Review Roundup: Michael Moore Brings His Act to Broadway in THE TERMS OF MY SURRENDER
Academy Award-winning filmmaker, best-selling author, and political icon Michael Moore makes his Broadway debut in The Terms of My Surrender. The limited 12-week engagement opens tonight at Broadway's Belasco Theatre.
Performed live each night just blocks from Trump Tower, The Terms of My Surrender, like Moore's films, will feature the wry, satirical humor of one of America's iconic political observers and all-around-shit-disturbers, a fearless Midwesterner not interested in taking any prisoners. Audiences are in for one surprise after another.
In a time like no other in American history, and with a sense of urgency like never-before, Michael Moore comes to Broadway for the first time in an exhilarating, subversive show guaranteed to take audiences on a ride through the United States of Insanity, explaining once and for all how the f*** we got here, and where best to dine before crossing with the Von Trapp family over the Canadian border.
Let's see what the critics had to say!
Jesse Green, The New York Times: Still, you don't have to disagree with Mr. Moore's politics to find that his shtick has become disagreeable with age. "The Terms of My Surrender," which opened on Thursday at the Belasco, is a bit like being stuck at Thanksgiving dinner with a garrulous, self-regarding, time-sucking uncle. Gotta love him - but maybe let's turn on the television.
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: More of a political rally than a theatre entertainment, the nearly two hour long intermissionless production, directed by Michael Mayer, is played under the assumption that every attendee wishes to see every member of the current administration out of office yesterday. The Oscar-winning activist documentarian frequently refers to his patrons as "us" and, at least at Tuesday night's preview, many felt fired up enough to yell out their disapproval of Trump using the kind of language usually reserved for "Access Hollywood" tour buses. "Donald Trump outsmarted us all," is the inconvenient truth he insists his fans accept, pointing out the newbie politician's crafty ability to tell voters in each individual state he sought to capture exactly what they wanted to hear, packaged in easy-to-digest sound bites.
Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: The Terms of My Surrender is heartfelt and represents the thinking and ideology of a crucial voice of dissent and opposition at a time direly in need of such voices. But it's a lazy show that severely underestimates it audience. Preaching to the choir is one thing; pandering to to (sic) it is of a somewhat lower order.
Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times: "The Terms of My Surrender" makes vain gestures in the direction of a variety show. ("Dancing With the Stars," a silly leitmotif, is both a nightmare and a tempting dream for this capped bear with two left feet.) But Moore isn't the secret vaudevillian no one ever suspected him of being. His comedy (he does a bit on the outlandish items the TSA forbids in carry-on luggage) is as galumphing as his cursory musical interludes.
Matt Windman, amNY: In any event, the show (which runs just under two hours, without intermission) is a fun and freewheeling night of theater for Moore's fans and anyone else who wants to attend.
Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter: But Moore is too savvy to end on a down note. The joyous finale, which again relies on the element of surprise, sends the audience out on a high. Despite its title, The Terms of My Surrenderisn't just about Michael Moore. Its theme, which he hammers home again and again, is that "one person can make a difference." By the time you walk out of this inspiring and unexpectedly entertaining show, you'll feel like you can as well.
Sara Holdren, Vulture: First of all, because it's almost entirely unsurprising. In an interview with Time Out, Moore promises that "for 87 minutes, you're going to experience something you're not expecting" (the show runs 110 minutes, by the way), but my feelings upon leaving the Belasco Theatre can best be summed up with a long sigh. If I had had to make a guess as to what a Michael Moore Broadway show would feel like, this would have been pretty much it. The Terms of My Surrender feels like a live version of my Facebook feed: a few good stories and a boatload of preaching to the choir (add requisite helpings of self-congratulation and liberal-on-liberal shaming for full effect).
Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: If your liberal heart is mighty sore, if no amount of strongly-voiced castigation and disapproval of President Trump is too much, then documentary-maker Michael Moore's The Terms of My Surrender is for you. Left-wing politics has come overtly and brashly to Broadway-the only things missing are Trump piñatas to bash the hell out of at intermission.
Steven Suskin, Huffington Post: As the Bard once said, or nearly so: "To thine own audience be true." Michael Moore, that renowned, brashly-impudent political provocateur, knows his audience. He has always been keen at smelling fresh blood in the air, usually facing off against one Goliath or another; and he is known for ambushing his particular bogey man with lacerating skill and buoyant relish. Setting his sights on you-know-who-the nominal leader of our great land, presently in self-imposed exile from his abode twelve blocks up the avenue from the Belasco-Moore plucks his prey, like a pre-Thanksgiving turkey; stuffs a juicy crabapple in its mouth, like a Christmas suckling pig; and sets the roaster on slow burn.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: If you're wondering what Moore considers the "terms" of his surrender, he says so toward night's end: Dump President Trump. And dump Vice President Pence. By its conclusion, "Surrender" becomes his plea to the audience to do something small, such as running for a local office, in an effort to change the country's direction. This is a man so comfortable with confrontation, it would be fascinating to see him take "Surrender" on the road. I can think of a few places the audience wouldn't be nearly as friendly as New York, which would make for an even more electrifying event.
Joe Dziemianowicz, The Daily News: Moore's easygoing rapport with the audience goes a long way in these memories, and in stories of death threats. That includes real ones involving weapons and a figurative when "Dancing with the Stars" asked Moore to be on the show, an inviation he likened to a death notice. Tony-winning director Michael Mayer ("Spring Awakening") keeps things rolling smoothly.
Jonathan Mandell, DC Theatre Scene: "The only hope until we kick him out of office is to discombobulate him," Michael Moore says near the beginning of his playful, pointed and partisan one-man show, as he stands in front of an American flag superimposed with a billboard-sized photograph of Donald Trump. But The Terms of My Surrender, which marks Moore's Broadway debut, is not likely to discombobulate the 45th president of the United States, and not just because Trump probably won't accept Moore's invitation to see the show for free, which Moore offers in the Playbill in English and Russian.
Jake Nevins, The Guardian: Michael Moore, though, is betting on just the opposite. With his new Trump-centric one-man show, The Terms of My Surrender, the documentarian and liberal firebrand is taking on the president seven days a week, using his powers of pomp and provocation to inspire in audiences the kind of righteous indignation he's been expressing for decades. If the Great White Way seems a place ill-suited for the political humorist's brand of populism, he's hoping audiences view the show less as a lecture and more as a call to action.
Mark Sheton, The Stage: Moore takes us on an indulgent and meandering tour around some of his achievements, whether it was standing for the management board of his high school after he graduated as a teenager or protesting against President Reagan's appearance at a Nazi cemetery in Bitburg, Germany. Not all of this is very theatrical. Moore and his director Michael Mayer, however, keep it entertaining by introducing various set pieces, such as a quiz between two members of the audience that pits the most intelligent American against the dumbest Canadian Moore can find.
Barbara Schuler, Newsday: When the Oscar-winning documentarian announced his show in May, a sign next to him asked, "Can a Broadway show bring down a sitting President?" In the run-up to opening night, he was everywhere - Facebook, Twitter, "Late Show With Stephen Colbert," "Morning Joe." By the time "The Terms of My Surrender" opened at the Belasco Theatre on Thursday night, you had to wonder if you'd already heard it all.
Charles Isherwood, Broadway News: Michael Moore's solo show, "The Terms of My Surrender," comes as close to being a campaign rally as anything you are likely to see on Broadway - or anywhere else, for that matter, save an actual one. Taking the stage of the Belasco Theatre to the kind of frenzied adoration currently being enjoyed on Broadway only by Bette Midler, the liberal filmmaker and author flings at his audience plenty of red meat dripping with contempt for Donald Trump, the country's current "president," as Moore puts it, fingers winking air quotes. And yet this shaggy but enjoyable evening, an autobiographical solo show spliced with a rabble-rousing call to arms against the reigning political regime, contains more surprises - and more funny diversions - than I expected.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: The personal anecdotes are interesting, but that librarian story illustrates the main message of this rally - that "one person out of nowhere can make a revolution." "You do make a difference," Moore insists, urging everyone in his audience to run for local office and work up to higher office. "I refuse to live in Trump's America!" he swears, bringing the event the closest to a political rally. "Trump goes!" (wild applause) "Pence goes! (more thunder).
Roma Torre, NY1: The bottom line: Moore is down these days, but given what he sees as America's growing liberal bent, don't count him out just yet. And despite the title of his show, surrendering is not an option. Another surprise is reading in the Playbill that Moore, long regarded as Public Enemy Number One by the National Rifle Association (NRA), is actually a card-carrying NRA member who won their Marksman Award years ago. It's no wonder he hit the target with this one, even if he is preaching to the choir.
Christopher Kelly, NJ.com: "The Terms of My Surrender," which officially opened on Thursday night on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre, turns out to be pretty much exactly what you'd expect: A nearly two-hour monologue in which Moore cracks wise about and harangues against President Donald Trump, with frequent, quintessentially Moore-ian lapses into self-aggrandizement and self-congratulation.
Diane Snyder, Telegraph: It's a lot to pack into a two-hour show, but Moore is a fairly sturdy anchor, and he can certainly inspire a crowd. "Reach down and do that thing you're afraid of doing," he prompts. For him, it's dancing, but for someone in his audience, it may be that run for political office.
Peter Marks, Washington Post: Offering up as a model his history as a provocateur, Moore implores us to get off our duffs and drive Trump nuts. "We have to be a swarm of bees around his head," he declares at one point. Besides showing us an app, 5calls.org, that can automatically dial your representatives in Congress for you, "The Terms of My Surrender" doesn't have much of a game plan. That goes as much for its theatrical goals as its political ones.
Adam Feldman, Time Out NY: Michael Moore is famous for his nerve, but when it comes to The Terms of My Surrender, he has also been candid about his nerves: The show marks his U.S. stage debut, and as he mentioned in our interview a few weeks ago, "For me that makes it thrilling-and dangerous." Emphasis on "for me"; for the audience, it is neither of those things. In its best moments, The Terms of My Surrender is amusing, informative, even inspiring. But it is also compromised by familiarity, oversimplification and indulgence. Much of the time, Moore's monologue is not fiery enough to even be hot air. It's more like warm wind.