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Review Roundup: Vineyard Theatre's THE LANDING

THE LANDING -- which marks John Kander's first full new theatre collaboration with another writer since the passing of his long-time collaborator Fred Ebb in 2004 --opened last night, October 23rd at Vineyard Theatre. Featured in the cast of The Landing are Tony and Emmy Award-winner David Hyde Pierce (CURTAINS, VANYA AND SONYA AND MASHA AND SPIKE, "Frasier"), Julia Murney (Andrew Lippa's THE WILD PARTY, WICKED),Paul Anthony Stewart (THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF) and Frankie Seratch (A TIME TO SHINE/TEEN CABARET). THE LANDING is a beautiful and haunting new musical comprised of three thematically-connected tales of desire, love and loss.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

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

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Mr. Kander's music for "The Landing," which opened on Wednesday night in an elegantly slender production directed by Walter Bobbie, is on a smaller scale. Often it has the chiming simplicity of children's songs. But linked and woven into the book and lyrics by the young playwright Greg Pierce (in Mr. Kander's first full collaboration with a new partner since Mr. Ebb's death in 2004), these innocent melodies shade into sorrow and sourness, a bit like those tinkling music-box motifs so beloved by makers of horror movies.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: "The Landing," with its Lucite furniture and Upper West Side vibe, appears to be more grounded. As are Jake (Pierce) and Denny (Stewart), longtime partners whose relationship is stable and loving enough to qualify them to adopt Collin (Seratch). Although there's no hint of how he came to them, this 12-year-old boy appears to be the perfect son for this sophisticated couple. He's intelligent, thoughtful, artistic and unnervingly well-mannered. By the time Jake puzzles out the mystery of Collin's identity, we've heard what we came for - a few insightful songs about love and its absence, and one heart-piercing number, "Thanks for That," that says it all for all of us.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: Each one-act comes with a melancholy mood and cautionary theme: Gifts can backfire. In "Andra," the present is a telescope that expands vision; in "The Brick," it's a keepsake that concretely confirms a person's nuttiness; and in "The Landing," it's a presence that gives and takes from a happy family.Kander's score doesn't approach his work in "Cabaret" or "Chicago." There are a few bouncy moments and melodic strains conjuring "All That Jazz." The music is mostly underscoring.

Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: The cross-generational duo's first collaboration,The Landing, is a modest evening of three one-acts for four performers playing at Off Broadway's Vineyard Theatre through Nov. 24. Except for Kander's recognizably lush and hook-filled melodies, the show often seems like the work of a gifted apprentice who's written a lot of short fiction (as Pierce apparently has). The three acts unfold like short stories - each even has an onstage narrator - though torn from very different books.

Jennifer Farrar, Associated Press: A good musical keeps you enthralled and stays with you afterward, as you find yourself humming refrains of new songs. "The Landing", a lovely, quirky new musical theater work by John Kander and Greg Pierce, has enchanting moments and leaves you wanting more, in the Vineyard Theatre's world-premiere production that opened Wednesday night...With assured direction by Walter Bobbie ("Venus in Fur", "Chicago"), playful choreography by Josh Rhodes ("Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella") and a sparkling cast led by Tony and Emmy Award-winner David Hyde Pierce, "The Landing" encompasses three imaginative one-acts examining longing, love and regret.

Linda Winer, Newsday: All four excellent actors -- Hyde Pierce, Julia Murney, the young Frankie Seratch and quick-change chameleon Paul Anthony Stewart -- return for the final, best play. "The Landing" begins with a gay couple's adoption of what may well be the perfect boy, and concludes with a haunting image that will be hard to forget. Throughout all three, Kander's music mixes his street-smart show-biz signature with yearning romantic ballads and, here's the surprise, snatches of rhythmic colors that suggest Sondheim. Hyde Pierce's characters all have detailed, original specificity beneath their everyday lives. Kander recently described his new collaborator as "a present someone gave me." It appears the gift, in this small package, was also given to us.

Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: "The Landing" completes the triad. It achieves moments of authentic feeling and rounds out the show eloquently. A gay couple, Denny and Jake, have just welcomed a foster son, Collin, to their flat on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The child is too perfect to be real: unbidden, he makes his bed. Like the other two playlets, "The Landing" contains moments of hyper-reality. But the fantasy theme is too weak to provide the musical with much cohesion.

Jesse Green, New York Magazine: The Landing, Kander's first complete post-Ebb show, offers no conclusive answer; rather, it deepens the mystery of how theater music arises and takes shape from its surrounding conditions. In this case, those conditions obviously included an enjoyable working environment...The Landing consists of three one-act musicals, each about 30 minutes long and employing the same cast of four. Otherwise, the stories are tied together only by a lightly suggested theme: how adults implicate children in their fantasies and failures. Each segment addresses this theme in a completely different style, musical and otherwise.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: In the final piece, which gives "The Landing" its title, Stewart and Hyde Pierce are a gay couple who adopt a 12-year-old (Seratch). Collin is almost too good to be true - unlike any tween boy, he makes his own bed. And indeed, there's a catch. Not that we care all that much about anybody involved. "The Landing" isn't a terrible show - the people in charge are too experienced for that. Kander fans may see it out of curiosity, but everybody else will wonder why it exists at all.

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: Not all things that come in threes, it turns out, are good. The Landing, a triptych of one-act musicals, provides a welcome chance to hear new songs by John Kander-including some, orchestrated by Larry Hochman, that pleasantly recall his superior work with the late Fred Ebb. But Kander's new writing partner, Greg Pierce, is a less felicitous match... All three works are hampered by unengaging child characters, and by concepts developed too sketchily to land.

Robert Hulfer, The Wrap: "The Landing" works well as an umbrella title, however, precisely because it makes no promises to be a musical. In fact, "The Landing," which opened Wednesday at the Vineyard Theater, sounds like the title of a short story published in the New Yorker, and that kind of understatement is what you get on stage (for at least two-thirds of the evening). In other words, "The Landing" is definitely not destined for Broadway, and from what's evidenced on this Off Broadway stage, that lack of commercial intent is what this show's creative team wants.

Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Paul Anthony Stewart brings a robust sensitivity to Ben and Denny, then shows his deft lighter side as Charl's smarmy husband and - in giddy drag - a friend identified in the script as Margery the Cribbage Biddy Who Smells Like Woodchips. A fine and similarly flexible Julia Murney appears as Noah's distracted mom and the more flamboyantly troubled Charl.

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