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Review Roundup: Encores! PAINT YOUR WAGON, Starring Keith Carradine, Opens at City Center

Two-time Tony nominee Keith Carradine stars in the Encores! production of PAINT YOUR WAGON, which opened last night, March 18, alongside Alexandra Socha and Justin Guarini. The show, set in a mining camp in Gold Rush-era California, is the story of a dreaming gold miner and his daughter whose world is changed when the daughter finds gold-and love-near their camp.

The PAINT YOUR WAGON cast also includes Jenni Barber, Robert Creighton, Caleb Damschroder, Nathaniel Hackmann, Robyn Hurder, Melissa van der Schyff, Scott Wakefield and William Youmans, with Darien Crago, Steve Czarnecki, Nicolas Davila, Casey Garvin, Shonica Gooden, Timothy Hughes, Naomi Kakuk, Justin Keyes, Jenny Laroche, Melissa Hunter McCann, Harris Milgrim, Kevin Munhall, Kristin Piro, Robbie Roby, Jason Simon, Kevin Vortmann, Nicholas Ward and Mikey Winslow. Additional casting will be announced shortly.

PAINT YOUR WAGON opened at the Shubert Theater on November 12, 1951 and ran for 289 performances. It has a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The original production was directed by Daniel Mannand choreographed by Agnes De Mille. Songs include "They Call the Wind Maria," "I Talk to the Trees" and "I'm On My Way."

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: Men in weathered woolens and suspenders roister vigorously around the stage, hungry for booze, gold and women - not necessarily in that order - in the jovial production of "Paint Your Wagon" being presented as part of the City Center Encores! series....the handsome score, divided between boisterous numbers for the all-male chorus and fine ballads, contains some serious riches, and they are delivered here by a well-drilled cast under the direction of Marc Bruni...Mr. Carradine, the former star of "The Will Rogers Follies" and "Hands on a Hardbody," also seems naturally at home in the show's countrified milieu, nicely evoked by the set designs of Anna Louizos and the costumes of Alejo Vietti...Agnes de Mille, who choreographed the original production, certainly knew how to make macho men move, and Denis Jones does a creditable job of designing dances along the de Mille lines. When that stagecoach arrives and the women spill out, there's an even more jubilant jamboree as they have no trouble finding willing partners.

David Finkle, The Huffington Post: ...nevertheless I have a soft spot in my heart for Paint Your Wagon, because of its thrilling score. That's what got to me at the time, as well as Agnes de Mille's choreography. (As equally thrilling as South Pacific was, if not more so, there wasn't much dancing in it at a time when de Mille, who'd built her reputation thanks to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, was the town's leading dance maker.)... With this Paint Your Wagon incarnation, very little about director Marc Bruni's treatment isn't right up at the top of the Encores! highest standards. Keith Carradine, fully bearded, is ideal casting for Ben Rumson. When he wrote "I'm Easy" for himself to win an Oscar after crooning it in Nashville, he summed up his abiding gift: making it all look easy. The hot stage news here--never diminishing Carradine's contributions--are Socha and Guarini. She's a small keg of dynamite who can belt to a point far across the street, then modulate confidentially and all the while act the tomboy maturing into womanhood. He has the sort of tender voice that gets people saying things like, "He sends me." That's if people these days continue saying things like that.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: ...This Encores! revival of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's curious but compelling 1951 show starring Keith Carradine nails the mission to showcase forgotten musicals...Carradine, trading presidential power suits from "Madam Secretary" for Gold Rush rags, anchors the show with his amiable, easygoing charisma. His song "Wand'rin' Star" speaks volumes about the character. The best thing about the show is Socha, seen last year in "Fun Home," and the tender and touching romance that blooms for her character, Jennifer, and Julio ("American Idol" alum Justin Guarini, very good), a miner from south of the border. The two fall for each other to the dreamy song "I Talk to the Trees."

Jesse Green, Vulture: Paint Your Wagon turns out to make one of the best Encores! offerings to date. That Lerner's book is so awful (and yet, as newly adapted by Marc Acito, not as awful as it was originally) is neither here nor there; the Encores! mission all but ensures that most of what it produces will not stand up as dramatic literature. (If it did, it wouldn't need Encores!) But the score, and the care taken with it, are exemplary...Justin Guarini, as the Mexican, makes the most of his numbers, and Keith Carradine, looking and sounding a lot like Willie Nelson, is spot-on as the rumpled mayor. It's a sign of the care Encores! has taken with Paint Your Wagon that the dud numbers, and there are several, are nevertheless well sung and staged. (The direction is by Marc Bruni.)...Sexism or no, you don't throw away the opportunity to experience how two Broadway greats learned to tell stories in music that they did not yet know how to tell in words.

Matt Windman, AM New York: City Center's Encores! series continues its characteristically excellent work in revisiting the overlooked musicals of yesteryear with its weekend-long concert-style revival of "Paint Your Wagon,"... If "Paint Your Wagon" is uneven and problematic on quite a few levels, the songs (gloriously played by a full-size orchestra) are quite beautiful and the characters are endearing. It's worth noting that the stage version is very different than the downright stupefying 1969 film adaptation with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin.

Photo by Joan Marcus

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