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Review Roundup: Harvey Fierstein's TORCH SONG Opens on Broadway- All the Reviews!


Torch Song

Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song opens tonight, Thursday, November 1 at The Hayes Theater (Broadway's Hayes Theater (240 West 44th Street).

Directed by Tony Award® nominee Moisés Kaufman, Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song stars the entire cast from the critically adored Second Stage production: Drama Desk Award winner Michael Urie, Tony and Academy Award® winner Mercedes Ruehl, Ward Horton, Roxanna Hope Radja, Michael Hsu Rosen, and Jack DiFalco.

Fiercely funny and heart-wrenching, Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song follows Arnold Beckoff's (Mr. Urie) odyssey to find happiness in New York. All he wants is a husband, a child, and a pair of bunny slippers that fit, but a visit from his overbearing mother (Ms. Ruehl) reminds him that he needs one thing more: respect. Join Arnold on this all too human journey about the families we're born into, the families we choose, and the battles to bring them all home.

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

Ben Brantley, New York Times: Mr. Kaufman's staging - still designed to please the eye without overwhelming it, with 1970s shorthand sets by David Zinn, costumes to match by Clint Ramos and lighting by David Lander - now feels smoother and quicker on its feet. It also feels, well, bigger. I'm referring particularly to Mr. Urie's performance. This nimble actor has already demonstrated canny comic chops in Off Broadway plays (Jonathan Tolins's "Buyer & Cellar," Gogol's "The Government Inspector.") But in filling Mr. Fierstein's dauntingly big shoes on a Broadway stage, Mr. Urie stretches to color in the outsize outlines of his part.

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: When it opened in June of 1982, Torch Song Trilogy's success helped establish a changing Broadway, more open to realistic and sympathetic stories of people whose lives aren't lived as part of the heterosexual majority. Now Torch Song opens on Broadway during a time when New York's stages are seeing more portrayals of people whose lives aren't lived as part of the cisgender majority. The stories are being written. With visionary, risk-taking producers like John Glines, they will be seen.

Dave Quinn, Entertainment Weekly: More than just an illumination onto incredible acting, these final scenes end Torch Song on a bittersweet note that helps ground this dramedy in reality. Arnold, smartly, isn't perfect - "You cheated me out of your life and then blamed me for not being there," Ruehl's character says at one point, exposing her son's biggest flaw in all of his relationships - but as the play ends, he's found peace in his journey by maintaining a hope that everything will be alright. And it's hard not to feel the same way about life when leaving the theater. A-

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Does this history piece hold up? Yes, in the sense that the show is kind to its characters and true to its dated sensibilities. No, in the sense that the characters are unbelievably sweet and its sensibilities are dated. But the playwright is nothing if not generous to Arnold, who is a real mensch after all. If you want to take him to your heart, you really have to imagine someone like... well, Harvey Fierstein, in the lead role.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: The production felt a little choppy and uncertain last fall, with the talented Urie doubling down on self-satirizing Arnold by rendering the lovelorn professional drag queen a mushy caricature. Not only does he now feel more like a flesh-and-blood person - his needs and vulnerabilities and the self-defense mechanism of his caustic wit all achingly human; his vocal mannerisms part of who he is, not just a layer of performance - but the staging has acquired greater fluidity and emotional richness. David Zinn's sets (ranging from suggestive minimalism through playful stylization to homey detail) and David Lander's descriptive lighting also look gorgeous on the Hayes stage, as do the pleasingly understated period costumes of Clint Ramos.

Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: The only thing wrong with Second Stage's off-Broadway revival of 'Torch Song,' which has been very effectively directed by Moisés Kaufman, is Mr. Urie, a fine actor who is miscast as Mr. Fierstein (yes, he's called 'Arnold Beckoff' in the play, but we all know who he really is). Whether on stage or screen, Mr. Fierstein was unforgettable, and to see Mr. Urie trying to put his own stamp on the part merely underlines why his predecessor was so good in it.

Matt Windman, amNY: While "Torch Song" lacks the brilliance of "Angels in America" and the bite of "The Boys in the Band," it is well worth a second look. And though at times it can be rather clunky and schmaltzy, Kaufman's production contains some genuinely beautiful moments and excellent performances all around.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Kaufman clearly gets the most important point made in this work: homophobia and its legacy of self-loathing were the underlying causes of why so many died, and so many looked away. But love lived on.

Greg Evans, Deadline: As if to confront and wrestle down any datedness head-on, Kaufman and his cast go broad. Like, vaudeville broad, with Urie doing his damnedest to drown out all memory of Fierstein's foghorn by calling forth a bizarre vocal affectation somewhere between Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion and Hanna-Barbera's Snagglepuss. I'd like to think of it as an homage to theater's great nances, but I'm afraid it's just cartoon Virginia ham.

Elysa Gardner, New York Stage Review: But Kaufman and Urie's triumph is not simply in making Arnold funny and lovable, foibles and all. The first act of Torch Song certainly milks Urie's strengths as a pure entertainer, segueing from Arnold's delectably witty introductory monologue to the gay bar (based on the actual downtown establishment "The International Stud," as the play's first section is still named) where Arnold meets Ed, an apparently not-too-conflicted bisexual who, in Ward Horton's deft performance, shows us how Arnold could find him endearing despite his cavalier airs.

David Finkle, New York Stage Review: At a time when a standing ovation is accorded just about anything in which the cast gets to the end of the play breathing, Torch Song absolutely earns this one. Sure, this is a script wherein a nervous gay man and his extended family flounder, flail and fight, but while he's at it, Fierstein deals honestly and profoundly with universal themes. He communicates his understanding of recognizable human-condition aspects so easily and so sincerely that it's the hardhearted audience member who won't be endlessly grateful.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, Newsday: Indeed, it's not just minutes that have been lost in this revival, which is directed by Moisés Kaufman and had a successful Off-Broadway run at Second Stage last year. This safe production suggests but never fully summons the ache behind the wisecracks, or the dangers and the loneliness gay people had to endure in the 1970s, when the story is largely set. There is also little period sense in either David Zinn's streamlined set or Clint Ramos' costumes.

Mark Shenton, The Stage: The play's defiant and universal humanity shines through with a burning intensity in Moises Kaufman's beautifully modulated production. It is galvanised by the fierce combination of unsentimental vulnerability and independent dignity that Michael Urie brings to the character of Arnold, while Mercedes Ruehl errs just the right side of dramatic cliche in her performance as his overbearing Jewish mum.

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