Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
THE LEHMAN TRILOGY
Click Here for More Articles on THE LEHMAN TRILOGY

Review Roundup: THE LEHMAN TRILOGY Opens on Broadway

pixeltracker

The play comes to Broadway after acclaimed, sold-out runs at London's National Theatre, the Park Avenue Armory, and in London's West End.

The Lehman Trilogy officially opens on Broadway tonight, October 14, at the Nederlander Theatre. The play comes to Broadway after acclaimed, sold-out runs at London's National Theatre, the Park Avenue Armory, and in London's West End.

The story of a family and a company that changed the world, The Lehman Trilogy unfolds in three parts over a single evening. Academy Award and Tony Award winner Sam Mendes directs Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Adrian Lester as the Lehman brothers, their sons, and grandsons. On a cold September morning in 1844, a young man from Bavaria stands on a New York dockside dreaming of a new life in the new world. He is joined by his two brothers, and an American epic begins. 163 years later, the firm they establish - Lehman Brothers - spectacularly collapses into bankruptcy, triggering the largest financial crisis in history.

Let's see what the critics had to say!


Laura Collins-Hughes, The New York Times: Much of what happens in "The Lehman Trilogy" is invisible to the eye, which is not the way prestige drama usually works onstage. Directed by Sam Mendes, this British import, which reaches across 164 years of American history to trace the family saga behind the fallen powerhouse Lehman Brothers, was a scalding-hot ticket during a brief prepandemic run at the Park Avenue Armory. Yet it offers almost nothing in the way of spectacle, and only the slightest of costume changes: a top hat here, a pair of glasses there. In the captivating production that opened on Thursday night at the Nederlander Theater, it relies largely on an unspoken agreement between actors and audience - to imagine together, and let fancy crowd out fact.

Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: If I sound a bit lukewarm about the results, it is because I did not immediately warm to "The Lehman Trilogy." But Mr. Mendes's staging is gloriously imaginative, and Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Adrian Lester, the three English character actors who comprise his cast, are prodigiously gifted changelings who all play men, women and children at various points in the show. Without exception, they do so with a light and witty touch that draws the sting from the words they speak, which are too often portentous and never truly poetic ("At 70 he will obtain perspective / at 80 fall into decrepitude / and at 90 years old a man is as good as dead/and can no longer participate in the affairs of the world"). By the end of the second act, whose curtain comes down on the morning of Oct. 24, 1929, I had put aside my preconceptions and was completely on board with what the creators of "The Lehman Trilogy" were trying to do.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: That's partly because this gripping piece of docudrama - the three-act script is by the Italian writer Stefano Massini as adapted by Ben Power and directed by Sam Mendes - is so precise in its storytelling. It's partly because the Broadway cast is made of three masterful British actors in Simon Russell Beale, Adrian Lester and Adam Godley, playing successive generations of Lehmans running the firm as it morphed from a tatty fabric store in Montgomery, Ala., to a glittering titan of Wall Street.But it's mostly because this show, an import from Britain's National Theatre and far and away the best thing I've seen on any stage since before the start of the pandemic, is determined to explore the story of the Lehman Brothers from myriad angles.

Greg Evans, Deadline: Money, the pop song says, changes everything, and as Broadway's magnificent The Lehman Trilogy so splendidly demonstrates, everything means everything, from the most private of personal circumstances to - if you've got enough cash (or even the suggestion of it) - the grand sweep of history.

Matt Windman, AMNY: Three and a half hours fly by pretty quickly in "The Lehman Trilogy," an unlikely and thoroughly gripping epic drama which explores how Lehman Brothers evolved from a small cotton goods shop run by three German-Jewish immigrants in mid-19th century Montgomery, Alabama into an elite international financial firm that flourished during the 20th century and then perished in 2008 amid the wreckage of the subprime mortgage crisis.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: It's a tour de force of direction and writing and Devlin's set rarely rests under Jon Clark's always dramatic lighting. Better yet, the designer's big glass box is framed by a Imax-like cyclorama that keeps updating us on the physical rise of Manhattan's ever-changing skyline - until we're literally swamped in nothing but office buildings (stunning videos by Luke Halls). Also thrilling is the depiction of a plantation fire, much earlier in the story, that the first Lehman brothers exploit to grow their store from a pop-and-pop operation to a major force in the cotton business.

Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly: As deeply flawed as its many characters can be - ornery and petty and blind to their own faults - the story rarely deigns to judge them. Instead, it lets them simply exist in the context of the dreams they're chasing and the crashing convergence of events that marked the century and a half their narratives move through: Civil Wars, stock-market crashes, all the ordinary loves and losses that make up a life. "Money is a ghost. Money is numbers. Money is air," one character declares ruefully, somewhere late in the third act. Whatever billions were lost on paper - and how ever many essential truths about the Lehmans have been lost to history - this Trilogy finds the thrill in letting them live again on stage: the heart, the hand, and the potato, spinning myth (and cotton) into gold.

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: The Broadway epic The Lehman Trilogy, which tells the story of the Lehman Brothers and their finance company over the span of 164 years, rarely stops spinning. Es Devlin's magnificent glass house of a set, designed to evoke the firm's offices at the time of its collapse in 2008, rotates on a turntable as history moves forward; wrapped on the walls around it is a giant cyclorama, where Luke Hall's black-and-white video design sweeps the action from New York Harbor to the antebellum South and beyond. Meanwhile, Stefano Massini's play takes the raw materials of the Lehmans' rise and fall and processes them into a vibrant yarn about greed and American values. It leaves you dazzled and a little dizzy.

Frank Scheck, New York Stage Review: It shouldn't work, it really shouldn't. A three-and-a-half-hour drama spanning over 160 years, featuring a mere three actors playing dozens of roles ranging from infants to coquettish young women to elderly men, depicting complicated historical and financial events with a minimum of scenery. And with much of the dialogue delivered in the form of third person narration, no less. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but The Lehman Trilogy proves an unalloyed theatrical triumph.

Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: Theatrical astonishment is back on the Broadway boards. The Lehman Trilogy, which has conquered and enraptured audiences since it first appeared, has finally arrived at the Nederlander after a pandemic pause. New Yorkers who missed the production's instantly sold-out limited engagement at the Park Avenue Armory in 2019 have 12 weeks before it moves on to brief stops in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Miss it at your peril.

Charles Isherwood, Broadway News: But for all its surface stylishness, "The Lehman Brothers" is a stolid and rather monolithic slab of a show: a three hour and twenty minute talking Wikipedia page, so dense with description and narration, and devoid of drama - or even dialogue - that watching it is like watching very expensive paint dry, or maybe, to use a more apt metaphor, listening to cotton growing.

Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: The country has changed in the two and a half years since The Lehman Trilogy came to America, wowing audiences at the Park Avenue Armory with a theatrical epic, inventively staged and extraordinarily acted, if historically blinkered, that dramatizes the 164-year history of the Lehman Brothers - starting with the arrival in America of the first of the three brothers, Hayum Lehmann, in 1844, and ending (three and a half hours later) with the collapse of the venerable financial institution in 2008. Opening now on Broadway, "The Lehman Trilogy" is also different than it was in 2019, some of it in evident response to the changing times. The question is whether it has changed enough.

Juan A, Ramirez, Theatrely: A medium of breathtaking modernity with European roots but American escalation, the birth of film soon begat The Birth of a Nation, that infamous and, unfortunately, impactful false narrative about White advancement in this country. Through the score-an invaluable part of the production-The Lehman Trilogy seems to say that modernity, and its corresponding progress, must always be followed by vile selfishness.

Related Articles

Buy at the Theatre Shop

T-Shirts, Mugs, Phone Cases & More

From This Author Review Roundups