New York's Man in Black (Mood) turns on Woman in White....

- The Stage - 18/11/2005 -

Andrew Lloyd Webber should, by now, be accustomed to the hostile press he routinely receives in New York; but then with the two longest-running shows of all time there to his name, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera , he'slaughed all the way to the bank. But now with his first new show to open there in over a decade, maybe it was time to be taken seriously? Or maybe not.

Bravely flouting centuries of accepted scientific theory, the creators of The Woman in White have set out to prove that the world is flat after all, declares Ben Brantley in todays The New York Times. Saying that the show “seems to exist willfully and unconditionally in two dimensions, ashe goes on to cite not just the design (computer-animated projections that make you feel as if you're trapped inside a floating upscale travel magazine) but everything else: Plot, characters, words and most of the performances emanate the aura of autumn leaves ironed into crisp immobility between sheets of waxed papers.

And following hot on the heels of the Watermill, Newbury production of Sweeney Todd that has newly transferred to Broadway and Brantley recently raved about, he is drawn to make the comparison: Sweeney Todd draws you straight into an anxious fever dream; the songs seem to come from within you. By contrast, The Woman in White feels as personally threatening as a historical diorama behind glass. And he damns with very faint praise to then conclude, s not a terrible show, but it's an awfully pallid one. The difference between it and Sweeney Todd is the difference between water and blood.

But at least Maria Friedman, whose return to the show just a week after went under the medical knife with treatment for breast cancer, ha been spared the critical one: In the best tradition of backstage stories of determination and triumph, Ms. Friedman, a longtime favorite of London musical audiences, makes an impeccably professional Broadway debut, Brantley writes. "When she sings of hope and heartbreak and honourable vengeance for dirty deeds, her deeply expressive voice has the sheen of emotional truth. Ms. Friedman's Marian clearly believes every word she sings. Would that the audience could share her conviction.

But two of Brantley's tabloid colleagues don't share his misery. In the New York Daily News, Howard Kissel calls it a 'breathtaking piece of musical theatre', and New York Post critic (and Stage contributor) Clive Barnes has named it a 'must-see', writing: 'Make no mistake about it: This is a thrilling musical'

Thanks to Doris for finding and sharing!

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