sale where they might run out. The staging and, to a lesser extent, the performances have a similar desperate edge. Are there compensations? Yes. The costumes (by Alejo Vietti) and the orchestrations (by Bruce Coughlin) are delicious. Ms. Harris makes a vivid vaudevillian and Mr. Swenson is genetically incapable of not being dashing.

Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: The opening-night performance had some choppy spots-the unusually complicated production was put together in less than a month-and a musical like this cries out for a full-sized orchestra instead of the existing eight-piece pit band, whose playing of Bruce Coughlin's unstylish orchestrations is cloudy and flat-footed. Still, I have no doubt that everything else about "The Royal Family of Broadway" will sharpen up in short order, and you'd have to be blind and deaf not to know that it already has the right stuff in abundance. See it now and spread the word: This show is going far.

Steve Barnes, Times Union: While they zestily spoof old Broadway, Finn and Sheinkin hold it in obvious and dear regard. Even as "The Royal Family of Broadway" makes fun of the period and its people, its reverence and veneration for both are always clear. Legends grow more approachable and fallible as we get to know them, the show seems to be saying, but as long as they continue to burnish their legacies with yet another performance, their stars will not fade.

Mark G. Auerback, Westfield News: The entire cast is terrific. Will Swenson, last seen at Barrington Stage as The Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance, sizzles as the actor who knows he sizzles. Laura Michelle Kelly, who recently played The Bushnell in The King and I, knocks some power ballads from stage to rafters. Hayley Podschun from Goodspeed's pre-Broadway Holiday Inn, is a terrific dancer in her duets with A.J. Shively. Harriet Harris, from Broadway's Thoroughly Modern Millie and Berkshire Theatre Group's Arsenic and Old Lace, and upcoming Sister Mary Ignatius, stops the show with her rendering o "Stupid Things I Won't Do".

J. Peter Bergam, Berkshire Edge: Ultimately it is Fanny who holds this show together, and Barrington Stage has Harriet Harris to play the role. Looking far too young for the part, she plays the age of the character very well and, though deprived of that wonderful speech about the theater, she has many bright moments that make you long for more. There are roles that actors grow into and there are roles some actors are just meant to play: Harris was meant to play Fanny Cavendish. She plays the part very well indeed, convincingly earnest and honest even in those over-played moments that the character (not the actress) cannot resist or avoid. I hope someday Harris can revisit the part in the nonmusical play. I ache to hear her give the speech that LeGallienne made so very memorable and Rosemary Harris echoed in that revival. Casting Harriet Harris in this role was both daring and darling, for she is the making of the show.

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