Sunday, May 23, 2010

Banana Shpeel in New York Escapes Chicago's Dreadful Reception; Earns Mostly Negative Notices

UPDATE, 5/24, 4 PM PST: I've now included excerpts from the NYT notice.

Among the first notices out on Cirque du Soleil's new stage show at the Beacon Theatre, slated to run through August and then hit the touring circuit, only does Variety (an early supporter, also, of Wintuk) give this attempt at a new vaudeville bash a fairly solid thumbs up. Others range from nasty to pleasantly mediocre. Here are a sampling of excerpts:

From NewJerseyNewsRoom.Com: "That loud thud resonating from the Upper West Side last night was the opening performance of "Banana Shpeel," a dud new event from Cirque du Soleil that bowed at the Beacon Theatre on Wednesday. ... Aiming for a summer-long run, "Banana Shpeel" is a disappointing misfire of tedious comedy, generally thrill-free acrobatic acts and lots of mediocre tap dancing."

From Variety: "... the delays and the Cirque/MSG bankroll have allowed writer/director David Shiner to turn this fruit salad into a veritable banana split of a show, with three creamy scoops topped by gloppy fudge and plenty of nuts ...has you laughing from both sides of your seat ... a boisterously winning funfest."

From the Associated Press: "The new, lighthearted variety show "Banana Shpeel" features a visually brilliant but disappointingly spotty program of acrobatics, juggling, dance and mostly tiresome slapstick."

From The New York Times: ..."clown eradication is something that would benefit all of humanity and would certainly benefit this show, which is not as entertaining as something that lasts almost two and a half hours ought to be ...You know your show has a bad book when the audience spends its time wishing the lady with the juggling feet would come back."

The NYT has posted four consumer reviews, three of them scathing, one a rave. Here are a couple:

The Bad:

"This was so bad, really, really bad. There were three maybe four good acts, but the concept "shpeel" was so completely unfunny, and so overworked, as to make one shake one's head. It seemed to be a Las Vegas version of a corny vaudeville show, but when you then open that in New York City it is just asking for trouble. David Shiner, the original main clown of Cirque and a prominent pioneer of the New Vaudeville, should have known better, but I am guessing he is seeing levels of irony that are just deadened by anesthetizing boredom. I feel bad for the few real acts that were sandwiched in here. There are two reasons, I see for this coming to pass. One, a long debt to one of Cirque's original talents. Two, by stretching themselves far too thin, the corporate behemoth that is Cirque Du Soleil just needs to get product out there, and standards are a casualty." -- Dennis, NY

The Good:
"Opening night of this show was well worth the delays! Cirque wisely postponed and reworked and the result is an incredibly entertaining show featuring the old adage 'go big or go home'. No other show features so much in the space of two hours. To begin with, costumes, set, lighting in this incredible theatre were both exciting and magical, and then the throw-back story line of a bygone era - blustery Broadway producer being foiled by idiots - somehow Cirque reinvented the wheel - again. The characters were broad, the clowning was inspired - the entire audience was exploding with laughter. Then there was the dancing - its been a while since I've witnessed this kind of talent on a Broadway stage. The choreography makes other productions look like high school. The tap routines are thrilling - and one piece, looked like eccentric dance on a three-piece stage which moved up and down while the dancers moved across it - all the while in black-out glow costumes. This show is what entertainment used to be. Thanks Cirque, for taking the time to get it right!
– ebw, NY

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