Review Roundup: Critics Sound Off On The World Premiere of AUGUST RUSH: THE MUSICAL
Chicago audiences are the first to see the world premiere of August Rush: The Musical a never-before-seen musical based on the original Oscar-nominated Warner Bros film about a musically gifted orphan and the search for his birth parents.
Evan Taylor, an 11 year old orphan, believes in music like some believe in fairytales. In a cruel twist of fate, Evan's mother, an accomplished classical cellist, and his father, the lead singer of a rock band, don't even know he exists in this world. Even after so many years gone, Evan has not given up hope as he relentlessly searches for the parents he knows need him. Quickly discovering he too is a musical prodigy, Evan surrenders himself to the symphony of sounds and follows the music. In this inspiring love story, music is everywhere, but will it lead Evan home?
From the theatre that won the Jeff Award for "Best Large Musical" three years in a row, the moving story of August Rush: The Musical is brought to the stage in Paramount Theatre's first new musical. We invite you to be a part of history and join us for this world premiere. All you have to do is follow the music home...to the Paramount Theatre.
For the first time since launching its own Broadway Series in 2011, Aurora's Paramount Theatre is presenting a world premiere musical. John Doyle, the internationally acclaimed director who earned a Tony Award for Sweeney Todd and also staged the Broadway revival of The Color Purple starring Jennifer Hudson, helms Paramount's production, now on stage through June 2, 2019.
Let's see what the critics had to say!
Catey Sullivan, Chicago Sun-Times: At times, it seems Doyle is aiming for magical realism. Scott Pask's set is composed of a gleaming black grand piano that whirls across the stage alongside a series of shifting screens that alternately reflect images of stars, music notes and a kaleidoscopic vision of the title page from Evan/August's "Rhapsody." JoAnn M. Hunter's choreography has a hallucinatory feel as the ensemble twirls around that piano. But even magical realism needs to be grounded in a compelling narrative.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: I can't over-emphasize how much this choice in Glen Berger's book torpedoes the show: we cannot believe in a complex world of truth if there is a super-villain parading around, especially metastasizing from one character to another. It's too crude. It is out of scale. It hurts the heart.
Ben Kaye, New City Stage: As it stands, the disparate elements of "August Rush: The Musical" aren't working together to create a cohesive vision, in either design (Ann Hould-Ward's concert-hall costume design and Scott Pask's all-white scenic design make it increasingly difficult to establish any sense of place) or storytelling (the less said about, as I'm calling them, Wizard's Magic Death Headphones, the better). When "August Rush: The Musical" soars, it takes you to the moon and back. But when it falters, you can feel your heart about to break in the worst way. The notes are all there somewhere. I hope that this team will take another shot at finding their way back to a coherent melody.
Steven Oxman, Variety: Director Doyle's signature style, employing performers who play their own instruments, brought out deep characterizations in "Sweeney Todd" and "The Color Purple." Here, however - with a cellist character playing a cello, a villain playing electric guitar, and our central character indicating rather than demonstrating his prodigious talent - depth never emerges. We end up with a stylishly staged but thoroughly edge-less show, fully reliant on the appeal of unrestrained mawkishness.
Rick and Brenda McCain, Chicago Now: Evan Taylor has been preparing for a Rhapsody not only for the concert, but all of his life, searching for his parents, and we didn't get a chance to feel it. So when the time came for the integrated experience to happen for him, the fluidity of the experience fell flat for the audience. This brand new musical was all about the music score of popular and classical idioms, not the story that so many fell in love with and how it made them feel when he finally saw his parents.
Alan Bresloff, Around the Town Chicago: I must tell you that this cast of musicians/actors/singers is amazing and makes this a production that should win several Jeff Awards for the Paramount ( something they are used to) and should develop into a show that could do well, if not ON Broadway, at least Off-Broadway.
Ben Kaye, New City Chicago: As it stands, the disparate elements of "August Rush: The Musical" aren't working together to create a cohesive vision, in either design (Ann Hould-Ward's concert-hall costume design and Scott Pask's all-white scenic design make it increasingly difficult to establish any sense of place) or storytelling (the less said about, as I'm calling them, Wizard's Magic Death Headphones, the better). When "August Rush: The Musical" soars, it takes you to the moon and back. But when it falters, you can feel your heart about to break in the worst way. The notes are all there somewhere. I hope that this team will take another shot at finding their way back to a coherent melody.
Dan Zeff, Chicagolander: "August Rush" never moved me much emotionally, but I was filled with admiration for its highly listenable music, the uniformly excellent performances, and the visual look of the production. There is an honesty and sincerity in the performances that is irresistible, and was duly recognized by the enthusiastic audience response at the curtain call. The show is in exceptionally good shape for a new vehicle in an out-of-town tryout and nothing I saw and heard seemed to demand radical adjustment. The production is ready for the next step in its present condition, if some other theater will give it the chance. Good luck to everyone involved!
Kris Vire, Storefront Rebellion: Most unforgivable of all the show's bizarre decisions, though, is that despite having all the tools of musical theater at its disposal, we're given no view into August's inner life; the boy doesn't appear to have any emotions. This may be a fairy tale of sorts, but the characters need to be human. The whole production, honestly, feels like a rush job.
Lauren Katz, Picture This Post: It is impossible to have a stage production of August Rush without the music. While this writer felt the script itself could use some work, Mancina and Berger certainly create musical moments that this writer has not stopped thinking about since. Following every major musical number, this Opening Night audience cheered - whether this was a large group number like Wizard's frightening Reborn, the inspiring concluding number Rhapsody, or even one of the smaller, more intimate pieces.