Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway

The classic novel The Outsiders has made the jump from page to stage and is opening on Broadway tonight at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.

By: Apr. 11, 2024
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Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway
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The gang's all here! S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders has made the jump from page to stage and is opening on Broadway tonight at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. The critics stopped by to see what the musical take on the literary classic has in store for audiences! Read the reviews!

The Outsiders features a book by Adam Rapp with Justin Levine, music and lyrics by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay & Zach Chance) and Justin Levine, music supervision, orchestration & arrangements by Justin Levine, choreography by Rick Kuperman & Jeff Kuperman and is directed by Danya Taymor.

The Outsiders cast is led by Brody Grant as Ponyboy Curtis, Sky Lakota-Lynch as Johnny Cade, Joshua Boone as Dallas Winston, Brent Comer as Darrel Curtis, Jason Schmidt as Sodapop Curtis, Emma Pittman as Cherry Valance, Daryl Tofa as Two-Bit, Kevin William Paul as Bob and Dan Berry as Paul. The company also includes Jordan Chin, Milena J. Comeau, Barton Cowperthwaite, Tilly Evans-Krueger, Henry Julián Gendron, RJ Higton, Wonza Johnson, Sean Harrison Jones, Maggie Kuntz, Renni Anthony Magee, SarahGrace Mariani, Melody Rose, Josh Strobl, Victor Carrillo Tracey, Trevor Wayne.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1967, Ponyboy Curtis, his best friend Johnny Cade and their Greaser family of “outsiders” battle with their affluent rivals, the Socs. This thrilling new Broadway musical navigates the complexities of self-discovery as the Greasers dream about who they want to become in a world that may never accept them. With a dynamic original score, The Outsiders is a story of friendship, family, belonging... and the realization that there is still “lots of good in the world.”

 The Outsiders features Scenography by AMP featuring Tatiana Kahvegian, Costume Design by Sarafina Bush, Lighting Design by Brian MacDevitt, Sound Design by Cody Spencer, Projection Design by Hana S. Kim, Special Effects Design by Jeremy Chernick & Lillis Meeh, Hair & Wig Design by Alberto “Albee” Alvarado, Makeup Design by Tishonna Ferguson, Sound Effects Specialist Taylor Bense, Creative Consultant Jack Viertel. Music Direction & Additional Orchestrations by Matt Hinkley. Casting is by Tara Rubin Casting/Xavier Rubiano, CSA.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Jesse Green, The New York Times: And yet the musical version of “The Outsiders” that opened on Thursday has been made with so much love and sincerity it survives with most of its heart intact. Youth is key to that survival; the cast, if not actually teenage — their singing is way too professional for that — is still credibly fresh-faced. (Five of the nine principals are making their Broadway debuts.) That there is no cynical distance between them and their characters is in itself refreshing to see. Also key to the show’s power is the director Danya Taymor’s rivetingly sensorial approach to the storytelling, even if it sometimes comes at a cost to the story itself. Many stunning things are happening on the stage of the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater — and from the sobs I heard the other night, in the audience, too.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Sara Holdren, Vulture: And in its new musical form — with a score and lyrics by the folk duo Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay, known as Jamestown Revival, along with Justin Levine — The Outsiders is taking a real swing at being the strongest entry in this season’s wave of singer-songwriter outings on Broadway. We’re living in a post–Sara Bareilles age: Ingrid Michaelson, PigPen Theatre Co., Shaina Taub, and Anaïs Mitchell are all currently waving at one other from around Times Square. But whether or not the same people who make catchy pop records can also craft a solid score is another question. Chance, Clay, and Levine can, and if The Outsiders sometimes traffics, perhaps unavoidably, in cliché, it makes up for it with the tenderness and muscle of not just its songs but its staging and performances.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: I suspect that a lot of people will like The Outsiders  more than I did. But to me, its approach misses the central thrust of Hinton’s story. Her point was that kids who might be dismissed as juvenile delinquents are teenagers like any others, with complicated feelings and dreams. But in the musical, they mostly seem neither juvenile—Grant is a terrific singer, but he doesn’t sound remotely 14—nor delinquent. Rapp and Levine add cuss words to the dialogue, but otherwise their version scrubs the Greasers clean. In the book, they are low-level criminals. Here, they are presented as innocent victims, targeted by the villainous Socs merely for being poor, and perhaps for not all being white guys: Their leader, Dallas (an excellent Joshua Boone), is now Black, and their group includes an Anybodys -style tomboy. It’s like a version of West Side Story  in which one of the gangs is entirely to blame, and the other is just trying not to die while crossing from the wrong side of the tracks. And this sanitization makes the musical feel oddly superficial. It approaches its subjects from the outside.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Emlyn Travis, Entertainment Weekly: For many, The Outsiders is a story that not only remains as raw and relatable as when they first read it, but also pushed the very boundaries of young adult fiction with its insightful ruminations on brotherhood, identity, and the cycles of grief and violence. While its musical adaptation may have its squabbles, its heart of gold still remains firmly intact. Grade: B

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: It also doesn’t help that the young guy’s love interest drops away from the narrative. All in all, and with all due respect to the many capable artists here and the fame of the book, the emotional landscape just has not been shaped to fit the needs of a Broadway musical. “The Outsiders” needed greater expansion of character, a gentler, simpler touch, a better sense of authentic teenage angst and a deeper focus on the heart.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Adrian Horton, The Guardian: The production is the platonic ideal of a retro classic rebooted for Broadway, broadly appealing to audiences young and old (my showing was split between boomers and kids) but not particularly searing, recognizable but not terribly distinct, sincere and competent yet not resounding.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Kobi Kassal, Theatrely: What makes The Outsiders so brilliant is director Danya Taymor at the helm of the ship. Her swift yet intuitive direction is stunning and the team she has surrounded herself with both onstage and behind the curtain is a match made in heaven. Taymor’s ability to hone her storytelling while marrying it with a contemporary theatre gaze is a pure delight on stage, and we should be so lucky to experience whatever she cooks up next. For a story that centers masculinity, brotherhood, and family, the ensemble cast shines and breathes new life to a property that is so beloved by millions across America.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: Luckily, the words matter less than they might have because the most outstanding aspect of this musical is the staging – by which I mean primarily the choreography. The set, design (especially the lighting by Brian MacDevitt) and special effects (rain, smoke, fire) allow for, and sometimes enhance, the movement. This encompasses not just the dancing, but the fighting, which at its most arresting, resembles not just slow-motion cinematography but stop-motion animation – performed by the human beings on stage.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Roma Torre, New York Stage Review: Everything about this production feels original and dynamic. Directed by Danya Taymor, it’s a terrific collaboration highlighting all of the novel’s virtues while sidestepping most of the clunkier aspects. Many in the gifted cast are making their Broadway debuts; and the entire experience is enhanced by a creative team marked by youthful energy. And while you might think a story about teenagers in the 1960’s would be hopelessly dated today, it’s not. Thanks to canny stylizing and an emphasis on character development, the effect is deeply engaging and universal.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Frank Scheck, New York Stage Review: Watching the new Broadway musical The Outsiders, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’ve seen it all before. It’s not just because of the source material, including both S.E. Hinton’s classic YA novel and Francis Coppola’s 1983 film adaptation featuring a slew of young Hollywood hunks. It’s also because the show inevitably recalls West Side Story in its tale of warring youth gangs and a star-crossed romance (not to mention, of course, Romeo and Juliet) and, in its exuberantly choreographed dances featuring athletic young performers, Newsies. This musical adaptation, featuring a book by Adam Rapp and Justin Levine and a score by Levin and Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance (better known as the band Jamestown Revival) proves a perfectly respectable effort with many laudable elements. What it mostly seems to lack is a reason for being.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Elisabeth Vincentelli, The Washington Post: And therein lies the problem: The show overexplains everything, all the time. Hinton knew exactly how much to say and when — the paperback edition of “The Outsiders” is just 180 concise, evocative pages that let us discover things along with Ponyboy. Here, both the book and the songs tend to underestimate the audience’s intelligence. (This is surprising coming from Rapp, who is usually not afraid of ambiguity.)

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Matt Windman, amNY: At its best, “The Outsiders”(which is directed by Danya Taymor, “Pass Over”) is fresh and rambunctious, with an attractive period country-pop score by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance) and Justine Levine (with plainspoken lyrics and pulsating music reminiscent of Jason Robert Brown), well-executed choreography by Rick Kuperman and Jeff Kuperman (including both rock social dance and intense fight movement), and an industrial design scheme that is seamless and atmospheric. However, the book (by playwright Adam Rapp and Justine Levine), which stays dutifully true to the novel, has difficulty reconciling bursts of excitement with the plotting and character details of the novel, with Brody Grant (who looks far too mature to be playing the sensitive 14-year-old Ponyboy Curtis) slowly narrating exposition to the audience and sentimental solos that stop the show in its tracks. By act two, the show felt like a mechanical procession of plot progression and teen melodrama.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Theatre Guide: The score by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance) and Levine is likewise uneven. Moody folk- and bluegrass-flavored songs fit the setting. “Great Expectations,” Ponyboy’s aspirational solo amplified by other voices, is a highlight, but many songs are too heavy with exposition. Limp lyrics like “the grass is always greener” stick out for the wrong reason. Choreographers Rick and Jeff Kuperman put the show in gymnastic, muscular motion. The climactic gang war surges in such stylized, cinematic fashion that my audience actually cheered. Despite its flaws, The Outsiders is ready to rumble.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Brian Scott Lipton, Cititour: While an immediate ticket to this sure-to-be-hit may be hard to come by, don’t let yourself stay an outsider. This show is worth coming into a theater!

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Robert Hofler, The Wrap: “The Outsiders” is director Danya Taymor’s sophomore effort (after “Pass Over”) on Broadway and her first musical assignment there. She is reason enough to see any play Off-Broadway; her taste in young playwrights is unerring. Here, Taymor brings a nice low-tech look to the show, aided by the “scenography” of AMP featuring Tatiana Kahvegian. In a musical about a bunch of rowdy teenagers, it’s right that a few wooden planks and some tractor tires function as an obstacle course that Rick Kuperman and Jeff Kuperman’s kinetic choreography keeps throwing at the very expert and inexhaustible dance ensemble. These performers come through bruised but ultimately triumphant in face of all those deadening “socs” comments.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Dan Rubins, Slant Magazine: It’s that kind of fully realized theatrical gesture that most distinguishes Taymor’s directorial vision, elevating The Outsiders’s well-made material to a remarkable, emotionally arresting piece of theater. And, in the musical’s final minutes, as Grant’s sorrowfully resilient Ponyboy begins to pen his own self-portrait in the face of unrelenting loss, one could almost call that kind of heart-wrenching theater-making heroic.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Naveen Kumar, Variety: The infatuation between Ponyboy and Cherry (Emma Pittman), which produces a couple of serviceable duets, feels perfunctory and fades into a melange of other conflicts. Hinton’s novel gallops with the muscular first-person voice of a tortured narrator, grabbing readers by the collar. “The Outsiders” musical takes a milder approach, peering under the hood of masculinity to the tune and pace of indie emo.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Johnny Oleksinki, New York Post: Newcomer Brody Grant, with a record-deal-ready voice and a grounded teenage vulnerability, makes a sublime debut in the role. He’s the sort of bookworm heartthrob you’re more likely to find on Netflix nowadays than Broadway. But the shrewdness of director Danya Taymor’s production starts with how brilliantly cast it is, from top to bottom. By the end of the opening song, called “Tulsa ’67,” we have somehow already met and grown inexplicably fond of every single Greaser.

Review Roundup: THE OUTSIDERS Opens On Broadway Charles Isherwood, Wall Street Journal: The musical’s cast shouldn’t leave anyone pining for starshine, so assured are its members in embodying the characters not as familiar pop-culture figures but as the raw, wounded, volatile and sensitive people they are. Teller of the tale, if not leader of the pack, is Brody Grant’s Ponyboy, the youngest of three brothers whose parents died in a car accident, with the oldest, Darrel, played by a touchingly conflicted Brent Comer, unhappily taking charge, while the middle boy, Sodapop (a buoyant, sometimes shirtless Jason Schmidt, winning the beefcake prize), tries to soothe the tension between his siblings.

Average Rating: 69.5%

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