Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway

The acclaimed production is Lolita Chakrabarti's stage adaptation of Yann Martel's best-selling novel.

By: Mar. 30, 2023
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Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway
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Lolita Chakrabarti's stage adaptation of Yann Martel's best-selling novel Life of Pi opens tonight, Thursday, March 30, at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street). Read the reviews below!

The five-time Olivier Award-winning play Life of Pi is now playing at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street) with three Olivier Award-winning performers making their Broadway debuts. Recreating their critically acclaimed performances for Broadway are "Best Actor" winner Hiran Abeysekera in the role of "Pi" and "Best Supporting Actor" winners Fred Davis and Scarlet Wilderink have joined the "Richard Parker" puppeteering team. The Broadway production of Life of Pi also features Brian Thomas Abraham as Cook/Voice of "Richard Parker," Rajesh Bose as Father, Avery Glymph as Father Martin/Russian Sailor/Admiral Jackson, Mahira Kakkar as Nurse/Amma/Orange Juice, Kirstin Louie as Lulu Chen, Salma Qarnain as Mrs. Biology Kumar/Zaida Khan, Sathya Sridharan as Mamaji/Pandit-Ji, Daisuke Tsuji as Mr. Okamoto/Captain, Sonya Venugopal as Rani, with Nikki Calonge, Fred Davis, Rowan Ian Seamus Magee, Jonathan David Martin, Betsy Rosen, Celia Mei Rubin, Scarlet Wilderink and Andrew Wilson as Royal Bengal tiger "Richard Parker." Mahnaz Damania, Jon Hoche, Usman Ali Mughal, Uma Paranjpe and David Shih round out the 24-member cast with Adi Dixit as the "Pi" alternate.

LIFE OF PI is directed by Max Webster, with Set and Costume design by Olivier Award winner Tim Hatley, Puppetry and Movement Direction by Olivier Award winner Finn Caldwell, Puppet Design by Olivier Award winners Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell, Video Design by Olivier Award winner Andrzej Goulding, Lighting Design by Olivier Award winner Tim Lutkin, Sound Design by Carolyn Downing, Original Music by Andrew T Mackay, Dramaturgy by Jack Bradley, Wig Design by David Brian Brown, and Casting by Stewart/Whitley.

The Olivier Award-winning West End hit Life of Pi is an epic tale of adventure. After a shipwreck in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi survives on a lifeboat with four companions- a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Royal Bengal tiger. This remarkable story of hope, faith, and perseverance speaks to every generation. Told through incomparable puppetry and exquisite stagecraft, Life of Pi creates a visually breathtaking journey that will leave you filled with awe and joy. Get your tickets now to this thrilling new production.

 

 

 

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway Alexis Soloski, The New York Times: With dazzling imagination and sublime control, the show’s cast and crew conjure a delirious, dynamic, highly pettable world. And oh, is it a wonder. Though the play is ostensibly about one boy’s fraught survival after a disaster, that story is somewhat thin. “Life of Pi” instead succeeds as a broader tribute to human ingenuity and animal grace.

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: The result is something like children’s theater for adults. Actual kids may be upset by the horrors that beset Pi on the traumatic journey from his hometown of Pondicherry in the 1970s—accompanied at first by his zookeeper father (Rajesh Bose), his protective mother (Mahira Kakkar) and his brainy sister (Sonya Venugopal)—to a doomed cargo ship, a hellish lifeboat, a paradisal island and finally the western coast of Mexico. But grown-ups will marvel at Tim Hatley’s sets and costumes, Andrzej Goulding’s video and animation, Tim Lutkin’s lighting and Carolyn Downing’s sound design. The production is often beautiful, especially when seen from above. (Because the floor is featured prominently, this is the rare Broadway show that is better experienced from the mezzanine than the orchestra.) But if Life of Pi is transporting, where does it leave you?

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway Greg Evans, Deadline: Still, the kid knows how to spin a terrific yarn. Even Broadway audiences still tickled by the bovine Milky White of Into the Woods and the massive prehistoric creatures of Lincoln Center’s The Skin of Our Teeth will be charmed by the creatures of Pi, courtesy of puppetry and movement director Finn Caldwell and his co-designer Nick Barnes. Same goes for the work of set and costume designer Tim Hatley, video designer Andrzej Goulding, and lighting designer Tim Lutkin (their combined Olivier trophies could capsize a ship of their own). At one point, Pi jumps overboard and is swallowed by the sea/stage, a bit of theatrical trickery no less effective for its simplicity. Still, visual appeal can’t quite wash away a stacked-deck ending, or make a convincing case for the fanciful over the plausible. Deep down, Mr. Okamoto probably agrees.

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway Roma Torre, New York Stage Review: The production will likely bring to mind two other ingenious displays of theatrical puppetry – Lion King and War Horse. Like them, Life of Pi does a phenomenal job of creating a sense of realism with extraordinary stagecraft. And while Life of Pi may not have the emotional punch of the other two shows, it succeeds in different ways. In light of Pi’s relentless pursuit of spirituality, the play prompts us to ponder our own beliefs, the nature of truth, morality, faith, and perhaps most resonantly, the incomparable power of live theater.

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway Lauren Morgan, Entertainment Weekly: The script, unfortunately, is not always on par with the fantastic production work. Occasionally, the action moves so quickly that the dialogue gets lost in the commotion. But these are small quibbles for such an impressive stage production. At 2 hours and 15 minutes, the play whizzes by and, while some younger children might find the action too intense, the older children and teens who attended my performance appeared rapt. Adaptations of Life of Pi have won everything from Oscars to the Booker Prize to Olivier Awards, and there is no doubt with this dazzling Broadway production that Tony Awards are sure to follow.

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway Frank Scheck, New York Stage Review: Besides the spellbinding puppetry, the production features stunning projection designs, special effects, lighting, sound design and musical underscoring that combine to create a truly stunning experience. That praise, however, must come with a caveat: Theatergoers would be well advised not to sit in the front orchestra section, as many of the projections, including the swirling ocean, are displayed on the particularly high stage floor, making viewing them difficult if not impossible from there. The best seats would definitely be in the front mezzanine. The play feels somewhat drawn out at 135 minutes (including intermission), and the climactic narrative twist is too blatantly spoon-fed to the audience, as if the show’s creators were afraid that we would not be able to figure it out. But those are minor quibbles about this enthralling, wildly imaginative production.

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway Juan A. Ramirez, Theatrely: Though the production is top-to-bottom visually arresting, it doesn’t spend much time examining the symbiotic relationship between man and beast. For all its initial high-minded talk of political parties being incapable of coexisting and Pi’s notion that all religions are variations on the same belief, the play is essentially over by the time our hero tames Richard Parker and life-saving peace is achieved aboard the lifeboat. This takes some of the fantastical bite out of the show. No longer centered on the glorious cohabitation of natural balance, a dampened weight is given to a social worker’s later belief that Pi’s recounting is mere fiction. Whether the boy’s story checks out, and how much that cosmically matters, has always been at the core of Martel’s inquiry, but a production built on wonderment should be wary of letting the whimsical air out of its sails.

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway Johnny Oleksinki, The New York Post: A pair of extraordinary elements make the new spectacle show “Life of Pi” seaworthy: stunning projections, and a better-than-necessary lead performance from the sensational Hiran Abeysekera. Working in tandem during the second act, when teenage Pi is adrift in the ocean with only dangerous zoo animals to keep him company, those fantastical images and Abeysekera’s boisterous energy create moment after moment of theatrical magic. They are sequences of pure action and ingenuity in director Max Webster’s production that do not rely on dialogue or plot to thrill us, only sheer emotion and awe. Not unlike an “Avatar” film. However, not all of “Pi,” which opened Thursday night on Broadway, packs that same stirring visual punch. The play — adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti from Yann Martel’s novel, previously turned into Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning film — starts off as a fairly straightforward, wonkily written drama that takes a while to kick in

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: The puppets are only part of the breathtaking effects in “Life of Pi.” We’re plunged into a world that’s at times hellish, at times heavenly, by a masterful team of designers – Tim Lutkin’s lighting, Carolyn Downing’s sound, Andrzej Goulding’s video and animation, Tim Hatley’s sets and costumes — Andrew T Mackay’s music, and, crucially, by the two dozen cast members, who are fully integrated into not just the action but also the scenery.

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway Michael Musto, Chelsea Community News : Direction is by Max Webster, with Set and Costume Design by Tim Hatley, Puppetry and Movement Direction by Finn Caldwell, Puppet Design by Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell, Video Design by Andrzej Goulding, Lighting Design by Tim Lutkin, and Sound Design by Carolyn Downing. Together, they’ve created a visual—and visceral—feast that engages the senses. I’d recommend sitting in the front mezzanine. That’s where they seated press people like myself, so we could properly take in the entire swirl happening onstage. By the end, you will no longer doubt the fact that bananas float.

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: Life of Pi, directed with a restrained sense of wonder by Max Webster, is a very simple story: will Pi and Richard Parker be rescued from the sea; and will Pi’s rescuers believe his story? Is it true? And if it isn’t, does it matter if it is as enchanting as the theater-makers attempt to make it?

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway Charles Isherwood, Wall Street Journal: Beautiful as the staging is, there are some bald bits of dialogue, including some obvious exposition in the opening scene; Father’s portentous observation that “man is the most dangerous animal in this zoo”; and a line that could be interpreted as making leaden parallels to contemporary issues: “This government show us bad behavior has no consequences. People are looting, fighting, vandalizing property and no one is held accountable.” Hmm.

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway Matt Windman, amNY: “Life of Pi” is a most impressive and well-executed piece of theater. It’s a shame that Richard Parker is likely not eligible for a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play. Then again, one suspects that the artists that brought the tiger and the other animals and visual effects to life will be deservedly recognized.

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Theatre Guide: In the end, there’s no question that director Max Webster’s staging is a technical marvel that makes the most of its moving parts. Those include amazing puppetry; evocative scenic, lighting, and sound design; and transporting video and animation effects that conjure the ocean and the sky above. “My story will make you believe in God,” Pi insists. Whether or not that’s true, it’s impossible to doubt such powerful theatrical stagecraft.

Review Roundup: Olivier Award-Winning LIFE OF PI Opens On Broadway
Average Rating: 74.3%


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