Review Roundup: The Critics Weigh-In On Dove Cameron in CLUELESS THE MUSICAL
The New Group is currently presenting Clueless, the Musical by Amy Heckerling in a world premiere production with choreography by Kelly Devine, directed by Kristin Hanggi. The show opens tonight! Let's see what the critics had to say!
Amy Heckerling takes us back to 90s Beverly Hills with this musical version of her beloved film Clueless, a modern spin on Jane Austen's Emma. With her singular voice, she gives us a score that reimagines 90s hits into ingenious parodies and yearning monologues for her lovesick characters. Director Kristin Hanggi (Rock of Ages) and choreographer Kelly Devine (Come from Away) drive this fresh take on the story of Cher (Dove Cameron - "Liv and Maddie," Descendants, Hairspray Live!), a girl so psychotically optimistic she can't see that her bungling attempts at playing Cupid disguise her own fashion-plated isolation.
This production features Ephie Aardema (Tai), Sara Andreas (Heather), Gilbert L. Bailey II (Murray), Dave Thomas Brown (Josh), Dove Cameron (Cher), Will Connolly(Travis), Tiffany Engen (Swing), Katie Goffman (Swing), Danielle Marie Gonzalez (Lucy), Tessa Grady (Amber), Talya Groves (Summer), Chris Hoch (Mel / Mr. Hall / DMV Instructor), L'ogan J'ones (Max), Jeff Kuhr (Swing), Darius Jordan Lee (Sean), Justin Mortelliti (Christian), Megan Sikora (Miss Geist / Ms. Stoeger), Brett Thiele (Elton) and Zurin Villanueva (Dionne).
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: The whole production, choreographed with a dutiful energy by Kelly Devine, suffers from a similar heightened twinkliness. It makes you appreciate how adroitly Ms. Heckerling sidestepped caricature and preciousness in her film. Like its shortsighted, matchmaking heroine - who looks for love in all the wrong places - the movie exuded a delicately balanced aura of deadpan, self-delighted innocence.
Frank Rizzo, Variety: This playful, upbeat show should be an easy sell both Off Broadway, where it premiered in a production from The New Group, and in the provinces, thanks to the film's legion of fans. But its lightweight narrative keeps it at the enjoyable-fluff level, even if its two-hour-plus length wears out its welcome just a tad, and the once-freshness of its comedy of '90s modes and manners is lessened by what have since become stereotypes.
Thom Geier, The Wrap: The bigger problem is that all the elements that made Heckerling's movie such a ground-breaking, genre-defying treat - its satirical energy, of-the-moment slang and clever reworking of Jane Austen's "Emma" into a glossy high school rom-com set in Beverly Hills, of all places - here is watered down into the most generic of musical theater adaptations.
Alexis Soloski, The Guardian: It would be easy, then, to see Clueless in a cynical light, as another attempt to cash in on younger Gen X/older millennial nostalgia. But Heckerling has always believed that Clueless should be a musical. With its candy colors and peppy rhythms, the original practically qualified. Unfortunately, the road to dull is paved with Heckerling's good intentions and her iffy follow through. She hasn't really rethought the movie for the stage. She has kept the dialogue and structure more or less intact; there are still so many scenes set in cars. Movie fans will hear all of their favorite lines- "As if!" "Way harsh!" "You're a virgin who can't drive" - and see most of their favorite outfits.
NIcole Serratore, The Stage: Though the familiar characters and central romance remain in Amy Heckerling's musical adaptation of her hit 1995 film, Clueless, the nostalgia factor is undermined by contrived lyrics, heavy-handed direction, and some very odd design choices. It feels more like a parody rather than a homage. The production has a winking self-awareness that eats away at the original's warm heart.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Some of this is genuinely witty, even if Heckerling's new lyrics are groaning with false rhymes and at times sit awkwardly on the melodies. But I found it all hit-or-miss, more Filene's Basement than Fred Segal. Or more of a roughly stitched patchwork of second-hand elements than a show with its own organic cohesion.
Jesse Oxfeld. New York Stage Review: What's on stage at the Signature Theatre, where Clueless, The Musical, opened tonight in a New Group production, is a pretty good argument for why not. Heckerling seems far too close to her original material, and far too unfamiliar with what makes a '90s spoof work in 2018-or with what makes a property work as a musical, rather than as a movie-to bring alive on stage anything close to the movie's light, ironic touch.
Elysa Gardner, New York Stage Review: Mostly, though, Heckerling and Hanggi milk the material and the era that's their focus for laughs and general merriment, abetted by Kelly Devine's kinetic, jubilant choreography, Beowulf Boritt's clean but fanciful set design and Amy Clark's colorful, period-perfect costumes. "You got the dreamer's disease," Josh sings to Cher towards the end, exuberantly revisiting the New Radicals' one-hit-wondrous "You Get What You Give." The dream may point back to the past in this case, but the condition is delightfully infectious nonetheless.
Matt Windman, amNY: "In the '90s, everything is awesome . . . Fashions are fly, music rocks, the whole world loves America, even the president is a Baldwin," Beverly Hills teen idol Cher Horowitz cheerily explains at the start of "Clueless," a peppy but disappointing stage musical adaptation of Amy Heckerling's much beloved 1995 high school rom-com, which is receiving its world premiere in an Off-Broadway production by the New Group at the Pershing Square Signature Center.