Pacific Overtures
Closed 1h 30m
Pacific Overtures
81

Pacific Overtures NYC Reviews and Tickets

81%
(193 Reviews)
Positive
90%
Mixed
7%
Negative
3%
Members say
Great singing, Intelligent, Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining

About the Show

George Takei stars in Classic Stage Company's revival of Stephen Sondheim's musical about a samurai and a fisherman caught up in the westernization of the East.

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Member Reviews (193)

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75
Intelligent, Disappointing, Great show hobbled by director, Wonderful music

See it if you love Sondheim; you'll hear his fabulous score/lyrics. Brave Doyle's misguided paring to experience S's brilliance. Impt history lesson.

Don't see it if you've seen a good production. CSC's does not fully engage emotions. Lots of male voices, few female. Distracting staging ex: fabric strips Read more

75
Enchanting, Clever, Intelligent, Historical, Quirky

See it if History lesson set to music. I liked the minimalist staging. The songs were interesting and well performed.

Don't see it if The characters were shallow. There was little dramatic tension. The history wasn't entirely accurate.

79
Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Entertaining

See it if you want to hear Sondheim's rapturous score elegantly sung in a rarely-revived, if stripped down & highly edited, masterpiece.

Don't see it if You're a Sondheim purist. The minimalism distills the show's message & robs the musical of is grandeur. The edits cut the intended impact. Read more

85
Ambitious, Great staging, Intelligent, Slow, Entertaining

See it if Classic Doyle streamlining doesn't mar Sondheim's thematic concerns Beautiful stage imagery enhanced by artful singing; chamber quality

Don't see it if Despite quality production, piece has a truncated feel Several noteworthy songs cut, ending has an abrupt feel to it but excellent Sondheim

92
Absorbing, Clever, Great writing, Relevant, Resonant

See it if history.. Sondheim.. singing.. Sondheim relevance and Sondheim compromise vote... partners 95 my 90 great set

Don't see it if you are a purist and need the original 1974? rendition. many songs cut and now reduced to 90 minutes

90
Clever, Great singing, Great staging, Great writing, Thought-provoking

See it if You want great singing combined w/great lyrics. You want to see a story of Japan from an Asian perspective.

Don't see it if You hate Sondheim. You love the original Pacific Overtures & don't want any changes.

85
Great staging, Thought-provoking, Clever, Entertaining

See it if you like Sondheim, classic musicals, Asian themes, or stripped-down productions. Doyle also makes great use of the minimalistic staging.

Don't see it if you need a strong resolution. The ending of this show felt rushed to me, but that's a larger issue with the book--not the direction.

85
Great music, Entertaining, Great singing, Intelligent, Ambitious

See it if you enjoy using your imagination in a way you cannot with grand sets; you appreciate Sondheim and creative staging.

Don't see it if you prefer your musicals in technicolor, with beautiful costumes and sets; small scale is not to your liking.

Critic Reviews (34)

The New York Times
May 4th, 2017

"Sometimes-glorious, sometimes-lackluster revival...The lack of clarity that results from a cast of 10 actors playing dozens of characters means that the shock you are meant to feel as Japan hurtles toward a violent modernity is diminished...But...something else is enhanced. The portrait of history as the sum of transactions between individuals who usually seem irrelevant was never as powerful as it is here...So let’s call the screen half full—which, with Sondheim’s songs, is more than enough."
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Time Out New York
May 4th, 2017

"Boiled down—with all the loss of flavor that implies—to a somber 90-minute procession...Instead of coups de théâtre, this production offers coupures: edits, edits, edits. Gone is much of the material that gave 'Pacific Overtures' levity and texture...Not all is dire. The opening and closing numbers are confusing, but the major middle ones are cleanly handled...Too much of 'Pacific Overtures' is in what Doyle throws away. Striving for lean, he makes the show seem thin."
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The Hollywood Reporter
May 4th, 2017

"This streamlined adaptation, performed with soulful feeling by a small multi-role cast, and told with haunting narrative simplicity, rewards being savored on its own subtle terms...The frugal restraint of the production highlights the delicacy of one of Sondheim's most evocative scores...This is a lovingly mounted staging of a unique show, a sorrowful account of violation, naivety and shattered peace, and a culture clash musical imbued with solemn humanity."
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Variety
May 4th, 2017

"Doyle is such a wizard, he could probably stage a show on a postage stamp...The stylized performances of a superb Asian-American cast are ideally suited to this minimalist production of one of the great musicals of our time...Spectacle has no place in this production; it’s replaced with intimacy...The close staging also allows each lyric line to ring out with astonishing clarity...Every song seems perfectly pitched to every social atrocity executed in the name of progress."
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The Wall Street Journal
May 4th, 2017

"The tone and scale of the production are enthrallingly intimate, and the simplicity of the presentation means that the gorgeous score stands out in the highest possible relief...The ensemble cast is solidly competent...'Pacific Overtures' didn’t need to be cut by an hour, much less subjected to a politically tendentious rewrite...This revised version works superlatively well in its own way. For all my reservations, I wouldn’t have missed Doyle’s richly involving production for the world."
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Deadline
May 5th, 2017

"Doyle abjures spectacle, and that’s all well and good. But what’s sacrificed here is not the big effect so much as the bold gesture that underscores the seismic character of the history unfolding through these indelible songs and actions. Trimmed to 90 uninterrupted minutes, it’s diminished, like listening to Beethoven through a transistor radio or looking at the moon through the wrong end of a telescope. It demands a leap of faith to fully comprehend."
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AM New York
May 4th, 2017

"Like a bonsai tree that has been pruned with hedge clippers instead of scissors, or a barber shop customer who got too close a shave from Sweeney Todd...Some will find that Doyle brings clarity and intimacy to a challenging work, and others will be angry over the textual omissions or the lack of visuals. Personally, I found the production to be a plain and unexciting affair that, for the most part, drained away rather than enhanced the musical’s impact."
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Theatermania
May 4th, 2017

"Weidman's book feels incredibly prescient in the context of today, when the political discussion has shifted from right-versus-left to open-versus-closed...John Doyle, who has previously distilled Sondheim in smartly pared-down productions, proves to be the ideal director and set designer for this show that is best presented with elegant simplicity...The sound is magnificently rich in this intimate space...'Pacific Overtures' also benefits from the performance of George Takei."
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BroadwayWorld
May 9th, 2017

“A chance to see a terrific ensemble of actors taken from the New York stage's severely underutilized pool of Asian-American talent…There's no denying the graceful intimacy of the CSC mounting…The whittled-down text may dilute the musical's impact somewhat, but the wit, intelligence and incisive exploration of history's issues are still evident. Rarely is a musical this non-traditional and daring also executed so well, and the CSC company is an expert and engaging group.”
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Lighting & Sound America
May 5th, 2017

“Doyle's new production decisively makes the argument for a clear, direct approach…At times it seems like a series of set pieces. But what stunning set pieces!…‘Pacific Overtures’ also contains what are arguably two of the most brilliant sequences in any Sondheim musical...Everyone in Doyle's vocally gifted cast blends into a seamless ensemble…Delicate and tough-minded, a tensile thing of beauty that may at last find a place among Sondheim's major works.”
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Talkin' Broadway
May 4th, 2017

"The elusive heart of the Stephen Sondheim/John Weidman musical 'Pacific Overtures' remains missing in action in director John Doyle's truncated Classic Stage Company production...'Pacific's' strengths are, unsurprisingly, musical ones...The intimacy of the setting heightens our awareness of an overreliance on narrative exposition to tell its story...If you can navigate your way past the problems, you will find there is much to enjoy. The cast is uniformly excellent."
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Theater Pizzazz
May 5th, 2017

"Doyle has maintained this minimalist approach, although he has Jonathan Tunick’s gorgeous orchestrations of Sondheim’s score played by an eight-instrument ensemble...With this spare, stripped-down approach, Doyle has illuminated the relevance of 'Pacific Overtures' 'We live in a time when theatre has a job to do that it hasn’t been doing for a while, and that is to ask the political questions,' says Doyle. His bold production has the vision and clarity to do just that."
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CurtainUp
May 4th, 2017

"For theatergoers willing to indeed put their imaginations to work, this streamlined production will be a rewarding experience...Why shouldn't everyone approach this production with an open mind if Mr. Sondheim approved the cuts and changes needed to whittle his show into a single act...Mr. Doyle's less is more approach is a refreshing change...There's no denying that this is a musically rich, intriguing experience, well worth a trip to the Classic Stage."
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Front Row Center
May 5th, 2017

"The tone of the play is somewhat pedantic...The resulting evening is a little dull, and the unfamiliar score, while capable of rendering up some gems, is not as satisfying as many other Sondheim compositions...The entire acting ensemble is flat-out excellent, individually possessed of superb musical and acting skills and collectively capable of playing like a tight-knit team...George Takei's droll, assured presence is alone worth the price of admission."
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Front Mezz Junkies
May 4th, 2017

"George Takei majestically guides us through this unique moment in history, one that is filled with fascinating details and interesting tidbits. But does it make a compelling musical? One wouldn’t think so. But there is an elegance to the storytelling, a lovely culturally pointed design and directing point of view, some beautiful singing, and one can’t deny the Sondheim style...Musically, this piece is lovely and moving and the story being told is a fascinating slice of history."
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Broadway Blog
May 8th, 2017

"There are a few cherished musical moments, but most of the score requires a pedagogical undertaking. Doyle does little to elevate or clarify the complex script, instead, stripping it down to an ensemble of actors playing multiple roles...Doyle’s staging, heavy on processionals and other stylized movements, traps the acting company in choreography that squelches any instinct for emotion, which is a shame given the immense onstage talent."
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C
May 4th, 2017

"Pomp and grandiosity have been replaced by simplicity and lucidity in John Doyle’s stunning new production of 'Pacific Overtures'...Doyle has made the story of the Westernization of Japan in the 1850s as clear as a freshly Windexed mirror...Chief among the show’s standouts is the fabulous Steven Eng...While Doyle’s less-is-more approach to the material works most of the time, it doesn’t do justice to the show’s finale 'Next'...So, no one bats 100 percent."
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Theatre's Leiter Side
May 4th, 2017

“Doyle creates lots of imaginative business, such as the precise snapping open and shut of fans by the men playing girl prostitutes in ‘Welcome to Kanagawa’...Doyle's production tears away so many visual elements that it endangers clear comprehension of the book's many transitions in time and place. Following the story without clear markers of character and location puts the onus on the music and lyrics, which, however well-done, are not a sufficient substitute for narrative clarity.”
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The Clyde Fitch Report
May 7th, 2017

"An elegantly ritualistic treatment of the musical...Now, the two-act 'Pacific Overtures' runs 90 minutes, no intermission. Thus, the weakening of Japan’s resolve against allowing entry to foreigners feels faster than it should...The austere tunes bear the weight of convincing authenticity, even when they run the risk of blurring into one another after awhile...Performing with the somber affect and measured pace Doyle is after, the cast members are uniformly good and true."
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Village Voice
May 17th, 2017

"With its reduced orchestra, modest singing style, and low-key spectacle, Doyle’s approach has its strengths. We really hear those dense lyrics; we lean in to appreciate the subtleties of the caste system. But this production, while scrupulously acted, seems to be having a conversation with itself, not the audience. There’s anger and irony in the material that dissipates in Doyle’s hermetic coolness…Mixed though the results may be, this earnest experiment proves the piece infinitely adaptable."
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The Huffington Post
May 4th, 2017

"By paring the show to its roots, Doyle’s 'Pacific Overtures' makes for altogether terrific theatergoing...By removing the stylistic wall that we have previously viewed the proceedings through, it enhances the dramatic power...At many spots through the evening, you might well notice that your fellow playgoers are positively beaming. Not because the show is full of chuckles; it’s just that it’s enthralling to see Sondheim’s 'Pacific' songs work so magically well."
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The Wrap
May 4th, 2017

"Doyle has made the inspired choice to cast Ann Harada in a number of roles, and she brings her inimitable wry panache to several scenes...You will appreciate the traditional casting of Megan Masako Haley. She unleashes one of the purist soprano voices to be heard outside an opera house. The male actors, unfortunately, fail to make much of an impression...In addition to Harada and Haley, the other bright spot of this 'Pacific Overtures' is the orchestra."
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Wolf Entertainment Guide
May 5th, 2017

"No matter what you do to Sondheim, his genius shines through...The work emerges as very much of a mood piece simply staged. The score is played beautifully...The singing has a poetic quality, as does the overall mood...And yet this comes across as 'Pacific Overtures' light, a work that begs to be seen in its original scope...But if someone has never attended other productions, seeing this version can be a gratifying experience."
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Newsday
May 4th, 2017

"Chunks of the talkiest parts of Weidman’s book have been cut, somehow without sacrificing clarity, humor or the complexity of mixed emotions...With little more than the occasional parasol or fan, the tiny but mighty production shows the fascinations and sorrows of modernization and trade...The gorgeous music still mingles the foreign sounds of wooden flutes with Western vaudeville...Questions about progress have seldom felt as authentic."
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The Huffington Post
May 5th, 2017

"'Pacific Overtures' has always seemed more of an essay than a musical, thoughtful and probing rather than emotionally engaging. Doyle turns that flaw into a virtue...Every element of this 'Pacific Overtures' allows us to savor the individual moments without demanding more than it is ready to offer...Letting the show flow in stately style from start to finish is revelatory, allowing the musical’s real balance to emerge and the focus to remain on the Japanese point of view."
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WNBC
May 4th, 2017

"A spare and serene story that seems particularly relevant in a day when nations everywhere are reexamining stances on globalization...'Pretty Lady,' one of my favorite songs from the score, is handled beautifully, with the slaying of British soldiers at song’s end left mostly to the imagination...'Pacific Overtures' is a complicated musical, even by Sondheim standards. But Doyle has shaped a delicate production that’s comparatively easy to parse."
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Simon SEEZ
May 5th, 2017

"A shining example of the concept musical...The handsome but purposefully spare production has such a delicate yet stirring ambiance that I can’t imagine anyone interested in either Japan or the American musical theater not able to enjoy its riches no matter how reduced as it is now in visual spectacle…The ten members of the ensemble are all top-notch…You can’t ask for more pleasure than to find yourself floating in the middle of the sea with Sondheim, Doyle and company.”
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M
May 6th, 2017

"If there’s such a thing as minimalist grandeur, director John Doyle achieves it...The talent throughout the company is impressive, creating one grand musical highlight after another...There are times when the condensation of the script makes the narrative challenging to follow, but the drift is always there...The show comes to a strangely abrupt ending...It’s possible, too, that my hopeful expectation that this entrancing show would simply last longer made the finish seem so unkind."
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scribicide
May 4th, 2017

"'Pacific Overtures' indulges in an East/West narrative that, however well-intentioned, mostly subscribes to colonialist infantilizing of the Japanese...There are very few opportunities for Asian-American actors in New York, and it is heartening to see that they make up the entire cast here...[but] I wish they had been employed on a better project; this one bows under the weight of the Western gaze."
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Epoch Times
May 13th, 2017

"Director John Doyle has done an excellent job here, cutting scenes and songs from the original work to give the story a more streamlined approach, and at times, almost a fluidity. While the result may upset some theatrical purists, what one is left with is something quite intimate and emotionally connected. The cast, many playing multiple roles, is quite enjoyable...An eye-opening delight."
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BroadwaySelect
May 8th, 2017

"An effective production...Those who know 'Pacific Overtures' and admire the extraordinary 'Chrysanthemum Tea' might want to commit hara-kiri once they hear that Doyle has dropped it...Nevertheless, one must admit that 'Pacific Overtures' has so many assets that even those who love the song might be so swept up in the blissful 90 minutes that they’ll only later realize that they didn’t hear it."
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Cabaret Scenes
May 6th, 2017

"A certified winner...Communicates the story of the Westernization of Japan with renewed power and significance...This 'Pacific Overtures' is a shining example of 'less is more.' One of the keys to the success of this production lies in its all-encompassing intimacy, both in feel and in the physical playing space...The ensemble cast are all strong performers who bring superb vocal and acting abilities to the production...Heartstrings will be pulled in a major way."
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Film Festival Traveler
May 13th, 2017

"'Pacific Overtures' was made for Broadway: its huge cast and expansive story line about the opening of Japan need a big stage...Unfortunately, John Doyle has downsized 'Pacific Overtures' in its staging and its music, which reduces it to a highlights performance...In a generally fine cast, Takei’s stately presence as The Reciter stands out. Too bad Doyle’s unfocused production reduces a provocative piece of theater to a stale deconstruction mistaking poverty for intimacy."
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Edge New York
May 9th, 2017

“While Doyle does an admirable job in focusing on the musical's humanity rather than history, he achieves this with draconian edits to the book and physical production. What's left is not unlike a bowl of ramen without the broth—substance devoid of flavor…Visually, the evening also feels trapped by its simplicity...I did find some relief...during the song 'Someone in a Tree'...Far from flashy, it was a simple, suggested representation that was absent from the rest of the evening."
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