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Will Ferrell on Broadway in 'You're Welcome America' -- what did the critics think?

February 6, 2009 | 10:12 am


For those longing for the good old days of George W. Bush, Will Ferrell has a cure. In his Broadway debut, the "Saturday Night Live" alum assumes the persona of the 43rd president in "You're Welcome America: A Final Night With George W. Bush."

Ferrell wrote and starred in the 90-minute show, which opened Thursday at the Cort Theatre. While the critics weren't unanimous in their assessments, they seemed to agree that a lively improv segment involving audience members truly showcased Ferrell's comedic talent.

Sales for the show, staged by Ferrell's frequent collaborator, Adam McKay, are through the roof -- one of the few bright lights on Broadway. If you can't score a ticket, don't worry: HBO will broadcast the show live March 14.

But before setting your TiVo, check out what the critics had to say:

Will_ferrell_stars_in_youre_welco_2"Sometimes it’s really funny, and sometimes it sort of sags. I laughed, I yawned," says Ben Brantley of the New York Times. He also writes, "The actor provides a critic-proof demonstration of the art that has endeared him to millions of fans around the world: the art of acting stupid, shrewdly, for fun and profit."

David Rooney of Variety called "You're Welcome America" "a fast-paced, well-sustained near-90 minutes that's consistently funny and invigoratingly rude."

"Will Ferrell makes a pretty hilarious case for all of us having unfinished funny business with the drawlin', squintin', struttin' 43," says Peter Marks of the Washington Post.

"The actor, a former 'Saturday Night Live' regular and now a full-fledged movie star, seems totally at ease on a big Broadway stage," writes Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press.

Linda Winer of Newsday says, "Ferrell is terrific -- sly and subtle, even brave."

"Getting to see this comic whiz in the flesh is a big treat, and the fact that Ferrell has been able to squeeze so many fresh yuks from the beleaguered Bush legacy speaks to his always off-kilter, sometimes raunchy, imagination," says Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News.

Frank Schenk of the New York Post gave the show three out of four stars, saying : "Basically a (nearly) solo extended sketch, it's theatrical comfort food for Broadway audiences who want to see one of their favorite comic actors live."

Alexis Greene of the Hollywood Reporter states: "Put simply, 'You're Welcome, America. A Final Night with George W. Bush,' Ferrell's one-man roast of the 43rd president, is hilarious."

On the other side of the aisle, Elysa Gardner of USA Today called the show a "witless, pointless spectacle" and "no one familiar with Ferrell's work would expect in-depth political satire. He tries instead to provoke through tastelessness and goofy outrageousness, practices that certainly have long and distinguished traditions in comedy. But Ferrell's shots both overreach and fail to sting."

And more succinctly, Jeremy Gerard of Bloomberg writes: "As satire, 'You’re Welcome, America' is toothless. What comes across as pointed and funny in 90 seconds on 'Saturday Night Live' flops as a Bush-era postmortem."

--Lisa Fung

Credit: Robert J. Saferstein / Associated Press