Saturday, November 22, 2008
BOTTOM LINE: Boeing Boeing, the farcical revival that opened on Broadway last May and won the Tony for Best Revival of a Play last season, welcomes a new cast and keeps the antics rolling.
Man, Boeing Boeing is f'ing funny. It's a farce in every way: fast paced, obvious plot, outrageous characters in silly situations, lots of physical comedy. At a time where nationally respected comedy leans toward the snarky, intellectual side (i.e. 30 Rock), it's pretty cool that a 1960's French farce can hold its own on Broadway. This is especially true given its earlier American past; Boeing Boeing's first Broadway run in 1965 lasted only 23 performances. Overseas, audiences weren't so dismissive; a recent London revival gave the production a new life, which makes sense since Boeing Boeing embraces a genre and sensibility that Brits do oh so well. And now with its Broadway revival, it seems like audiences finally understand that the this silliness is brilliant.
The show has seen a recent cast change, but they've brought on some recognizable tv personalities. The tv connection is effective, as the play feels, in many ways, like a sitcom itself. And these tv actors are certainly comfortable on the stage (although they all have copius stage credits). There doesn't seem to be a disconnect in their ability to play to a large audience after a long history on the small screen. Bernard, the womanizing architect at the center of the debachury, is played by Ally McBeal alum Greg Germann (Bradley Witford was originally in the role). Bernard's three fiancées (no, they don't know about each other) include Paige Davis of Trading Spaces fame as the American fiancée, Rebecca Gayheart as the Italian fiancée, and Missi Pyle as the German fiancée. Thankfully, the brilliant Christine Baranski and Mark Rylance continue their roles as the Bernard's housekeeper and the friend, respectively. Rylance won a Tony award for his performance last June.
In a way, Baranski and Rylance are the motors for the show. Their entrances, exits and actions dictate the direction in which the plot unfolds. Since both have been in these roles for a while, it would be easy to start to phone it in, espeically for Rylance also played the part in the 2007 London production. But luckily, these actors both bring it like it's opening night. I saw the show on a cold Wednesday night, with a less-than-packed house, and they both delivered with energy and exuberance.
I think Boeing Boeing is a great choice if you want to see a show that's well put together and professional, but doesn't require much thought or critical viewing. It's a fun ride, completely easy to digest, with comedy ranging from entertaining to downright riotous. It never feels like it undermines the audience, nor does it require a moment's work to decipher the story. Boeing Boeing is just a good time, approachable for a vast age range, and will leave you feeling pleased and satisfied.
(Boeing Boeing plays at the Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue. Showtimes are Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm, Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm, and Sunday at 3pm. Ticket prices range from $36.50 to $110...I saw the show for $36.50 but was able to move up to a better seat. Visit boeingonbroadway.com for more info.)
Read Theatre Is Easy's original Boeing Boeing review by Zak here.