Review Roundup: WOMEN ON THE VERGE...

By: Nov. 05, 2010
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Based on Pedro Almodóvar's internationally acclaimed 1988 film, WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN is set in late 20th-century Madrid and tells the story of the intertwining lives of a group of women whose relationships with men lead to a tumultuous 48 hours of love, confusion and passion and now it's come to Broadway!

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Ms. Scott, Ms. LuPone and Mr. Mitchell, marvelous though they have all been elsewhere, here seem to be preoccupied with other matters, like where they'll be having dinner after the show. In that sense, I identified with them completely.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: It's not the thin gruel some had feared, but it's also not a spicy knock out - at least not yet. Mostly, it's just a bloated dish, with too much repetition and too much thrown up on stage, as if the chefs were trying to dazzle with as many ingredients as possible.

Elysa Gardner, USA Today: No one is helped by Yazbek's songs, which sound like Latin-flavored Muzak. LuPone's Invisible follows a monologue that becomes, in her hands, the show's dramatic high point. You half-expect her to launch into one of her showstopping arias, but all she gets is a loungey trifle. The actress, like many on Women on the Verge's illustrious team, deserves better. So do audiences.

Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times: The joy of Almodóvar's film is the profound simplicity of its whirligig emotional truth. Sadly, that quality has been lost in the Broadway shuffle. This new musical adaptation of "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," which opened Thursday in a Lincoln Center Theater production at the Belasco Theatre, has many things in its favor. Chief among them is a glittering constellation of theatrical divas, featuring the one and only Patti LuPone as a kind of deranged den mother. But the show is hampered by a faltering score by David Yazbek ("The Full Monty," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels") and a crucial bit of miscasting. Pepa, the protagonist thrown into a tailspin after her man cuts her loose, is played here by Sherie Rene Scott, a charming musical theater star but one with about as much Mediterranean earthiness as Barbara Bush or Paris Hilton.

Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: Given a high-powered cast like this one, everything might have come up roses anyway, but Ms. Scott, who is about as Spanish as I am, turns in a chirpy, lightweight performance that conveys nothing of Pepa's sensuality. (Carmen Maura, who played the same character in the film, was the very embodiment of that savory quality.) Ms. Benanti, by contrast, makes a bold and energetic impression as Candela, galloping away with the best-in-show ribbon. Mr. Mitchell's part, however, borders on outright invisibility, while Ms. LuPone's spectacular gifts are wasted in a supporting role that allows her to do little but sing two forgettable songs and run around tearing her hair.

David Cote, NY 1 / Time Out Magazine: There's a 20-foot-high recipe for gazpacho printed on the curtain that rises on Lincoln Center Theater's "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown." If only a giant recipe for making a decent musical had been available to the makers of this major Broadway letdown, which squanders so much stage talent.

Roger Friedman, Showbiz411: They all try valiantly to rescue this piece of sludge, a show that is so mis-organized that it's almost like an SAT test to try and re-order the scenes to make the show make sense. Unfortunately, even Patti LuPone can't do it. None of the stars have proper entrances, but then again, there are no set up scenes or anything to define what we're seeing on stage. Only Laura Benanti breathes any life into her songs or scenes, but that's because they're actually written for her.

Peter Marks, The Washington Post: Your eye will never get weary in a visit to "Women on the Verge," but you're still likely to come out of the experience feeling shortchanged.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" is far from perfect. But there's enough going on to see this particular glass of gazpacho as half-full.

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: The show-stealing performance comes from a laugh-out-loud Laura Benanti, as Candela, a model who's accidentally hooked up with Madrid's most-wanted terrorist. She turns "Model Behavor," a song made up of ever more desperate phone calls to Pepa, into a delirious jolt of joy.

Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune: Like, say, its recent Broadway predecessor "9 to 5," the show gets hopelessly trapped in the succession of very short scenes - in this case, set everywhere from taxi cabs to Telefono boxes - that make up farcical films. By midway through the second act, the audience can no longer track the multicharacter action through chaos suited only for film, and palpably checks out of the entire proceedings.

Linda Winer, Newsday: In fact, "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" is often larky, somewhat wrecked and filled with enough fabulous moments by huge talents that its shortcomings - painful though they are - don't stomp all the joy from the rest.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter/Reuters: A story that might have worked as a door-slamming stage farce ends up having no reason to sing. Musicals generally require sweeping sentiments, and while Almodovar's "Women on the Verge" has charm to burn, it lacks the emotional depth of the director's later, richer movies, or even the molten melodrama of earlier works like "Law of Desire."

Steve Suskin, Variety: The recipe for gazpacho is scrawled large across the curtain at Lincoln Center Theater's "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown." Like the dish in question, the new Almodovarsical is refreshing, peppery and palate-cleansing, but it is still, in the end, cold tomato soup -- invigorating and highly spiced, but not satisfying enough for a full meal or a full evening's entertainment. Tuner is blessed with some delicious performances and any number of items of interest, but the result can be summed up as women (and men) on the verge of a coherent musical.

Robert Feldberg, North For all its woes, "Women" does stand out in one way. It's that rare show that manages to be absolutely frantic and utterly static at the same time.

John Simon, Bloomberg News: Heroic efforts from the remarkable singing actresses Laura Benanti, Patti LuPone and Sherie Rene Scott and the equally accomplished Brian Stokes Mitchell can't disguise the fact that "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" is an unholy mess.

Matt Windman, amNewYork: Considering the extremely high caliber of its cast, creative team and source material, "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" was supposed to be the hit musical of the fall. Instead, it has turned out to be a hot mess of the highest pedigree.

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