Review Roundup: Harry Connick Jr. Brings A CELEBRATION OF COLE PORTER To Broadway!
Harry Connick Jr - A Celebration of Cole Porter, honoring one of America's most respected songwriters, just opened on Broadway last week. Featuring a vibrant, 25-piece orchestra and a modern, multi-media presentation, this entirely new production brings back to Broadway both the magic of Cole Porter's compositions and one of the world's most celebrated live performers.
This all-new production is conceived and directed by Harry Connick, Jr., with scenic design by Beowulf Boritt and Alexis Distler, projection design by Beowulf Boritt and Caite Hevner, and lighting design by Ken Billington.
Read the reviews!
Jose Solís, New York Times: As a showman, Connick delivers the comedy both scripted and improvised. The night I attended he changed the lyrics of "Just One of Those Things," to refer to late patrons who were being seated in the front row, mid-number. Always the gentleman, he approached one of the latecomers and kissed her hand. Seamlessly moving from a glorious tap number with the dancer Aaron Burr to sitting at his piano to play the heck out of "You Do Something to Me," he makes the show flow like the most sparkling of wines. It's a testament to that voodoo that Harry Connick Jr. does so well.
Helen Shaw, Vulture: He's written one quite wonderful sequence, though, in which he shows us how he arranged "Night and Day." He walks us through the way that specific lyrics (a reference to a clock) make him choose instrumentation, and then, once he's chosen trumpets, how he decides between cup mutes and Harmon mutes. The projections show us how the notation changes, and the brass section behind him plays the heck out of the song in response. It's still all about ease - Connick tries singing the song in a couple of different keys, then chooses the one that "doesn't make him work that hard." But oh, the veil is down. We've seen the musicianship and care that all that relaxation requires, and it makes us melt a little further. We're in such good hands, after all.
Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: Sad to say, the passion promised in the Playbill, the love and reverence Connick Jr. claims to feel for Porter, doesn't translate or come alive on stage (the performance runs through Dec. 29). It flickers, but never roars, and often just feels lost and aimless. The big band, led by Andrew Fisher, sounds great. The dancer Aaron Burr gives us an amazing tap show. But it is Connick Jr. who seems off-kilter and disjointed in his performance. The very opposite of joy and reverence flows from him. The 90-minute concert feels like work, and hard work at that.
Matt Windman, amNY: At my performance on Tuesday night, Connick (wearing a tux and clutching a wireless microphone) at first looked stiff and dazed and sounded wobbly. His remarks to the audience about Porter were effusive but rudimentary. Attempts to turn some songs into dramatic scenes (set in such locales as an underground New Orleans bar or a lonely hotel room) were corny and dull. But as the concert progressed, Connick became more at ease and segued into his persona as a smooth, Sinatra-style crooner. He was most in his element while playing at the piano alongside the band, instead of trying to be a showman. Connick also seemed to enjoy leading a behind-the-scenes tutorial about how he arranged and orchestrated Porter's "Night and Day."
Greg Evans, Deadline: At its frequent best, Harry Connick Jr.: A Celebration of Cole Porter, opening tonight at the Nederlander Theatre, pairs Porter's songwriting genius with Connick's superb musicianship, supple, ear-pleasing vocals and a brash confidence that pushes the music from the comfort of classic pop into bolder, jazzier terrain. Connick, with his years on American Idol, movie screens and concert stages, is certainly the most popular interpreter of American standards, and he takes fine advantage of that good will, unafraid to slip in an occasional dissonance or to slow down a vocal like a train creeping to its halt. Where Connick leads, his audience knows to follow.
Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: At base, we have Harry Connick Jr. singing fourteen or so songs by Cole Porter. Given Connick's way with a tune, his nimble pianistics, and his expert arranging skills, the show-a tour promoting his newest album, True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter-more or less describes itself. Yes, Connick will be swinging along to a high-octane band, concentrating on the music and lyrics of the unlikely songsmith from Peru, Indiana. Rather than simply standing up there and singing the songs, though, Connick has gone out of his way to provide not only a Porter concert but a bells-and-whistles show. And it's a dandy one.
Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: Now, don't expect the affable Connick to just plop down at the piano and sing. He certainly plays-at a grand piano and, at one point, on a variety of uprights. But at this point in his career, Connick is as much a performer as he is a musician-albeit one who did all the arrangements and orchestrations for every song in this show, thank you very much. And this certainly isn't his first Broadway rodeo. (Counting his two previous concert stints, in 1990 and 2010, it's his fifth; I'm not including 2001's Thou Shalt Not, for which he wrote the music and lyrics but in which he didn't star.) The man who headlined The Pajama Game and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is going to bring a little personality to the proceedings-particularly if he's crooning moody numbers such as "Love for Sale," where he's accompanied beautifully by bassist Neal Caine, and "Mind If I Make Love to You?" Connick calls the latter-originated by Frank Sinatra in the 1956 film of High Society-his favorite Porter song.
Max McGuinness, Financial Times: Connick strikes a better balance between exposition and song towards the end of the show, when he gently talks us through his arrangement of Porter's "Night and Day" before offering an assured rendition of that bittersweet tune. There follows a tap-dance routine where Connick manfully tries to keep up with the younger, more fleet-footed Aaron Burr. That lopsided pas de deux has an oddly charming music-hall flavour. And for all his other stumbles, Connick's dorky charisma makes this celebration an intermittently engaging homage to Porter.