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Review Roundup: The New Group's BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE - What Did the Critics Think?

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

The New Group presents Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, a world premiere production arriving as part of the company's 25th Anniversary Season. Originally slated through March 15, this production is now set to play a limited Off-Broadway engagement through March 22.

Previews began January 16 in advance of an Official Opening Night on Tuesday, February 4 at The Pershing Square Signature Center (The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre, 480 West 42nd Street).

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice has book by Jonathan Marc Sherman, music by Duncan Sheik, lyrics by Duncan Sheik and Amanda Green and musical staging by Kelly Devine.

The cast features Jennifer Damiano, Jamie Mohamdein, Ana Nogueira, Joél Pérez, Suzanne Vega and Michael Zegen. Scott Elliott directs.

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: But Damiano, Pérez, Nogueira and Zegen are at their most relaxed and likable when they're guiding reluctant theatergoers through the fourth wall. Mazursky's movie ended with a lovely all-embracing coda, in which the leading characters drifted hopefully and curiously through a crowd of strangers. It was a testimony to the question marks of potential - the fear, the hunger, the resentment, the kindness - within every person, and I couldn't imagine it being captured onstage. But if this musical seldom succeeds in creating incisive individual character portraits, it's pretty good at summoning the endless, poignant possibilities that lurk within a crowd.

Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter: The creatives don't seem to have had any particular viewpoint toward the musical's inspiration, other than to slavishly replicate it. The show re-creates the hugely successful movie to a T, retaining its narrative structure nearly scene for scene and featuring much of the original dialogue from the Oscar-nominated screenplay by Mazursky and Larry Tucker. That approach might have worked well enough when the film was still fresh and timely, but it's now a dated period piece which many audience members either won't have seen or will recall only in fuzzy memories. The show feels like nostalgia half-removed, resembling those recent live television re-creations of classic sitcoms such as All in the Family and The Jeffersons.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: On stage, things are anything but sharp. Ana Nogueira plays Alice with a pouty surliness and Suzanne Vega plays the shrink, chucking aside for a moment her role as the show's singing and guitar-strumming narrator. Despite repeating most of the movie dialogue, the scene lacks the awkward, nervous, quirky energy of the movie. And to louse things up even more, Nogueira ends the scene by singing a soul-searching tune about her breakthrough. It completely blunts whatever humor remains from Mazursky and Tucker's script.

Alexis Soloski, The Guardian: But in making the show a period piece and in failing to fully enflesh its characters, who change their clothes more often than their affect, the show undercuts what it means to explore. Many of us still don't know how to negotiate love and sex and marriage or how to balance the needs of ourselves with the needs of others. Which is to say that these themes deserve more than some far-out Lucite heels and a few bedroom jokes. (To echo a popular meme: sex is great, but have you ever seen a beautifully structured book musical?) For a show about human potential, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice hasn't reached its own.

Raven Snook, Time Out: Only in the show's final 20 minutes do you get a sense of what might have been. Decked out in Jeff Mahshie's fabulous mod costumes, the two couples attempt to shed more than just their inhibitions, yielding a collective anticlimax that is funny, messy and uncomfortable. Their simpers are the closest thing this show gets to a bang.

Deb Miller, DC Metro: In general, the new musical adaptation of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice presents nothing new or insightful, with hackneyed characterizations of the '60s that are not energetic enough to qualify as full-blown over-the-top parody, tedious staging and music that does nothing to advance the narrative but to lengthen it, and characters that aren't likeable enough for us to care what happens to them or their marriages. It's a "bittersweet comedy" that offers more disappointments than laughs.

Stanford Friedman, New York Theatre Guide: Melodically, the tunes bend toward Burt Bacharach, though avoid going full-on bossa nova. Lyrically, on-the-nose end rhymes rule the night ("Would you do this guy a favor?/Give me a little flavor?/Guys like me don't get a waiver/For a little misbehavior."). And rarely are the songs fully formed. They surface in fragments and reprise, like ideas rising into consciousness. Elliot has staged the production like a lounge act, complete with an on-stage band, a beaded curtain backdrop, corded hand-held mics and distracting bouts of audience participation.

Michael Sommers, New York Stage Review: Although this scenario holds potential as the basis for a musical, it has not been imaginatively developed by its makers. Opening in its world premiere on Tuesday at the Pershing Square Signature Center in a highly competent production by The New Group, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is mostly a bore.

David Finkle, New York Stage Review: Indeed, the less said about this Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, the better-with its Kelly Devine musical staging, such as it is. Yes, by the broadest definition the flimsy property is a musical. Every once in a while Sheik and Green, both of whom have done noteworthy work in the past, insert a songlet, featuring something resembling a melody and something resembling a lyric.

Jeremy Gerard, Theater News Online: Playwright Jonathan Marc Sherman, composer Duncan Sheik and lyricist Amanda Green - three of our most versatile and shape-shifting theater creatives - have turned Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice into the latest film-to-stage musical adaptation. Why these artists and this film? The question may well become a matter for discussion among fans of one or both, just as much as Paul Mazursky's feature directing and co-screenwriting debut did when the film was unveiled at the 1969 New York Film Festival.

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