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'Minsky's' at the Ahmanson: What did the critics think?

February 9, 2009 |  9:47 am

Christopher_fitzgerald_in_minskys

"Minsky's," the new old-fashioned musical about a Depression-era burlesque house and the loves and lives within, had its world premiere at the Ahmanson Theatre on Friday night.

The show features a powerhouse creative team that includes book writer Bob Martin ("The Drowsy Chaperone"), composer Charles Strouse ("Annie," "Bye-Bye Birdie"), lyricist Susan Birkenhead ("Jelly's Last Jam") and director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw ("Spamalot," "The Drowsy Chaperone"). The cast is led by Tony winner Beth Leavel ("The Drowsy Chaperone") and Tony nominee Christopher Fitzgerald ("Young Frankenstein"), above.

There's talk of a move to Broadway for "Minsky's." What do the critics think? Read on.

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Print critics were largely mixed in their assessments of the new musical.

Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times says the show, "though far from terrible, isn't quite the electric crowd-pleaser they're intending. Intermittently delightful, the musical is just as intermittently bumbling."

Flying in from the East Coast to review, Charles Isherwood of the New York Times writes: " 'Minsky's' is a musical comedy that too often seems to be looking back to familiar formulas, dusting off and sprucing up cliches from the showbiz trunk for another repurposing."

Bob Verini, writing in Variety: "The potential of a tuner titled 'Minsky's,' with its promise of gorgeous gals, baggy-pants comics, hot dance and nostalgia, is partly realized." He found fault with "a thin, uninvolving storyline and curiously antiseptic take on the raffish art form the tuner purports to celebrate."

David Mermelstein, writing for Bloomberg News, says: "The comedy quotient in this musical comedy is high, provided you like intentionally stale jokes ... and knowingly stock characters -- Paul Vogt as a hulking, dense bouncer named Boris had me in stitches. But that it's-so-bad-it's-good factor may not appeal to everyone."

On the one hand, says Paul Hodgins of the Orange County Register, "It seems too conventional a product for the likes of director Casey Nicholaw and writer Bob Martin." On the other hand, he says, "There are moments of great fun, inspiration and even brilliance in this show."

Web-only reviewers were far more adoring.

Jonas Schwartz of TheatreMania writes: "This brassy, silly spoof of the world of burlesque serves up a laugh-a-minute, thanks to Bob Martin's script, and grants audiences another opportunity to tap their toes to a rousing Charles Strouse score."

Laura Hitchcock of Curtain Up called the show "a visual treat" and said that "the cast is swell."

"This is what a Broadway musical looks like -- the big production numbers, the sweet love story, and the sheer entertainment of it all," gushes Sharon Perlmutter of Talking' Broadway. "Sure, 'Minsky's' doesn't break any new ground, but it covers the old ground impeccably."

Robert Machray of Blogcritics magazine gets to the point right away: "If 'Minsky's,' the newest musical at the Ahmanson Theatre, doesn't become a smash on Broadway, there's no justice. I haven't had so much fun in the theater in years." 

-- Lisa Fung

Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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