Review Round Up: Paradise Square, Ethel Barrymore Theatre

The new musical has now opened on Broadway – let’s find out what critics had to say about it…

Time Out: *** “Director Moisés Kaufman stages all of the above with a sense of grave pageantry that gets a solid assist from Allen Moyer’s rotating set and Toni-Leslie James’s rich array of petticoats and vests. It’s a handsome production, with a talented and notably large cast; the exciting dance sequences, choreographed by Bill T. Jones, are among the show’s highlights, though one senses a missed opportunity in depicting the cross-pollination of Irish step dancing and Black tap traditions.”

Chicago Tribune: “All of the writerly comings and goings can be felt at times as designer Allen Moyer’s turntable set spins, although far less than in Chicago, thanks to the unifying efforts of Howland’s growing suite of music, which is rich, earnest and emotionally potent.”

Deadline: “Other performers have their stand-out moments too, notably Shively and DuPont as the friendly, if increasingly desperate, dance rivals. Choreographer Bill T. Jones favors traditional Irish stepdance for Shively, and for DuPont leans heavy into both African Juba, with its rhythmic stomping and slapping, and Nicholas Brothers-style tap. Historical authenticity is beside the point: Jones also infuses his own brand of avant garde balletic movements into the mix, a blend that can be thrilling at times and just confounding at others.”

Vulture: “Dance and history and race and loss tempered with hope — what a subject for a musical this would be, if only Paradise Square had managed to theatricalize it. There’s room for it in its two hours and 45 minutes, but the gluey (and clearly glued-together) book by Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas, and Larry Kirwan uses the real setting and events without, somehow, actually telling their story. Production queasiness is part of the problem, as is the script’s upside-down logic. Corruption-by-a-thousand-fixes accounts for the rest.”

Variety: “Only when “Paradise Square” clears the way for dance, and everything falls away between soles and the floor, does it strike anywhere close to the heart.”

New York Post: “And, while there is an overabundance of dance by Bill T. Jones, and the disparate styles (Irish, African, interpretive) don’t quite gel, they have terrific energy. The production numbers would knock us over if there weren’t so damn many.”

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