Review Roundup: Critics Visit DEAR WORLD At City Center Encores!

Tony winner Donna Murphy takes on the story's lovable heroine Countess Aurelia, performing some of Herman's sweetest and most sumptuous songs.

By: Mar. 16, 2023
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New York City Center Encores! presents Dear World, which features music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, running through March 19, 2023. This madcap romp is directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes, who helmed Herman's Mack & Mabel (2019 Encores!), with new Encores! Music Director Mary-Mitchell Campbell leading The Encores! Orchestra. Read reviews for the production below!

With its premiere in 1969, Dear World made Jerry Herman the first composer-lyricist in history to have three shows running simultaneously on Broadway, each centered around a uniquely larger-than-life leading lady. A true hidden gem of the Broadway canon, this madcap fable follows a motley band of outcasts who must rally together to save their picturesque neighborhood in Paris from a greedy cabal of oil-hungry bankers. Two-time Tony winner Donna Murphy takes on the story's lovable heroine Countess Aurelia, performing some of Herman's sweetest and most sumptuous songs, including "I Don't Want to Know," "Kiss Her Now," and "Each Tomorrow Morning."

The cast also features Brooks Ashmanskas (President), Andréa Burns (Constance), Christopher Fitzgerald (Sewerman), Ann Harada (Gabrielle), Kody Jauron (Artiste), Phillip Johnson Richardson (Julian), Samantha Williams (Nina).

Juan A. Ramirez, The New York Times: Considering our current climate of reactive, out-loud politics, the melodramatic straightforwardness of Lawrence and Lee's story doesn't seem as far-out as it once did. Now, as then, Herman's tuneful, yes-we-can score holds a steady beat for all to march to.

Matt Windman, amNY: Interestingly, Herman's original vision for "Dear World" was of a small chamber piece, rather than the kind of musical theater extravaganza represented by his 1960s mega-hits "Hello, Dolly!" and "Mame," and a few recent productions of "Dear World" have been presented in that manner, including one at Off-Broadway's York Theatre in 2017. However, a downsized "Dear World," without the sweeping vocal arrangements and orchestrations, is far less thrilling. It is probably too late to seriously resuscitate "Dear World." Frankly, I would rather have Encores! present the show for a week with Donna Murphy, after which I can revisit the original cast album once every few years.

Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: Directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes (who also staged Mack & Mabel a few years ago), this Encores! production, of course, has none of those problems. We know Donna Murphy isn't going to walk out looking like her glam and gorgeous 21st-century self; rather, with her glorious grayish-white hair, piles of pearls, lace-trimmed skirts, and satiny robes, she looks like a cross between Madame Arcati and Madame Armfeldt. (Toni Leslie James' costumes are a vintage shopper's dream.) Set-wise, the City Center stage is stripped down by necessity; it looks like scenic designer Paul Tate DePoo III went to Marché Paul Bert Serpette for tables, chairs, trunks, and other assorted antique furnishings. The cast is roughly two-thirds the size of the original. And the orchestra-under the direction of the terrific Mary-Mitchell Campbell, the new Encores! music director-sounds by turns intimate and sweeping, hitting all the emotional notes.

David Finkle, New York Stage Review: What-ho, though. Dropped neatly into the Dear World dialogue, along with Herman's luscious melodies and words, is a line that has marvelous resonance to our times. The cynical, unfortunately realistic comment posits that where striking oil is concerned, those concerned with it are unlikely to be interested in democracy. Had this Dear World been revised as somewhere in Texas instead of Paris, it couldn't have been more timely.

Dan Meyer, Theatrely: Ultimately, Dear World does not add up to the sum of its parts and probably never will-but at the end of it all, I longed for a "tomorrow morning" with these loveable weirdos.


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