Review Roundup: Critics Weigh In On DAVE at Arena Stage; Updating Live!
Dave, new musical, is now on stage at Arena Stage. By three-time Tony Award winner Thomas Meehan (Annie, Hairspray, The Producers), two-time Tony Award nominee Nell Benjamin (Mean Girls, Legally Blonde) and Pulitzer Prize and two-time Tony Award winner Tom Kitt (Next to Normal, If/Then), Dave is inspired by the Academy Award-nominated American political comedy film. The world-premiere engagement is produced by special arrangement with Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, The Donners' Company and Larger Than Life. Under the direction of Tony Award nominee Tina Landau, and with choreography by Tony Award nominee Sam Pinkleton and music direction by Rob Berman, Dave runs July 13-August 19, 2018 in the Kreeger Theater.
Drew Gehling (Broadway's Waitress) plays both President Bill Mitchell and the title role of Dave. Gehling is joined by Mamie Parris (Broadway's Cats, School of Rock) as First Lady Ellen Mitchell, Josh Breckenridge (Broadway's Come From Away), Rachel Flynn (Off-Broadway's Heathers the Musical), Bryonha Marie Parham (Broadway's Prince of Broadway), Jonathan Rayson (Broadway's Little Shop of Horrors), and Doug Sills.
Rounding out the company are Jenny Ashman (Kansas City Repertory's Evita), Jared Bradshaw (Broadway's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Dana Costello (Jekyll and Hyde national tour), Trista Dollison (Broadway's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Sherri L. Edelen (Arena Stage's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike), Kevin R. Free (The Neo-Futurists' Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind), Erin Quill (Broadway's Avenue Q), Jamison Scott (Broadway's Motown the Musical) and Vishal Vaidya (Broadway's Groundhog Day), Adam J. Levy and Thomas Adrian Simpson.
The creative team for Dave also includes scenic design by Tony Award nominee Dane Laffrey; costume design by two-time Tony Award nominee Toni-Leslie James; lighting design by five-time Tony Award nominee Japhy Weideman; sound design by Tony Award nominee Walter Trarbach; projection design by Drama Desk Award winner Peter Nigrini; and casting by Telsey + Company/Patrick Goodwin, CSA.
Let's see what the critics have to say!
Paul Harris, Variety: The cast is led by a versatile Drew Gehling ("Waitress") in the dual role originated by Kevin Kline in the film, playing the unscrupulous president and the unassuming nerd who lands the big guy's job, plus his broken marriage too. (In this version, he's an American history teacher and Abraham Lincoln-phile freshly out of work due to budget cuts.) Gehling nails the yin-and-yang acting assignments by balancing sneers and attitude with goofy grins and ungainly movements, while his strong tenor voice leads the company with assurance.
Jennifer Perry, BroadwayWorld: Speaking of performing the heck out of something, the cast is also one of the show's strongest assets from principal actors down to the ensemble. It's uniformly strong. You can't help but hate Drew Gehling as Bill Mitchell and root for him to succeed as Dave. Mamie Parris, who is possibly one of the two best vocalists along with Bryonha Marie Parham, plays off Gehling really well and it's a trip to watch their relationship change. Douglas Sills is deliciously evil as the conniving Chief of Staff Bob Alexander. Josh Breckenridge provides a memorable performance as Secret Service Officer Duane Bolden (his number "Not My Problem" is a highlight). The ensemble cast performs every scene with an abundance of energy.
Jayne Blanchard, DC Theatre Scene: Much of the lyrics and dialogue are clever and smart, with Bob Alexander bringing the house down when he sings "the snowflakes are eating crow," President Mitchell whining "Leave me alone, I just wanna be president," and Dave noting that in order to be a Mitchell look-alike, he must "squint when I'm sincere."
David Siegel, DC Detro Theater Arts: Dave's director is Tina Landau (SpongeBob SquarePants). Landau brings a sharp understanding of politics that underpins the production's sometimes meaty aspects. More so, she has a droll, wonderfully "over-the-top" sense of humor and comic timing. Landau is the high-octane propellant for Dave. She also has a keen sense for those who have been wronged or abused by the unforgivable behavior of a man.
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