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Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Members say: Entertaining, Quirky, Funny, Great singing, Clever

About the show

Encores! revives Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's little-known musical based on Kurt Vonnegut's comic novel of the same name. Directed by Tony winner Michael Mayer, and starring Santino Fontana, Skylar Astin, and James Earl Jones.

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The songs of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken ('Little Shop of Horrors,' 'Beauty and the Beast') are legendary, and yet few have heard their first musical: 'Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.' The show tells the story of Eliot Rosewater (Santino Fontana), a drunken millionaire who decides to blow his fortune on a town full of pitiable creatures: the illiterate, the depressed, and the eternally pregnant. But there are forces who want to put the kibosh on his philanthropy—like Norman Mushari (Skylar Astin), a lawyer plotting to have Eliot declared insane. Part of Encores! Off-Center season.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"An odd duck of a musical...Vonnegut’s black brand of satire is not, in truth, a comfortable fit for the stage...The director, Michael Mayer, at least keeps the careering story line moving along at a brisk pace. And both performers and orchestra deliver the eclectic score with the polish and zest we have come to expect from the Encores! series...Mr. Fontana imbues Eliot with a forthright earnestness that scrubs away the archness and heaviness in the writing.” Full Review


“It turns out that Ashman and Menken's blend of wit and sincerity perfectly conveys Vonnegut's dark satire...Director Michael Mayer wisely maintains an earnest commitment in the delivery of these lines, allowing the script and design to do all the winking...While ‘Rosewater’ isn't quite in the same league as ‘Little Shop’, it's still considerably more enjoyable and more socially relevant than many of the new musicals being written in 2016.” Full Review

AM New York

“A freewheeling musical comedy with political themes and a serious streak underneath it all...The songs are fresh, fun and occasionally heartfelt...The storytelling can be rough and chaotic, but that is to be expected with this kind of property...I would not be surprised if this production serves as the steppingstone for a longer run. However, even if that does not happen, it should—nay, must—receive a cast album." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"This material is tops: right up there with the very best of what Ashman and Menken have ever done...There's some serious content at work, and if it's not exactly downplayed, it's given a glimmering gloss through both the sprightly book and the dazzling score...Alas, the evening can't quite maintain its stratospheric stature...A preachiness creeps in...Even so, the cumulative effect of it all sends you out on a high you won't descend from easily." Full Review


"Younger audience members may not get some of the many cultural references. Nor are they likely to walk out with one of the songs embedded in their ears. That said, the Gilbert and Sullivan flavor of the numbers and the overall smartness of the lyrics are enjoyable...This is especially thanks to the wonderfully versatile cast headed by Santino Fontana…Director Michael Mayer has made the most of Vonnegut's dark satire...Bravo for bringing it back and in such fine form." Full Review


"It’s not a lost masterpiece but it’s a mildly entertaining curio…The music is delightfully jaunty and the lyrics are marvelously witty but unfortunately their accomplished efforts are components of problematic source material…It’s all labored, not very compelling and not as funny as intended...Mr. Fontana’s performance is the magnetic anchor of the show…This well mounted revival is a welcome opportunity to experience their tremendous early talents in this work despite its flaws." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“A sparkling, intelligent, and inventive production...Is the show too quirky to ever be commercial? Probably. But it’s also often deliciously funny and delightfully tuneful...Most importantly, in many ways, the show feels remarkably topical this week of the Democratic National Convention, especially as we meet the downtrodden, forgotten citizens of Rosewater...Food for thought, indeed.” Full Review

Woman Around Town

"Narrative displays several signature Vonnegut themes, the familiar device of God-like narration (James Earl Jones), and characters found in other books by the author...Howard Ashman’s book and lyrics are literate, specific, and filled with heart. Alan Menken’s music is, well, fine. This was their first collaboration...Fontana’s embodiment of Eliot is consistently engaging and sympathetic. Really, one wants to take him home to mom...Another terrific production by Encores." Full Review


"This one is really off-center. And we are delighted to have made its acquaintance, but suspect we won’t need to see it again…What a weirdly sweet and strange, dark mess this is...Santino Fontana is wonderful — vocally and dramatically — as Eliot Rosewater…We learn that people need two things — to be fed and to be respected, and that respect should be given to people who don’t deserve it. That’s silly, but a little profound." Full Review

Musical Theater Review

"A terrifically entertaining gem that’s spookily relevant as well...An exhilarating production, with a cast headed by the supremely talented Santino Fontana…It would be hard to imagine a better cast to maneuver the maze of plot. Fontana makes the quirky Eliot totally believable and totally engaging… With its rambunctious plotting, 'Rosewater' may not be a perfect gem, but nevertheless it’s a gem worth treasuring and polishing up now and then." Full Review


“Part of what makes ‘Rosewater’ so appealing, other than the terrific songs, is the yearning humanity that Ashman’s book brings out in the people of Rosewater’s eponymous hometown...The production is blessed with a near-perfect cast...The show is far from perfect. I’ve been rereading the script and still can’t quite figure out the logic of the show’s denouement. And some of the satire falls a bit flat. But on the whole, it’s a delight.” Full Review

Center on the Aisle

"It’s a fascinating show that functions and malfunctions on several levels. Musicalizing Vonnegut is difficult. However, given the current political climate and general disdain for one-percenters, it is a perfect show to revive…The production succeeds in the casting of the leads…Where they flail are the songs with patriotic melodies, despite Ashman's satirical lyrics. The atonality runs thin quickly even with an amazingly game ensemble." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Quirky, Entertaining, Fun, Unique, Theater with a message

See it if You like Kurt Vonnegut. You are fine with theater that has a message, kind of like how Harry Chapin songs are stories with intention.

Don't see it if You don't want a teaching moment at the theater & do want a linear plot. You prefer classical musicals that don't touch on important issues.

Quirky, Relevant, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if you're a fan of Alan Menken and want to see his early work, or if you're curious how Vonnegut's work might be represented on stage.

Don't see it if you're looking to see a fully-fleshed out musical, it feels as through it still needs quite a bit of work.

Ambitious, Disappointing

See it if you're curious about old Broadway musicals that didn't become hits.

Don't see it if you *need* to be 100% satisfied with every show you see. It's a frustrating parody on the wealthy & the "system" in the USA.

Funny, Original, Ambitious, Clever, Intelligent

See it if you want a unique chance to see a rarely-seen Menken musical.

Don't see it if book-in-hand concert productions aren't your speed.

Clever, Delightful, Hilarious, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you want to see and hear an early Alan Menken and Howard Ashman score. I miss Vonnegut's pointed humor/ satire but the play reminds of it.

Don't see it if you want to miss a rare and little-known musical gem based on a comic novel of the same name.

Clever, Delightful, Quirky

See it if you want to see an original, funny, sad story with wonderful music. Not sure why this isn't performed more - it's great!

Don't see it if you are a champion of the rich or don't like Vonnegut, Ahsman, or Menken.

Absorbing, Delightful, Enchanting

See it if you love Santino Fontana! He's incredible in this. Also it's just worth checking out an under produced show.

Don't see it if if you are looking for something big and flashy. It's a quaint, weird musical, but it works for Encores!

Funny, Quirky, Dated, Great singing

See it if you want to see a quirky 70s musical with some funny moments and strong vocal performances. You like Cheese Nips.

Don't see it if you don't like concert performances or actors being on book. Or if you were hoping for a full-scale production.

Delightful, Entertaining, Cute, Great singing

See it if you like Santino Fontana and charming stories.

Don't see it if you like big flashy musicals.

Clever, Intelligent, Relevant, Indulgent, Hilarious

See it if you're a Vonnegut fan, a Bernie fan, and Little Shop of Horrors fan, or a fan of laughing during your musical theatre.

Don't see it if you dislike postmodernist critiques of materialism in the wake of the horrors of WWII.

Funny, Dated, Unfocused

See it if You want to see the 1st Menken/Ashman musical. You love the idea of doing for your fellow man when the world tells you to think of yourself.

Don't see it if You want something focused. Rosewater's mind is all over the place, and because of that, so is the story.

Funny, Absorbing, Delightful, Great singing

See it if you want to see a rare musical done with an incredible collection of fantastic actors

Don't see it if you can't travel back in time because, well, it only ran 5 performances

Funny, Delightful, Quirky, Great singing

See it if you enjoy vonnegut or menken, or just want to see some great broadway actors in a quintessential musical.

Don't see it if you can't get over the encores style of production (minimal sets, scripts in hand).

Funny, Clever, Quirky, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you like the actors or Vonnegut's stories or Ashman/Menken music; the actors did a great job bringing the story to life #cheesenips

Don't see it if quirky shows aren't your thing; it's definitely a little "out there" in terms of plot, but I found it highly enjoyable and a lot of fun

Quirky, Confusing, Disappointing, Great singing, Nonsensical

See it if You're a big enough fan of Ashman and Menken to sit through two and a half hours of complete nonsense, which admittedly has good music.

Don't see it if You want a coherent plot that makes any sense at all.

Delightful, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Great singing

See it if You like great musicals based on thoughtful stories.

Don't see it if You need your musicals to be fully staged, and you think great production is more important than great content.

Funny, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if enjoy rarely performed musicals with an awesome cast. This show is a bit bizarre but the music & performances make it worth your time

Don't see it if are not a fan of Encores! style shows performed with book in hand. Or if you prefer smaller venues.

Santino fontana saves a daft musical

See it if Some good Ashman-Menken songs. Santino Fontana can do no wrong. The book is not believable. But James Earl Jones adds some uplift.

Don't see it if The book disappoints in that it seems to disparage the downtrodden people it is supposed to champion.

Funny, Ambitious, Clever, Dizzying, Entertaining

See it if you want to see something pretty original that shows flashes of the brilliant collaboration to come

Don't see it if you need a show that wholly hangs together and is more than a fun, aggressively weird diversion.

Original, Ambitious, Disappointing, Overrated, Slow

See it if you are a fan of little known works and/or satire

Don't see it if you expect to be moved or laugh a lot

Quirky, Banal, Disappointing, Cliched, Dated

See it if You like old fashioned shows, good musicians, a chance to see James Earle Jones

Don't see it if You do not like dated books, flubbed lines, over long plays

Delightful, Great acting, Quirky, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you want to see great actors bring to life a mostly forgotten gem of a musical with a beautiful, melodic score and a quirky story

Don't see it if you are not a fan of somewhat dark musical stories or want to see more of a full production than this staged reading entails.

Confusing, Slow, Dated, Not thought-provoking

See it if The enthusiastic Encores! audience seemed to love it. There was a loud ovation at the end. Production values and cast were excellent.

Don't see it if I was bored stiff with the story & confusing libretto. The music is bouncy & a recording would be nice for posterity. But bury this show.

Funny, Great acting, Quirky, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you enjoy fabulous productions of average material. It was hilarious and the performances were great. It was handled as well as it could be.

Don't see it if you don't like simplistic yet convoluted morality tales. It's hard to say where this goes wrong. It just doesn't pack the punch it should.

Funny, Quirky, Dated, Entertaining, Fluffy

See it if You enjoy quirky musicals or are a serious fan of Mencken & Ashman

Don't see it if You like a straightforward narrative or are put off by zaniness

Cast & Creatives (23)