Review Roundup: Critics Weigh in on TAMMY FAYE From Elton John and Jake Shears at the Almeida Theatre

The cast includes Katie Brayben, Tony Award-nominee Andrew Rannells and Zubin Varla.

By: Oct. 26, 2022
Review Roundup: Critics Weigh in on TAMMY FAYE From Elton John and Jake Shears at the Almeida Theatre
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The Almeida Theatre presents the world premiere of Tammy Faye, a new musical from Elton John, Jake Shears and James Graham, directed by Almeida Artistic Director Rupert Goold. The cast includes Katie Brayben, Andrew Rannells and Zubin Varla. Read reviews for the new musical below!

Performances will run until Saturday 3 December 2022.

Tammy Faye is a new musical from legendary songwriter Elton John, Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears and award-winning writer James Graham (Ink, BBC's Sherwood) and features Olivier Award-winner Katie Brayben (Beautiful) as Tammy Faye, Tony Award-nominee Andrew Rannells(The Book of Mormon, Girls) as Jim, and Olivier Award-nominee Zubin Varla (Fun Home) as Jerry Falwell.

Recently, Elton John composed music for the musical adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada, which had its pre-Broadway run in Chicago.

This true story, directed by Almeida Artistic Director Rupert Goold (Spring Awakening), is a testament of faith, resilience and the temptations of success.

The full cast includes Kelly Agbowu, Amy Booth-Steel, Katie Brayben, Ashley Campbell, Peter Caulfield, Danny Collins, Richard Dempsey, Fred Haig, Georgia Louise, Andrew Rannells, Robyn Rose, Nicholas Rowe, Martin Sarreal, Steve John Shepherd, Gemma Sutton and Zubin Varla.

From a studio in South Carolina, Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker revolutionised religion. Preaching to millions 24 hours a day, Tammy just wants to put the fun back into faith. But a new wave of ministers wants you not to just feel God in your heart, but in your homes, in your schools and in the law too.

Cindy Marcolina, BroadwayWorld: The sensationalisation of faith and the monetisation of viewership are underplayed and the fascination with the power of universal televisual reach is under-exploited, as is the covert narcissism disguised as altruism and goodwill of most televangelists. They gloss over many aspects of Tammy Faye and Jim's lives, like her eventual severe addiction and the ramifications of his sexual misconduct. All in all, while the team behind the musical is outstanding, their offering, sadly, is merely mediocre as a whole.

Matt Wolf, The New York Times: Through it all, Brayben displays such fervor and commitment in the title role that you fall under the sway not just of Tammy Faye, but of a performer giving her career-enhancing all to a part that Brayben was born - Tammy Faye would surely say destined - to play.

Johnny Oleksinski, The New York Post: Directed by Rupert Goold, the master of slick British exports such as "Ink," "King Charles III" and the "American Psycho" musical, the shallow "Tammy Faye" never comes to understand its endlessly fascinating main character. Nor does it make much of an attempt. It is an unsatisfying surface-level examination of an icon.

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage: The rise, fall and resurrection of American tele-evangelist Tammy Faye Bakker isn't the most obvious subject for a new British musical - even if it is one that arrives blazing clouds of expectation with music by Elton John, lyrics by Jake Shears (of the Scissor Sisters) and a book by playwright James Graham. Yet Tammy Faye is clever, catchy and great fun.

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph: It isn't a hell of a show in the wrong sense, but it's surprisingly purgatorial at points, struggling to find a strong dramatic pulse.

Clive Davis, The Times: The prospect of hearing a new set of songs by one of our greatest musicians means that tickets are in short supply. Yet for all Katie Brayben's efforts in the title role, this show - a decade in the making and fitted with serviceable lyrics by the Scissor Sisters star Jake Shears - trundles from one set-piece to another.

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian: We do not get much of a story in the first half but there is so much showmanship that it does not matter. This is, without doubt, a musical with charisma, just like Tammy Faye herself. In its biggest moments - and there are several - it reaches a delirious kind of excellence.

Marianka Swain, London Theatre: American actor Andrew Rannells is perfectly cast as the endearingly hapless Jim, and, among a vivid and versatile ensemble, Amy Booth-Steel is excellent as Tammy's increasingly critical friend Jan. But the standout supporting turn comes from Zubin Varla as antagonist Falwell, tormented by a spiritual crisis as he grapples with whether he should sell his soul to television if it means saving the soul of America.

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

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