Review Roundup: HARVEY on Broadway - All the Reviews!
Roundabout Theatre Company, in association with Don Gregory, presents the new Broadway production of Mary Chase's Harvey. Previews began May 18, and the show officially opens tonight, June 14, 2012, at Studio 54 (254 W. 54th St.), where it will play a limited engagement through August 5.
Harvey was first brought to the Broadway stage in 1944 and was directed by Antoinette Perry. The play won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1944, and its initial run lasted for four years-1,775 performances. The current production stars Jim Parsons (Elwood P. Dowd), Jessica Hecht (Veta Louise Simmons), Charles Kimbrough (William R. Chumley, M.D.), Larry Bryggman (Judge Omar Gaffney), Carol Kane (Betty Chumley), Peter Benson (E.J. Lofgren), Tracee Chimo (Myrtle Mae Simmons), Holley Fain (Ruth Kelly, R.N.), Angela Paton (Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet), Rich Sommer (Duane Wilson), and Morgan Spector (Lyman Sanderson, M.D.). It is directed by Scott Ellis.
One of modern theatre's most lovable characters, Elwood P. Dowd is charming and kind but has only one character flaw: an unwavering friendship with a 6-foot-tall, invisible white rabbit named Harvey. In order to save the family's social reputation, Elwood's sister Veta takes Elwood to the local sanatorium. But when the doctors mistakenly commit his anxiety-ridden sister, Elwood-and Harvey-slip out of the hospital unbothered, setting off a hilarious whirlwind of confusion and chaos as everyone in town tries to catch a man and his invisible rabbit.
See how the critics reacted below!
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: The Pulitzer Prize committee may have never erred more egregiously than it did in favoring "Harvey" over Tennessee Williams's first masterwork, "The Glass Menagerie." But handled with care, as it has been in this Roundabout Theater Company production, this winsome comedy about a lovable eccentric can cast a satisfying spell. MR. Ellis's amiable staging-which features expert supporting performances from Jessica Hecht, as Elwood's dithery sister, Veta, and Charles Kimbrough, as the eminent psychiatrist she hopes will lock her troublesome brother up for good-strikes the right, gently dizzy tone. Most important, Mr. Parsons carries the weight of a role immortalized on film by the inimitable James Stewart as lightly as Elwood does the hat and coat he keeps on hand for his furry companion. Mr. Parsons possesses in abundance the crucial ability to project an ageless innocence without any visible effort: no small achievement for an actor in these knowing times.
Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press: At "Harvey," there is overacting and under-acting, poor sound quality and endless windups for lame payoff jokes. And it is led by an actor who seems to be completely shorn of any charisma. Parsons, who plays a hard-core physicist nerd on "The Big Bang Theory," has merely transferred his pursed-mouth, vaguely creepy and unsocialized TV character to the stage. With no laugh track. For two hours.Erik Haagensen, Backstage: Elwood is a role that has attracted a host of stars, from its originator, the vaudevillian Frank Fay, to Stewart, who replaced Fay in the original Broadway run and starred in the 1950 film, and Art Carney, of "The Honeymooners" fame, who played it on TV in 1958. Jim Parsons isn't much like any of those gentlemen, but he makes Elwood his own in an impressive turn. Chase describes Elwood as "dignified" yet "dreamy," "benign" yet "serious," and Parsons takes her at her word with wonderful stylization while adding just the slightest touch of dry humor. He is so convincing in his give-and-take with Harvey that we almost begin to see the mischievous sprite. Parsons stresses Elwood's concern for others and generosity of spirit, undergirding it with a touch of steel. He's terrific.
Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: Jim Parsons, the star of "The Big Bang Theory," is playing Elwood, which says much-maybe everything-about why the Roundabout is doing "Harvey." Big guns from Hollywood, after all, are an even bigger part of what keeps Broadway afloat these days. It doesn't matter whether or not they know anything about stage acting: All they have to do to sell tickets by the shovelful is show up. Mr. Parsons, who has plenty of stage experience, does much more than that, but he's still giving the kind of affably superficial performance that you'd expect from a network sitcom star. Sure, it's unfair to compare him to one of the best screen actors of the 20th century, but it's also inevitable, and the gentle, wistful gravity that Mr. Stewart brought to the role is nowhere to be found in Mr. Parsons's once-over-lightly interpretation.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Comedy can be deadly. Just a few directorial misjudgments and uh-oh, sudden death: forced laughs, desperate thesps, and an aud growing surlier by the minute. Something like that has befallen the Roundabout's revival of "Harvey," Mary Chase's 1944 Pulitzer Prize-winning play…Jim Parsons aims to charm the pants off us by giving Elwood P. Dowd an air of sweet serenity. But the vacancy behind his bland facial expressions has a chilling effect.
Linda Winer, Newsday: If the term summer stock were not so besmirched with straw hats and desperation, the Roundabout's production, starring the sweetly formidable Jim Parsons, could be thought of as Broadway's excellent summer vacation. Parsons, in a small but significant stretch from the haute-geek he plays on TV's "The Big Bang Theory," does not shirk from creating an Elwood P. Dowd who stands tall yet somehow separate from the long, bright shadow cast by Jimmy Stewart in the 1950 movie. Director Scott Ellis has surrounded Parsons with an appropriately fine assortment of character actors to play dithering dowagers, dotty psychiatrists and incredulous family members...Especially impressive is Jessica Hecht, much admired in drama, turning into a multileveled, delightfully goofy comic as Elwood's impatient, financially dependent cousin.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: With fatigue from the Tony Awards and the glut of April openings still lingering, it's a pleasure to report that Harvey, the first entry of the 2012-13 Broadway season is an unassuming charmer. Best known for the 1950 film adaptation that starred James Stewart, Mary Chase's Pulitzer-winning 1944 comedy is a delectable mid-century chestnut with an idiosyncratic personality that still sparkles. And in Scott Ellis' superbly cast revival for Roundabout Theatre Company, the gentle farce provides an ideal vehicle for the gifted Jim Parsons.
Matt Windman, AM New York: In retrospect, it's hard to believe that "Harvey" won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize over Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie." Even so, "Harvey" remains a well-crafted, cute play with a terrific leading role, an invisible supporting character and a good deal of psychological dimension. Parsons' Elwood is not unlike a sweet and innocent child who is far more likable and trustworthy compared to the overstressed, often silly adults around him.
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: Is Jim Parsons the next Jimmy Stewart? I wouldn't have made the connection before seeing the uneven new Broadway revival of Mary Chase's Harvey…But like Stewart, the two-time Emmy-winning star of The Big Bang Theory is a rail-thin everyman who projects both intelligence and fundamental decency. He's perfectly suited to reprise Stewart's role from the 1950 film version of Harvey…Alas, the same might be said of Scott Ellis' oddly sluggish production, which lurches from scene to scene when it should be bunny-hopping briskly along. Mary Chase's play too often feels like a dated relic, and much of the cast are ill-suited to its demands…The revelation here, aside from David Rockwell's stunning revolving sets, is Parsons.
Howard Shapiro, The Philadelphia Inquirer: Chase wrote a tight plot with characters so richly defined, they could be played as real people or as cartoons, as most are in Scott Ellis' tidy Roundabout Theatre Company production. Ellis honors the play's smooth narrative arc with a seamless staging on David Rockwell's impressive set, which turns back and forth from Dowd's wood-paneled manse to a glaringly sterile sanitarium…It's good and often silly fun, greatly enriched by Parson's performance. His Dowd walks through life much like TV's late and beloved MR. Rogers, with that same sort of googly twang, aw-shucks inflection, nonjudgmental manner and gentleness of spirit.
Michael Musto, Village Voice: It's thin stuff and difficult to pull off because a lot of the action happens offstage and is merely recounted, but this production has moments, while not really soaring into the absurdist yet warming stratosphere. Jim Parsons has the right earnest, bemused decency as Elwood, making you believe he believes while conversing with what looks like thin air. But Jessica Hecht is strange casting as Veta Louise. Hecht is an excellent actress, but she's best at sensible, analytical roles, not ones that call for being daftly flustered. (The pseudo aristocratic accent she goes for here sounds especially forced.) Fortunately, she--like the whole production--gets better in the second half, especially when she unravels while noticing, to her dismay, that her mother's portrait on the wall has been covered by one involving Harvey.
Michael Sommers, NJ Newsroom: Harder heads than mine may find "Harvey" to be a trifle sappy in sentiment, but I find it endearing, especially when the comedy is served so well by Ellis and his excellent actors. Never intimating that his character is a lush, Parsons lends the gentlemanly Elwood a calm and slightly dreamy manner that contrasts against the other characters, who more or less are driven into a frenzy by his chum Harvey's unseen presence. Parsons' open, friendly countenance and genial nature as Elwood are unassuming yet sufficiently engaging to provide the production with its glowing focal point.
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