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Review Roundup: PENELOPE, OR HOW THE ODYSSEY WAS REALLY WRITTEN at York Theatre Company

The show plays at The Theater at St. Jean's until April 24th.

Review Roundup: PENELOPE, OR HOW THE ODYSSEY WAS REALLY WRITTEN at York Theatre Company

The York Theatre Company has presented the world premiere of Penelope, or How the Odyssey Was Really Written, a new musical comedy with book & lyrics by Peter Kellogg (York's Desperate Measures), and music by Stephen Weiner (The Rivals), directed and choreographed by Emily Maltby (York's Lolita, My Love), with music direction and orchestrations by David Hancock Turner (York's Cheek to Cheek, Desperate Measures) and vocal arrangements by David Hancock Turner, Steve Delehanty, and Stephen Weiner.

The ten-member cast features Philippe Arroyo (Aladdin) as Telemachus, Leah Hocking (Billy Elliot) as Eurycleia, Cooper Howell (Emojiland) as Antinous, Ben Jacoby (Beautiful) as Odysseus, David LaMarr (Jersey Boys) as Mileter, Jacob Alexander Simon (A Chorus Line) as Bassanio, Britney Nicole Simpson (Beauty and the Beast) as Penelope, George Slotin (High Button Shoes) as Haius, Sean Thompson (Sunset Boulevard) as Barius, Maria Wirries (Dear Evan Hansen) as Daphne with Bebe Browning (Miss Saigon) and Constantine Pappas (Into the Woods).

Performances for Penelope began, Saturday, April 2, 2022 for a limited engagement through Sunday afternoon, April 24, 2022 at 2:30PM at The York's temporary home, The Theater at St. Jean's (150 East 76th Street, between Lexington and Third Avenues). Opening Night was Thursday, April 7, 2022 at 7:00PM.

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

Laura Collins-Hughes, New York Times: "Penelope," at the Theater at St. Jean's on Manhattan's Upper East Side, feels like a musical about and for men. In its cast of 10, there are just three women, including Britney Nicole Simpson, who makes a lovely Off Broadway debut in the title role. It is not through any shortcoming of hers that this ostensibly "female-centric" show, as a program note puts it, is so enamored of its male characters: the five tiresome suitors; Penelope and Odysseus's son, Telemachus; and especially Odysseus. "Penelope" snaps into focus only in Act 2, when the wandering king returns and takes over a plot that had always been about his absence anyway.

Deb Miller, DC Metro: Depending on your personal sense of humor and your definition of feminism, there are a few segments that miss the mark on both funny and feminist. The bloody slaughter of anthropomorphized pigs, portrayed by the actors in masks, hits too close to home for animal lovers and vegetarians to find comical, and the final happy resolutions - between Penelope and Odysseus (as in the original ancient text) and with her own achievements (even though the world will never know what she did) - maintain the sexist status quo from time immemorial of women remaining accepting and anonymous (not my idea of feminism).

Marc Miller, Talkin' Broadway: Weiner's music, a melding of showtune, soft rock, and a cappella, is pleasantly unremarkable, while David Hancock Turner's five-piece ensemble sometimes overpowers the vocals. Too bad, when many of Kellogg's lyrics are very worth hearing. Penelope, or How the Odyssey Was Really Written is a less finished work than Desperate Measures, and Kellogg's insistence on capping all this literate, apolitical nonsense with a gender-woke detour is annoying. But these are dire days, and some of us need musical comedy to help see us through them. We'll take what we can get.

Photo Credits: Carol Rosegg

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