Well, now. What with snowstorms and family crises, two openings got pushed last week -- so there's really just the one show to round up opinions about.
But ooh, lord, what a roundup: It's been a while since I've heard people disagree quite as pointedly about a production as we've been disagreeing about the Kennedy Center's Carnival!
Why such a fuss? Perhaps because, as one wag remarked: "They're channeling Amélie, and no one does whimsy as irritatingly as the French."
Peter Marks led the (circus) parade in Monday's WashPo: "No musical in recent years has looked or sounded better on a Kennedy Center stage .... [Carnival!] has been buffed to a ravishing sheen by director Robert Longbottom."
Ummm, sure, if you say so. I, on the other hand, say (and in print, too) that "I confess I don’t know what anyone associated with the Kennedy Center’s paralytically inert revival of Carnival! could have been drinking, I mean thinking." Not to put too fine a point on it. (I do put a slightly finer point on it in the review, of course, so please do go read. Wouldn't want anybody to think it was entirely about the cheap shot.)
Judy Rousuck makes the judicious frowny face in the Baltimore Sun: Carnival! offers strains of enchantment and menace, she writes, "but both feel watered down in the Kennedy Center's production."
Potomac Stages says Bob Merrill's "marvelously melodic" score (which Tboy believes, rather crankily, to be "an ill-unified collection of saccharine ballad and midway oom-pah and barroom wink-nudge") is being "splendidly sung and magnificently played." DC Theatre Reviews says it's "a wan musical" populated by "characters sketched with scarce more depth than the charming puppets."
The Examiner's Scott Fuller says it's "clichés on parade" at this circus. Or at least that's what his headline writers think he said; Tboy isn't sure he can find that bottom-line call in the review. Tboy does detect something of a crush on Marco the Magnificent, however. ("He is color; he is movement. He is throwing knives; he is vanishing roses. He is smoothness; he is confidence; he is passion.") But then Marco the Magnificent is Sebastian La Cause, and who wouldn't have a little warm spot for an actor who includes a dedicated "Beefcake Gallery" on his website? And who posts his workout routine online?
Also: Like Tboy, Fuller thinks Natascia Diaz rocks.
Actually, all the reviews have nice things to say about most, if not all, of the cast. We just differ about how the whole thing hangs together--and whether Carnival! itself is much of a show.
The published critics aren't the only ones arguing, just so's you know. Bob Mondello informed a party of theatergoers in the Kreeger lobby last night that Tboy had clearly been smoking rock. BMon and his man Carlos (who's a much tougher critic) both liked it -- though only reasonably, not rhapsodically. Wee Jane, who confesses that she imprinted on the show when she was wee-er, reports that Longbottom's production did nothing to harden her soft spot for little lost Lili and her grumpy puppetteer.
Another noted critic who saw the show but didn't write, though, e-mailed Tboy earlier this week: "The truncated reaction? OMG how dreary. Such an eccentric choice -- I wonder who in charge saw that at age 11 and hasn't gotten over it yet?" (Wait: We know the answer to that question. It's in the 6th paragraph.)
And speaking of the youth market: That last reviewer's 13-year-old seatmate "liked the show, hated Lili, thought "she should go die in a toilet ... I don't know where she gets her critical tone."
Finally, if the youth have spoken, so have the eminences. A certain esteemed D.C.-based director rolled his eyes at Tboy on the way out of the Eisenhower on opening night and summed up the evening thusly: "That's gotta be the most unnecessary revival since the second Bush Administration."
Your own opinions, as always, are most welcome in the comments.
Photo credits: Ereni Sevasti, top; Johnathan Lee Iverson and Natascia Diaz in Carnival! Puppets by Ed Christie. Photos by Joan Marcus, courtesy the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.