Review Roundup: TUCK EVERLASTING Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

By: Apr. 26, 2016
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TUCK EVERLASTING, the new musical based on Natalie Babbitt's beloved best-selling novel of the same name, featuring direction and choreography by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw, officially opens tonight, April 26, at the Broadhurst Theatre.

The cast is led by three-time Tony Nominee Carolee Carmello as "Mae Tuck" (Finding Neverland), Outer Critics Circle nominee Andrew Keenan-Bolger as "Jesse Tuck" (Newsies), two-time Emmy Award winner Michael Park as "Angus Tuck" (How To Succeed...), three-time Tony Nominee Terrence Mann as "The Man in the Yellow Suit" (Pippin), Fred Applegate as "Constable Joe" (The Last Ship),Robert Lenzi as "Miles Tuck" (South Pacific), Michael Wartellaas "Hugo" (Wicked),Valerie Wright as "Mother" (Elf The Musical), Pippa Pearthree (Noises Off) as "Nana," and introducing 11-year-old Sarah Charles Lewis as "Winnie Foster."

TUCK EVERLASTING, which debuted in 2015 at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre, is brought to life in a sweeping production which features a book by Tony Award nominee Claudia Shear (Dirty Blonde) and award-winning author Tim Federle (Better Nate Than Ever), music by Chris Miller (The Burnt Part Boys), lyrics by Nathan Tysen (The Burnt Part Boys), and direction and choreography by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw (Something Rotten!, Aladdin, The Book of Mormon).

If you could live forever, would you? Take a journey you'll never forget in this powerful new musical about love, family and living life to the fullest.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: Family-friendly musicals on Broadway generally come in just one flavor: flashy. Enter "Tuck Everlasting," a warm-spirited and piercingly touching musical that has nothing flashy or splashy about it...Mr. Nicholaw does let loose in a couple of rousing numbers led by the show's mysterious villain, a carnival worker, with high-kicking dancers swirling and strutting across the stage...But he also evinces a natural feel for the tender emotional core of the material and even its layers of mildly dark philosophical inquiry..."Tuck Everlasting" rings a variation on the fountain of youth myth, ultimately asking what life would mean if it never ended, and whether a never-ending life would be worth living. It also provides an answer in the enthralling, wordless climax, a ballet that depicts, with moving clarity, what another, much-celebrated musical would call the circle of life.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: "Tuck Everlasting," the new musical that deals with eternal life, has wisely been put in the hands of someone whose work on Broadway never seems to die -- director Casey Nicholaw...The show that opened Tuesday at the Broadhurst Theatre is wonderfully crafted, a Nicholaw hallmark. Poignancy mixes well with humor, the songs are fresh and sweet, the set is blissful and the performances honest. It has a polished feel. All of the parts work smartly...The music by Chris Miller is magical, grounded in folk, foot-pounding earthy beats and soaring melodies...Nathan Tysen's lyrics are even better -- delving into complex themes with elegance.

Frank Rizzo, Variety: With "Matilda" exiting Broadway in January, there's a new singing pre-teen hoping to generate the same family-audience appeal. But whether Winnie Foster, the main character in the new musical adaptation of "Tuck Everlasting," can connect with all-ages theatergoers will depend on their inclination for sentiment, moralistic storytelling and a show that's nothing if not sincere. Those who lean that way will be attracted to the tuneful folk-meets-Broadway score, to the solid performances and to the gentle Americana fable with life lessons intimately told. The show's warmhearted tale and handsome production values also bode well for a family-centric market, especially on the road. But more jaded theatergoers will likely find the proceedings not so much timeless as time-consuming -- a production rooted in the twee of life.

Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: The story of an 11-year-old girl encountering a family in the woods who seem perfectly normal except that they're immortal, Tuck Everlasting is a sweet concoction that feels in over its head amidst the flashier delights of Wicked and Matilda, among many others...The more serviceable than inspired...The tuneful country and folk music-influenced score by composer Chris Miller and lyricist Nathan Tysen is equally unmemorable. Director Nicholaw...keeps things moving at a sprightly pace, although he overdoes the carnival-style dance sequences that are clearly intended to provide visual distraction...The performers put the fanciful material over with admirable energy and emotional conviction...But the real find is Lewis, who amazingly is 11 years old in real life and whose precocious talent suggests that she may secretly be immortal herself.

David Cote, Time Out NY: Natalie Babbitt's best-selling 1975 young-adult novel has been filmed twice, and now it returns as an earnest, somewhat attenuated musical. But if Andrew Keenan-Bolger and child actor Sarah Charles Lewis pull off their parts and still retain wide-eyed likability, that's a testament to something enduring...the show addresses deep topics: the nature of time, memory and the circle of life...Chris Miller's Celtic-flavored music and Nathan Tysen's searching lyrics deliver emotionally, if elsewhere they seem merely upbeat and serviceable. The larger problem lies in Claudia Shear and Tim Federle's lumpy book, which takes too long to establish tone and stakes in the first act...Director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw does his best with a prettily designed production.

Robert Kahn, NBC New York: Lewis is all the things you'd want in a young protagonist, and her Winnie has got an edge...Keenan-Bolger, the energetic performer with his hands in any multitude of entertainment charismatic as a figure with the impulses of a 17-year-old, who is nonetheless over 100 years old. "Tuck Everlasting" is a real showcase for his whiz-bang dancing skills. Carolee Carmello and Michael Park are welcome as the TV sitcom-like Tuck parents...Robert Lenzi stands out as Jesse's older brother...A tone of melancholy underscores "Tuck Everlasting"...Among the more memorable "Top of the World," which has [Winnie and Jesse] scampering up that surreal tree, briefly abandoning their cares before making fateful decisions...This interpretation of "Tuck Everlasting" is neither tragic nor cynical. It's good entertainment.

Linda Winer, Newsday: From the small world of unexpected pleasures comes "Tuck Everlasting," a gentle but hardly lightweight fantasy musical about an 11-year-old girl and the prospect of eternal life. Perhaps the least-expected part of this unpretentious sweetheart is director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw...This touching low-tech show is for an underserved niche audience -- families who want to be thoughtfully charmed for a few hours after being hyper-entertained by "Wicked" and "Matilda"...The functional music by Chris Miller and lyrics by Nathan Tysen don't shy far from the Scottish-tinged folksiness of the former while, alas, some jaunty patter songs sound a bit too much like the latter.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: Authors Claudia Shear ("Dirty Blonde") and Tim Federle ("Better Nate Than Ever") make some smart changes. Winnie's dad has passed away, which underscores that death is part of life. The book's elaborate ending has been simplified. Composer Chris Miller and lyricist Nathan Tysen...wrap the story up in a warm and folksy score. It fits the 19th-century time period...Characters are pretty sketchy, but the cast makes the most of what they've got...In the end, "Tuck Everlasting" is allowed to breathe. Like people, musicals need that to live.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: If you like your family fare with a good heap of sweetener, welcome to "Tuck Everlasting"...What sucks is that we missed an opportunity for an all-ages musical with bite, a la "Matilda," since the 1975 children's book that "Tuck" is based on isn't afraid of the dark. It's pretty crazy that this story about regret, mortality and big life choices -- make that "eternal life or death" choices -- could end up so toothless...the actors are largely engaging, especially seasoned pros like Carolee Carmello, Terrence Mann and Fred Applegate. As Winnie, Sarah Charles Lewis is 11 going on Laura Benanti -- the downside is that she projects such unflagging confidence that you never doubt that Winnie will be all right no matter what she decides. So much for pathos.

Matt Windman, amNY: The Fountain of Youth is just a spring hidden in the backwoods of a rural community in "Tuck Everlasting," the G-rated, surprisingly well-crafted new Broadway musical based on Natalie Babbitt's 1975 coming-of-age novel...Its whirlwind adventure plot touches upon serious themes like mortality and loss. Claudia Shear and Tim Federle's book for the musical successfully expands upon these themes. The folksy score (by composer Chris Miller and lyricist Nathan Tysen) emphasizes a child's sense of wonder, along with some tender spots..."Tuck Everlasting" is refreshingly free of camp and flash...Lewis makes an assured, professional debut, capturing Winnie's eagerness and vulnerability.

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: All of which is my circuitous way of avoiding the mostly depressing task of writing about the latest Tuck family visit, in the form of a Broadway musical so treacly you may leave the Broadhurst Theatre wanting to kick a puppy. This is mildly surprising because the team behind the show is not known for overdosing on corn syrup...Jesse is played by Andrew Keenan-Bolger, an amiable actor who really does seem eternally youthful. Winnie is played by newcomer Sarah Charles Lewis and -- I will try to whisper this softly, taking no pleasure in it -- she is charmless, with all the attributes of an over-prepared, too-polished child actor...But the best bit of casting is Terrence Mann as the evil Man in the Yellow Suit...because of the sheer malignant joy Mann brings to a comic-book turn.

Robert Hofler, TheWrap: If immortality is so awful here on earth, why do people pray for it before they die? Neither the musical nor its source material...asks that question. The show's first act...finds it necessary to ask all sorts of other less interesting questions...Shear and Federle answer most (but not all) of the above questions about the Tuck family, but it takes them forever. More than anything else in "Tuck Everlasting," their lax narrative gives us a real glimpse of just how long forever can be. The songs by Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen also give a nod to eternity. No tune seems to have a beginning, a middle and an end..."Tuck Everlasting" more whimsical than it is broad slapstick, and Nicholaw is better with the latter. As a result, the performances in "Tuck" come off as merely Broadway generic.

Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainment Weekly: Tuck Everlasting is a beautifully drawn, evocative tale about an eternal-life-giving spring, the trapped-in-time family who drank from it, and a curious young girl who stumbles upon both...Yet on stage, this fantasy-driven story remains stubbornly earthbound. Not that Tuck isn't trying its darndest: The actors are appealing -- particularly Andrew Keenan-Bolger, impishly charming as the "17-year-old" Jesse Tuck, and the extraordinary Sarah Charles Lewis as our intrepid 11-year-old heroine, Winnie Foster...But they're practically drowning in a flood of banalities and a deluge of clichés. C

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: The score, by Chris Miller, has echoes of "Finian's Rainbow" and "Brigadoon" and often showcases the sound of flute or penny whistle. And the choreography, by director Casey Nicholaw, is balletic, pretty, interested in the social dance forms of the 19th century and fundamentally circular, sending the ensemble members swirling through the years. Even much of the acting is plumby and fantastical. For a competent Broadway show aiming to capture the family market, such a safe approach is hardly unreasonable...But it removes much of the tension from a story filled with agonizing decision-making and enough talk of life and death to keep anyone awake at night.

Steven Suskin, Huffington Post: It shall be interesting to see whether Tuck can overcome its shortcomings and build itself into a hit; there are some who opine that this well-loved tale with an indomitable red-headed heroine will attract all those mothers & daughters who flock to Wicked. Perhaps it will, although it has a disadvantage of opening amidst a throng of late-season musicals. Another issue: if it's a rollicking, woodsy, folksy, down home, 18th century slice of Americana you want, you can find one a couple of blocks away at The Robber Bridegroom. With Steven Pasquale, charm galore, and a wildly more tuneful score.

Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: The trim, nicely executed show, which opened Tuesday night at the Broadhurst Theatre, is taken from Natalie Babbitt's widely read 1975 children's novel about the involvement of an 11-year-old girl, Winnie (Sarah Charles Lewis), with the Tucks, an ordinary-seeming family who've discovered the secret of eternal life.

Alexis Soloski, Guardian: But the musical's signal misstep and ultimate salvation is its sentimentality. One of the finer qualities of Babbitt's book is how free it is of the slushy or mawkish. Not so here. Winnie is given a dead father, ostensibly to deepen her emotional predicament and there's a sappy quality in how her pert presence revivifies each of the tired Tucks.

Jesse Green, Vulture: The age of a show's protagonist often provides a clue to the age of the audience the show is pitched to: Patrick in American Psycho is 27; Jenna in Waitress is "in her thirties"; the character Frank Langella plays in The Father is 80 going on dead. So perhaps we should be grateful that Winnie, the heroine of the 1975 "young adult" fantasy novel Tuck Everlasting, has been bumped up from 10 to 11 for the musical adaptation that just opened on Broadway: She is that much more bearable. But whether the work of so many talented people in effecting the adaptation has added anything of value beyond that one year is another matter; this is, almost until the end, a ruthlessly by-the-book treatment of a high-concept, low-wattage fairy tale. Those nostalgic for their seventh-grade enthusiasms may love it; I found it to be a musical for the child in someone else.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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