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. More…
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.
“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
“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
"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
"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
"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
“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
"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
“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
"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
"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’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
"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 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.
See it if You are a fan of Alan Menken and his work. This show does all of his masterpieces justice.
Don't see it if You are looking for a lot of complexity and reflection. This is a feel good show.
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.
See it if you're interested in a show that's never been more relevant to our times, with wonderful performances and notable songs.
Don't see it if you don't like a show that's a little odd or need a fully put-together performance.
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.
See it if you enjoy musical comedy in the classic tradition with terrific performances, a tuneful score and top notch lyrics. A delight.
Don't see it if you expect to see a perfect musical because after a terrific first act, the second act loses some steam.
See it if You like Alan Menken and great talent singing a standard style of Broadway music.
Don't see it if You want something new, don't like staged reading, don't believe in philanthropy
See it if you like the Encores concept of concert staging of great, forgotten musicals / you like comedy or Vonnegut / you're a fan of Menken & Ashman
Don't see it if you want to miss James Earl Jones or Santino Fontana (who is a national treasure) / seriously just see it before Saturday
See it if you want a show that somehow straddles that impossible line of being political without taking sides, funny but makes a serious statement.
Don't see it if You want serious. This show makes a serious statement but it has fun and makes fun of itself the whole way getting there. Delightful! Fun!
See it if you want to explore time capsule Vonnegut play that is charming, delightful and funny/sweet albeit slightly dated; great cast,clever lyrics
Don't see it if you don't like Encores productions
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.
See it if You are a fan of Menken and Ashman, love funny, satirical and quirky musicals, are a fan of Vonnegut or want some theater history
Don't see it if Like huge productions, or find quirky and satirical things stupid
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.
See it if You want to see the first Ashman/Menken show that is rarely produced. Or if you're a fan of Fontana who is amazing, as always.
Don't see it if You don't like satire or Vonnegut. Or if you want a fully staged production since this is only Encores.
See it if you like Alan Menken's music, you like Santino Fontana, or you want to see something just slightly bizarre and unlike anything else.
Don't see it if you don't like shows that are weird or difficult to explain.
See it if you have any appreciation for rarefied, stirring musical theatre that combines humor and heart
Don't see it if It's too late to see its limited performances, but, happily, you can listen to its score by accessing "Disney Ashman Demos" on You Tube.
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.
See it if you enjoy entertaining musicals that are very relevant to today's times. Also, if you want to see another sterling performance by Fontana.
Don't see it if you do not like satirical musicals. Or if you don not want to see an early work by Ashman and Menken.
See it if you want to see a flawed but beautiful presentation of an amazing composing team's earliest work.
Don't see it if you'd rather see the more polished later collaborations of Menken and Ashman, or you're not open to something a bit surreal and quirky.
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