Review Roundup: Encores! Season Opener- HEY, LOOK ME OVER!
Kicking off the Encores! season is Hey, Look Me Over!, an original production from the Tony- honored series responsible for bringing classic American musicals back to life since 1994. To celebrate Encores! at 25, Viertel and Encores! Music Director Rob Berman created Hey, Look Me Over!---a collection of opening numbers, grand finales, and other excerpts from beloved shows that have not yet found a berth on the City Center stage. They include: All American, George M!, Greenwillow, Jamaica, Mack & Mabel, Milk and Honey, Sail Away, and Wildcat.
Hey, Look Me Over! runs through February 11 and will be directed by Marc Bruni with musical direction by Encores! Music Director Rob Berman and choreography by Denis Jones. Encores! at 25 continues with Grand Hotel, The Musical (Mar 21-25) and Me and My Girl (May 9-13).
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Jesse Green, New York Times: There are remarkable performances along the way, especially from Clifton Duncan singing the rangy arias of "Greenwillow" and Bebe Neuwirth snarling Elaine Stritch's songs from "Sail Away." But it is perhaps no surprise that the most trenchant comment on American character comes from the best show of the lot, that perpetual coulda-been-a-contender "Mack & Mabel." In just two of its Jerry Herman numbers - "Movies Were Movies," blisteringly delivered by Douglas Sills, and the delicious "Look What Happened to Mabel," vividly sung by Alexandra Socha - everything you'd want a show to say about reality and representation, identity and transformation, is said in a few hummable, well-rhymed stanzas.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: "Mack & Mabel, with Douglas Sills and Alexandra Socha as, respectively silent filmmaker Mack Sennett and his starry discovery Mabel Normand, is the evening's overall highlight. The songs "Movies Were Movies" and "Look What Happened to Mabel," expertly sung, came to life in shades of black-and-white pre-talkies glory thanks to ace design work. The evening ended on a high note with a poignant, politically charged encore that speaks eloquently to the hot-button issue of immigration. The whole cast sang "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor" from the show "Miss Liberty."
Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter: Martin's presence was particularly helpful since Hey, Look Me Over! proves to be a textbook example of a mixed bag. Artistic director Jack Viertel's concept was certainly a promising one. The show features numbers from nine musicals that have never been presented by Encores! - Wildcat, All-American, Jamaica, Milk and Honey, Mack & Mabel, Subways Are for Sleeping (its overture, at least), Greenwillow, Sail Away and George M! Since many Encores! productions already tend to be of problematic shows, this grab-bag feels somewhat like a minor-league version. Although to be sure, the talent taking part is strictly A-list, including such Broadway stalwarts as Bebe Neuwirth, Vanessa Williams, Judy Kuhn, Marc Kudisch, Carolee Carmello, Douglas Sills and Reed Birney, among others.
Matt Windman, amNY: The resulting show is sometimes enjoyable but often clunky and disorienting, with some great solos and duets followed by insipid dialogue and ensemble numbers. While most of these shows do not deserve full Encores! productions, it is difficult to take them seriously on their own terms in this rushed and limited context.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus