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"The show’s aesthetic is in no way Joycean or even very Irish…Mr. Bogart makes a likable but hardly magnetic Joyce, and Ms. Bashor a lively and appealing Nora. Yet I had trouble buying them as a pair of early-20th-century iconoclasts, or even as a couple with a supposedly irresistible sexual spark…It is hard to feel the import of any of this in a show so foreign in style and spirit to Joyce’s writing and the couple’s own milieu. Nothing here challenges the mind." Full Review
"James Joyce may have made a mess of his love life, but probably not as badly as composer/lyricist/bookvwriter/orchestrator Jonathan Brielle has in his dreary Off-Broadway musical. An undistinguished contribution to the 'insufferable artistic genius and the woman he considers his muse' genre, 'Himself and Nora' has been kicking around for over ten years...While the cast and production are both fine, 'Himself and Nora' inspires little of the passion the musical attempts to dramatize." Full Review
“Professional but shallow. This portrait of literary giant James Joyce and his strong-willed romantic partner Nora Barnacle is a like a musical Wikipedia entry. All the facts are there, but author-composer Jonathan Brielle doesn’t probe very deeply...The five-member cast is proficient and lively, and director Michael Bush paces the proceedings smartly enough, but Brielle’s choices are conventional. Hardly fitting for the most unconventional of authors.” Full Review
“Alas, 'Himself and Nora' flattens these two great characters into one-and-a half dimensions each and denudes their story of its most piquant details. And when all else fails, it piles on the blarney...The book and lyrics are distressingly banal...Lacking a strong point of view and/or anything new to say, Brielle has reduced one of literary history's most famous couples to a Maggie and Jiggs pairing, a feuding, fussing, fighting pair of stage Irish figures. Himself would not be pleased.” Full Review
"Clocks in at a bit over 2 hours. And that would be about 1 hour too long. Not because of the extraordinary talent of its two leads but because the text of this story excludes the point of the tale, Joyce’s words, and instead invests its time in showing us scenes from a relationship that are no match for his prose...While well intentioned, this production succeeds only in sending us all out of the theatre directly to the library to read." Full Review
"Joyce’s literary legacy is secure—but his story is incomplete without a larger understanding of his muse. ‘Himself and Nora’ fills in that essential gap in a smart, lively fashion. With a tuneful pop score, it neatly gives an impressionistic look at the great writer…Bogart and Bashor have chemistry on stage, capturing their obvious, lifelong attraction…Michael Bush directs a strong cast in an intimate production that will inspire audiences to read or re-read Joyce anew." Full Review
"Dutifully dull book scenes, which would benefit from musical underpinning, are blended with songs of varying melodic quality and often clunky lyrics...‘Himself and Nora’ is a musical, not a lecture, but mightn’t it have made sense for something by Joyce to have been read from, discussed, or sung?...Joyce’s most famous disciple gets a passing shout-out...Perhaps, he, too, could be bio-musicalized if you don’t mind waiting for Beckett." Full Review
"Subject matter not immediately impressive as tuner-ready requires the right person to tackle it. So on the strength—that’s to say the weakness—of 'Himself and Nora,' composer-lyricist-book writer Jonathan Brielle may not be best suited for this daunting task...Directed by Michael Bush, the ensemble is proficient...The hard ensemble work doesn’t disguise the problem of a script that remains stubbornly unconvincing." Full Review
"Brielle has written a straightforward musical biography that attacks the essential points as if a hit-and-run collision, then careens on to the next in the traditional (and traditionally tedious) take-no-chances manner. It's not so much that you don't learn much about Joyce but that it's all so dry and prosaic that you don't care about the things you do learn…Sure, you can make a harmless, juiceless musical about James Joyce, but Brielle never explains through it why he wanted to." Full Review
"The book here is dull, the music fares better...For a show that has been kicking around awhile it should be more advanced in its storytelling...With great love comes great sparing and Bashor and Bogart are perfect together...Michael Bush’s direction needs to pick up the pace. Jonathan Brielle needs to work with a collaborator. I have seen a few of his shows and his work would excel if he did." Full Review
"'Himself and Nora' is a delight for the senses, particularly the sense of hearing. Matt Bogart has an engaging voice…Additionally, both leads are superb actors who bring a high degree of authenticity to their multi-layered and complicated characters…Although it seems at times 'Himself and Nora' has not decided exactly what it wants to be, the overall effect is pleasing and thoroughly captivating…What 'Himself and Nora' does accomplish, it achieves successfully and with considerable charm." Full Review
"'Himself and Nora' is no masterpiece. I kept waiting for some drama to be had...There are a few moments in Jonathan Brielle’s book that speak of trouble and clash; moments of conflict, but rarely did they seem to make it into his music and lyrics...There are some sweet moments of musical joy, but I must admit the whole thing felt a bit too soft Irish rock elevator music-like, rather than emotionally fiery love and hate. I wanted more passion and fire, but all I got was a watered-down whiskey." Full Review
"The blending of two people apparently held together by their dissimilarities, as well as a deep erotic attraction, is a worthy subject for a musical. But the surface account delivered in ‘Himself and Nora’ doesn’t get much beyond the obvious…Whitney Bashor makes a fine Nora...And she has a lovely singing voice. Matt Bogart’s Joyce is more problematic...But it’s a performance, I suspect, that’s hobbled by the writing...Brielle’s ambitious score has its good and bad moments." Full Review
"'Himself and Nora' has enough admirable things going for it that one leaves disappointed author Jonathan Brielle didn’t receive more constructive criticism. The piece is often entertaining and (sketchily) illuminating. A good time can be had...Jonathan Brielle is on shaky ground with some of these ballads, but good with rousing songs...The book is uneven, but when good makes one long for more like it." Full Review
"Although Brielle includes intimate scenes about Joyce's struggles as a writer, he is more intent on dramatizing the literary lovers Joyce and Nora and bringing their controversial relationship into clear focus...While Brielle is a fine raconteur, he's better as a composer and lyricist...Matt Bogart and Whitney Bashor acquit themselves well as Joyce and Nora...'Himself and Nora' is not flawless...Taken as a whole, 'Himself and Nora' contains the right meat-and-potatoes for a satisfying musical." Full Review
"The danger, of course, in writing a show about one of the greatest writers ever lies in crafting words that do the great man justice, which 'Himself and Nora' patently fails to do...Beyond the biographical disservice, his show fails at even the most basic dramaturgy...Interspersed amid the clunky book are the generic music and lyrics...One real reason to see the show would be to see a fine group of performers doing their damnedest to make Brielle’s show work." Full Review
"There's a lot of 'telling,' which doesn't leave much room for 'showing' plot. The script is very oddly put together, in my opinion. The songs are mostly all filler and we get plot points shoved into a few lines of dialogue. It didn't really make sense to me. I guess I wonder why the author thought this needed to be a musical. There doesn't seem to be a feel of Joyce in either the book or the lyrics...The pop-ish score is pleasant enough, but it's not dramatic and it's not theatrical." Full Review
"Does the writing life, plus quotes from sexually explicit letters, seem to you to be the stuff of interesting drama? The opening scene made them appear to be!...After that, the play went downhill...The performers were exceptional as directed by Michael Bush...Still no one left the theater looking very happy...Jonathan Brielle wrote the book, music and lyrics of this very Las Vegas pastiche...The plot was indecisive. It wasn’t sure where it wanted to go and what it wanted to be." Full Review
“Michael Bush doesn’t allow for the interplay of passion and lust to happen between Joyce and Nora. Both Matt Bogart and Whitney Bashor are capable actors and strong vocalists. However, a love for all time needs a particular chemistry, and this symbiotic attraction is lacking from the two actors. The music adequately moves the story along. But there is more romp than depth to the songs, rather than music that haunts and captivates with decisive Joycean wit.” Full Review
for a previous production "Jonathan Brielle's well-intentioned but trying show captures nothing uniquely Irish about either of its subjects, and, worse, functions as neither a vibrant history lesson nor an absorbing character study. The title duo's worries about health, money, and the state of the world that surrounds them are so generalized that they could be any couple at any time in any place...The most generic part of the paint-by-fading-numbers evening is the score." Full Review
for a previous production "A lively, sometimes lusty, spin through the love life, troubles and literary times of the great Irish writer...Less a lyrical study of an artist’s life than a robust romantic musical, it skims through the biographical details to leave ample room for the couple’s love story...The enjoyable score by Mr. Brielle meshes neatly with his libretto and embraces a rhythmic variety of ardent, melodic songs that are often affirmative in spirit and occasionally colored musically by Joyce’s Irish heritage." Full Review
for a previous production "The show possesses a polish and finesse normally associated with a piece that has had more time to iron the kinks out...There are a couple of Mr. Brielle’s numbers in the show that could be replaced for the betterment of the production...The direction by Michael Bush is light-handed and creative...'Himself and Nora' is a worthy entry to this year’s New York Musical Theatre Festival. It had me leaving the theatre humming the songs." Full Review
See it if you love the performers, who are all superb, or James Joyce.
Don't see it if having done so results in a 20-minute convo at dinner detailing where a biographical character drama goes wrong.
See it if You want to learn about one of the greatest love stories of all time--James Joyce and Nora Barnacle. I was weeping at the end, love the CD
Don't see it if You don't want to see something inspiring, uplifting, educational and edifying that will stay with you forever.
See it if you love Joyce's words & world. Feet of clay on great writer, but redeemed. Nora is early feminist. Too many songs, leads are terrific.
Don't see it if highly sexual (raunchy) dialogue is offensive. Too much moving props and too many songs, needs more historical background.
See it if want to be surprised by the unusual, extraordinary life of Joyce. vivid characters and thought provoking.
Don't see it if no interesting in historical, literary figures and don't want to take a chance on something when you don't what to expect
See it if you love gorgeous voices, close harmony, movement, absolute commitment from the actors throughout the play. I went back for those voices.
Don't see it if you are offended by some chaste but a bit vulgar choreography. I've taken 5 friends none was offended. All very happy to see it.
See it if if you want insight to writer, James Joyce. Also, if you are a fan of Matt Bogart from Jersey Boys. Both leads are fine singers.
Don't see it if you want a big musical production with multiple actors. A deeper story line and broader text.
See it if you want explicitly Irish-influenced music, you know James Joyce so the jambled storytelling won't affect your understanding of the show
Don't see it if you don't want to watch a lot of overtly sexual scenes, you want coherence in the book writing of a musical
See it if You like smaller productions, Irish accents, a period piece, or a strong female lead. Also if you like a good chuckle.
Don't see it if you are looking for Disney sized sets with bells and whistles. You are not into sex talk.
See it if You are huge fans of Matt Bogart (who wasn't sounding great) or Whitney Bashor (who was the only redeeming quality).
Don't see it if You want to see a story where you care about the characters. Or if you have a problem with tonal shifts because these were breakneck.
See it if You want to see Whitney Bashor & Matt Bogart in excellent performances; you enjoy ballads & Joycean language; you don't expect a Dublin set
Don't see it if You expect Bway scenery; you'll be miserable unless the plot builds; you dislike great singers; you expect Finian's Rainbow