THE MUSICAL Tuck Everlasting, which began its life at the Alliance Theatre last season, opened Tuesday night on Broadway to mostly mixed but positive-leaning reviews, and a good notice from The New York Times.
“Family-friendly musicals on Broadway generally come in just one flavor: flashy,” wrote Charles Isherwood in the Times. “Enter Tuck Everlasting, a warm-spirited and piercingly touching musical that has nothing flashy or splashy about it. The nearest this small-scale production comes to the kind of spectacle we associate with kiddie bait is a toad hopping across the stage. … Among the many refreshing surprises is this reminder that a musical doesn’t necessarily have to sing or speak its truths to bring them home to us.”
Much of the Alliance cast (New York actors, mostly) moved with the show, including Sarah Charles Lewis, the young Atlanta actor making her Broadway debut as Winnie Foster, the 11-year-old protagonist in this story about eternal life. Others repeating their roles include Tony Award nominee Carolee Carmelo as Ma Tuck, Andrew Keenan-Bolger as Jesse Tuck, Robert Lenzi as Miles Tuck, Michael Park as Pa Tuck and Tony nominee Terrence Mann as the Man in the Yellow Suit.
The musical, based on the popular 1975 children’s book by Natalie Babbitt, is at the Broadhurst Theatre on West 44th Street in an open-ended run. It’s directed and choreographed, as it was at the Alliance, by Tony winner Casey Nicholaw, who now has four shows running concurrently on Broadway. The others: The Book of Mormon, Aladdin and Something Rotten!
Here’s what other critics from New York, national publications and websites said about Tuck:
- Mark Kennedy for the Associated Press: “Tuck Everlasting, the new musical that deals with eternal life, has wisely been put in the hands of someone whose work on Broadway never seems to die — director Casey Nicholaw. … The show is wonderfully crafted, a Nicholaw hallmark. Poignancy mixes well with humor, the songs are fresh and sweet, the set is blissful and the performances honest.”
- Linda Winer in Newsday: “From the small world of unexpected pleasures comes Tuck Everlasting, a gentle but hardly lightweight fantasy musical about an 11-year-old girl and the prospect of eternal life. … This touching low-tech show is for an underserved niche audience — families who want to be thoughtfully charmed for a few hours after being hyper-entertained by Wicked and Matilda.”
- Frank Rizzo in Variety: “With Matilda exiting Broadway in January, there’s a new singing pre-teen hoping to generate the same family-audience appeal. But whether Winnie Foster can connect with all-ages theatergoers will depend on their inclination for sentiment, moralistic storytelling and a show that’s nothing if not sincere. … More jaded theatergoers will likely find the proceedings not so much timeless as time-consuming — a production rooted in the twee of life.”
Frank Scheck in The Hollywood Reporter: “A sweet concoction that feels in over its head amidst the flashier delights of Wicked and Matilda, among many others. … The book is more serviceable than inspired. The tuneful country and folk music-influenced score by composer Chris Miller and lyricist Nathan Tysen is equally unmemorable. … The real find is Lewis, who amazingly is 11 years old in real life and whose precocious talent suggests that she may secretly be immortal herself.”
- David Cote for Time Out NY: “The larger problem lies in Claudia Shear and Tim Federle’s lumpy book, which takes too long to establish tone and stakes in the first act, leaving a lot of mopping up in the second. Nicholaw does his best with a prettily designed production, and a late dance sequence to illustrate what becomes of Winnie is quite moving. For all Tuck’s thematic concerns with immortality, I doubt a long life awaits it in this competitive market for Broadway family fare.”
- Joe Dziemianowicz for the New York Daily News: “The characters are pretty sketchy, but the cast makes the most of what they’ve got. In the end, Tuck Everlasting is allowed to breathe. Like people, musicals need that to live.”
- Elisabeth Vincentelli for the New York Post: “It’s pretty crazy that this story about regret, mortality and big life choices — make that “eternal life or death” choices — could end up so toothless. … The actors are largely engaging, especially seasoned pros like Carolee Carmello, Terrence Mann and Fred Applegate. As Winnie, Sarah Charles Lewis is 11 going on Laura Benanti — the downside is that she projects such unflagging confidence that you never doubt that Winnie will be all right no matter what she decides. So much for pathos.”
- Jeremy Gerard for Deadline: “A Broadway musical so treacly you may leave the Broadhurst Theatre wanting to kick a puppy. This is mildly surprising because the team behind the show is not known for overdosing on corn syrup.”
- Melissa Rose Bernardo for Entertainment Weekly: “Onstage, this fantasy-driven story remains stubbornly earthbound. Not that Tuck isn’t trying its darndest. The actors are appealing — particularly Keenan-Bolger, impishly charming as the 17-year-old Jesse Tuck, and the extraordinary Lewis as our intrepid 11-year-old heroine. … But they’re practically drowning in a flood of banalities and a deluge of clichés.”
- Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune: “The score has echoes of Finian’s Rainbow and Brigadoon and often showcases the sound of flute or penny whistle. And the choreography, by Nicholaw, is balletic, pretty, interested in the social dance forms of the 19th century and fundamentally circular, sending the ensemble members swirling through the years. Even much of the acting is plumby and fantastical. For a competent Broadway show aiming to capture the family market, such a safe approach is hardly unreasonable. … But it removes much of the tension from a story filled with agonizing decision-making and enough talk of life and death to keep anyone awake at night.”
- Steven Suskin in the Huffington Post: “It shall be interesting to see whether Tuck can overcome its shortcomings and build itself into a hit; there are some who opine that this well-loved tale with an indomitable red-headed heroine will attract all those mothers and daughters who flock to Wicked. Perhaps it will, although it has a disadvantage of opening amidst a throng of late-season musicals. Another issue: If it’s a rollicking, woodsy, folksy, down-home slice of Americana you want, you can find one a couple of blocks away at The Robber Bridegroom. With Steven Pasquale, charm galore and a wildly more tuneful score.”
- Jesse Green for Vulture: “This is, almost until the end, a ruthlessly by-the-book treatment of a high-concept, low-wattage fairy tale. Those nostalgic for their seventh-grade enthusiasms may love it; I found it to be a musical for the child in someone else.”