Review Roundup: SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY - All the Reviews!
Bruce Springsteen makes his Broadway with Springsteen on Broadway, a solo show at the Walter Kerr Theatre (219 West 48th Street). Springsteen on Broadway opened officially Thursday, October 12. Springsteen will perform five shows a week through February 3, 2018.
Bruce Springsteen's recording career spans over 40 years, beginning with 1973's 'Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ' (Columbia Records). He has released 18 studio albums, garnered 20 Grammys, won an Oscar, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, received a Kennedy Center Honor, and was MusiCares' 2013 Person of the Year. Springsteen's memoir 'Born to Run' (Simon & Schuster) and its companion album 'Chapter and Verse' were released in September 2016, and he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November last year. Springsteen's The River Tour 2016 was named the year's top global tour by both Billboard and Pollstar. 'Born to Run' was issued in paperback by Simon & Schuster on September 5.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Jesse Green, The New York Times: Make no mistake, "Springsteen on Broadway," which opened on Thursday evening, is a solo act by a solo artist with an artist's steel. Even though Patti Scialfa, his wife, shows up to harmonize on two numbers, this is not a singalong arena show or a roadhouse rouser. Even less does it try to be a feel-good Broadway book musical or a slick, whitewashed jukebox like "Jersey Boys." Rather, "Springsteen on Broadway" is a painful if thrilling summing-up at 68: a major statement about a life's work, but also a major revision of it.
Adam Feldman, Time Out NY: The Boss hits the boards in a concert run, performing five shows a week in the smallest venue he has played in decades. Springsteen has always been a musical storyteller par excellence. Tickets will be hard to come by.
Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: Springsteen on Broadway is a perfect concert...Seeing Springsteen on Broadway must be similar to what it was like to be in the audience for Clapton Unplugged: an electrifying (well, an acoustifying) session of mostly big big songs rendered without embellishment...Underscoring that seriousness, it's important to acknowledge the brilliant work of sound designer Brian Ronan, who manages the neat trick of high volume without losing the essential closeness of the experience...And Natasha Katz's lighting is hauntingly effective, through shadow into play, or just letting the man sing enveloped in a deep, quiet aura.
Bobby Olivier, NJ.com: Sorry to break the bad news, Bruce fans, but Springsteen's choice to develop this four-month residency in New York by himself, without the help of a stage-savvy director, has proven a cavalier and foolish decision by the rock icon -- the arc of this disjointed production is saved only by its music and the exclusivity of its venue. He would've been better off playing a straight two-hour acoustic set and selling his audiobook with the candy and cocktails.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday: Unlike Springsteen concerts, which often feel like an adrenaline-fueled run up steps from one emotional plateau to the next, "Springsteen on Broadway" is linear, weighting each story and song equally. It's a list come to life.
Laura Barton, The Guardian: At such close range, Springsteen's precision as performer is quite astounding, each moment deliberate yet effortless. He plays as if it's heavy work, with a strain of the arms and a set of the face.
Madison Vain, Entertainment Weekly: Nothing about Springsteen on Broadway feels like an easy cash-grab, or even simply a rock star looking for a kinder schedule that doesn't involve trekking from city to city day after day. Instead, with its mix of live music and stories and readings adapted from his 2016 autobiography, Born to Run, Springsteen on Broadway lets one of popular music's most beloved icons flex all kinds of creative muscle in a rare, intimate setting that showcases the true breadth of talents.
Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: This solo acoustic show is a riot of artful, sparse arrangements of Springsteen's best-known songs. It is not a conventional Broadway show, and it is not a conventional rock concert, but being beached between the two feels more intimate, both on the part of Springsteen and his fans. His constant goal, Springsteen says, is to provide both an entertaining evening "and communicate something of value."
Mikael Wood, LA Times: "Springsteen on Broadway" isn't a concert or a musical. With its scripted dialogue and its precisely calibrated musical arrangements - at times, you could hear the clicking of Springsteen's fingers on his guitar strings - the production is looking for some unexplored middle ground between the two: It wants to use theatrical convention to bring the audience into Springsteen's mind, not to celebrate but to illuminate.
Jem Aswad, Variety: Despite the relative lack of spontaneity (except when the crowd began clapping along on "Dancing in the Dark" and he said with a smile, "I'll handle it myself, thanks!"), the show is not a glorified audiobook. Springsteen's everyman persona can obscure his deep intelligence and formidable talent as a wordsmith: He has a novelist's eye for detail ("My mom's high heels would echo down the linoleum hallway"; "My dad's favorite bar smelled of beer, perspiration and after-shave") and a master politician's gift for flow, impact, rhythm and the ability to speak intimately to many. The show is loaded with great lines and we'll spoil just a few of them: "I come from a boardwalk town where everything is tinged with a bit of fraud - including me"; "Those whose love we wanted but couldn't get, we emulate"; "I have never held an honest job in my entire life."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: While many theater-makers would have felt the urge to splash projections across the rear wall, providing visual cues along the way, Springsteen draws us into his world using only his words, lyrics, melodies and expert modulation of mood. The show is a model of finely chiseled simplicity, by turns contemplative, moving and joyous. It closes, naturally, with "Born to Run." In keeping with an evening in which so many well-known tracks are given fresh life, that timeless declaration about escaping the ordinary to taste life and love and danger becomes also a soulful reaffirmation of home, ending with a heartbeat tapped out on the body of a guitar.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: The moment showed the power and charm of the 68-year-old rocker. It also reminded that the show - a soldout sensation before a note was sung or word was spoken - is not a just a concert in a Broadway theater. Threaded with 15 songs and stories pulled from his year-old memoir, "Born to Run," the Broadway debut of New Jersey's finest is a tightly scripted chronological narrative tracing his life.
Hardeep Phull, New York Post: True Bruce-heads will have heard these stories hundreds of times, and the songs thousands of times. But having them whispered into your ear from touching distance means they pack a bigger emotional punch.
Dan DeLuca, Philly.com: Springsteen on Broadway puts its audience through an emotional wringer. It touches on politics in passing, as when before "Long Walk Home," from 2007's Magic, Springsteen jokes about how people don't come to concerts to be told what to do, "because if they did, we wouldn't be in this f- mess we're in." A 12-string slide-guitar version of "Born in the U.S.A.," which he called "a protest song, a G.I. blues," was preceded by a story of meeting Vietnam vets who made his own life "seem frivolous."
Charles Isherwood, Broadway News: Although Springsteen is 68, his voice - never a crooner's smooth instrument - retains all its grit and vigor. Rough-edged, surly, sweaty and dark and raw, it can also hit notes of whispering tenderness that underscore the vulnerability hiding in plain sight in many of his best songs. It's a voice that defines the sound of rock 'n' roll as it was and will always be defined, the holler of rebellion and ecstasy, of swagger and hope.
Maeve McDermott, USA Today: Broadway is one of the great equalizers in modern showbiz, its physical demands capable of humbling even the most seasoned entertainers. With Springsteen on Broadway, which opened Thursday, fans aren't just paying to see their hero at the intimate Walter Kerr Theatre, its 975 seats roughly the same capacity as Asbury Park's beloved Stone Pony. They're paying to see their hero tussle with a different kind of beast. And it's quite a show, as Springsteen delivers two hours and 15 songs worth of memories, and revelations, and - for some - plenty of tears.
Andy Greene, Rolling Stone: It's clear from the beginning that this is nothing like a typical latter-day Springsteen concert, where set lists can vary wildly from night to night and Bruce often has little to say between songs. There's no room for his usual athleticism here - Springsteen just shuffles a few feet between a piano on stage left and a microphone at center stage. The intensity is, instead, emotional, as Springsteen digs hard into the bedrock of his life story, and ours: childhood, religion, work, death. The performance is hard to categorize. It's not a concert; not a typical one-man-show; certainly not a Broadway musical. But it is one of the most compelling and profound shows by a rock musician in recent memory.
Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker: Unlike the other solo and acoustic tours that he has undertaken (most recently, a theatre tour, in 2005, for his album "Devils & Dust"), the show is scripted and largely unchanging. It consists of fifteen songs punctuated by monologues, many of which are modified from passages in "Born to Run." The result is an earnest meditation on his life and work, a "long and noisy prayer" delivered by a diligent and practiced showman.
Craig Jenkins, Vulture: On Broadway isn't haunted by its ghosts. It's an act of penitent commemoration. Near the end of the night, Springsteen recalls a trip back to his hometown, which, for all his signature drive and wanderlust, he can get to in a ten-minute trip from where he lives now. He performs a strange benediction for a big tree he used to climb as a kid, upon learning it was recently removed from the property. The physical form is gone, but the comfort and support he associated with it will last forever. The Broadway show might serve the same purpose for fans. It's a rare opportunity to see the man up close in one of the smallest rooms he'll ever play. As with any Springsteen stage performance, you learn that his voice and personality are much bigger than the body housing them.
Peter Marks, The Washington Post: "Springsteen on Broadway" - now there's a Jersey Boy - had its official opening Thursday night, in a taut and beautifully turned-out evening as sincerely wrought as a poetry reading. For sure, Springsteen rocks out a bit and tells some funny stories on himself. But onstage for two hours minus the E Street Band, and with Patti Scialfa - born like her husband on the Jersey Shore - appearing with him for two of the show's 16 songs, Springsteen is determined to maintain a mostly elegiac tone on this occasion. He's a musician on a mission. And it's a quest for a New York audience to listen for the craft in an American voice ringing with simple truths.
David Cote, The Village Voice: Leaving behind his disciples in the E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen fills all the holy offices at the Walter Kerr: minister, choir, altar boy, even magic wafer. For two unbroken hours, the Boss straps on ax after ax (a new one for each song), spreads his buff arms crucifix-wide, and growls: This is my body, man; and this is my blood...Springsteen punctures his legend even as he demonstrates why it was so damned seductive for more than forty years. His endearments are many: the sentimental storytelling, the ballsy musicianship, the talent for melding mystical grandiosity and everyday struggles (fast cars, dating girls, punching out at the end of the day)...While his range isn't as broad as it used to be, he sounds and looks great, thanks to superb lighting and sound design.
Elyse Gardner, BBC News: The two-hour program is also, in its distinctly intimate, understated fashion, an affirmation of the exuberant showmanship and vivid storytelling that Springsteen's rock and roll shares with musical theatre. As a songwriter, we're reminded, he's as much an inheritor to Rodgers and Hammerstein as any contemporary pop artist; an unabashed romantic with a probing social conscience, whose soaring tunes give full-throated voice to American dreams and the demons that haunt them.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: "Springsteen on Broadway" is a very serious attempt at self-definition as written and self-directed by one of America's most intense and driven performers, a man who cannot act as one other than himself, and does not care to try, but who sure can make his own past live in the present moment. He can take you there for he takes himself there, and lives there again.
Photo Credit: Rob DeMartin