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Perez Reviews: The Visit

Thursday night saw the opening of the last new show of the current Broadway season, Kander & Ebb's long-in-the-works The Visit.

The show was originally supposed to reach Broadway in 2001 as a starring vehicle for Angela Lansbury. Life happened. Lansbury dropped out. Chita Rivera stepped in. And 14 years later it finally debuts in New York!

The Visit reteams the iconic composing duo of Kander & Ebb with frequent collaborator Rivera and playwright Terrence McNally, both of whom worked on Kiss Of The Spider Woman with them.

Like many Kander & Ebb shows (Cabaret, Chicago), The Visit explores dark themes.

A rich old woman comes back to her hometown after being gone a lifetime to avenge her past!

That rich old woman is the rich in talent Rivera, who at 82 years old may be making her final appearance on Broadway. And it is quite the star turn for her!

We last saw her on the stage in The Mystery Of Edwin Drood, which was not a good vehicle for her. The Visit, after many revisions throughout the years and finally being (smartly) trimmed down to it's current state of performed without intermission, is custom-tailored for Rivera.

This is Chita at her best! There's even a little dancing!

This old broad's still got it!

The production is on the smaller scale of Broadway musicals, but it is beautifully done by director John Doyle.

The show is a lot like Chicago in that it lives in an alternate world. It's based on reality but the whole affair is rather surreal. We kept waiting for the end and a reveal that it was all a dream, which never happened.

In addition to Rivera, the real star of the show is the music.

Fred Ebb may no longer be with us but John Kander is - he was at the opening! - and these songs they have left behind are of the highest quality.

Oftentimes the later work of composers isn't as good as their younger output. Thankfully, The Visit is not that case! These songs are some of their best!

The cast is mostly great, though we wish they would have chosen a better vocalist as Rivera's main love interest.

And kudos to newcomer John Riddle, who has a bright future ahead of him - and not just because he was so pretty to look at. He was captivating!

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Perez Reviews: Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago has some of the best singing on Broadway!

BIG belting!

EXQUISITE vocal arrangements by music director/supervisor Ron Melrose!

GORGEOUS orchestrations by Danny Troob to really show it off!

And, unfortunately, THE WORST book of the new Broadway season.

This musical would have worked sooooo much better as an opera - without any dialogue. Or maybe with heavy narration and minimal dialogue.

Michael Weller had the merciless task of condensing the long book/film (both long) into a long and hard-to-follow musical. And as if that weren't daunting enough, he was also faced with not just editing down but also creating…. lots of cheese!

This love story is so melodramatic that it's hard to find any of it believable and even harder to not audibly laugh at some of this campy dialogue.

It's a shame because many of the songs - with music by Lucy Simon and lyrics by Michael Korie & Amy Powers - are quite beautiful and really good.

It doesn't help either that director Des McAnuff has loaded the show with so many guns going off continually. It's incredibly loud and distracting!

Kelly Barrett as Zhivago's love interest is a revelation in this role and absolutely spectacular! And Paul Alexander Nolan, whom we've seen in previous productions, delivers the best performance we've ever seen him give in Doctor Zhivago.

As for the title character, Tam Mutu would have been served far better if - like we said - this were an opera!

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Perez Reviews: Living On Love

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If you're a fan of Renée Fleming, then you will love Living On Love, the new Broadway play about an aging opera singer starring the real life opera singer.

Fleming is making her Broadway debut with the comedy, which seems to have been created as a starring vehicle for her. Unfortunately, this is no Master Class.

Fleming's singing voice, which she gifts the audience in snippets throughout the play, is a force of nature. Unfortunately, this show fails to come anywhere near her brilliance as a vocalist.

And, since she's not given the best material to work with, Fleming does not shine the way she should!

She's funny and endearing, but playwright Joe DiPietro paints her character so broad and cartoonish that she's too over-the-top and the audience doesn't root for her. The same could be said of her husband in the show, the usually superb Douglass Sills, who in Living On Love is trying so hard! Too hard! He's overcompensating for a fine but far from great script.

There are moments of greatness - and truly funny insider jokes - but those are not enough to make this overly familiar and rather generic show feel as special as it needs to be!

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Perez Reviews: An American In Paris

Stunning, sensational, dazzling and epic! These are just a few of the adjectives that first come to mind when describing An American In Paris.

It took over 60 years for this show to make it to Broadway, and it was well worth the wait!

This grand story of love and art and is done justice and so lovely and artful!!!

This is now the best show we have seen this season - by far!

Based on the iconic Vincent Minnelli film starring Gene Kelly and with a score from the Gershwin brothers, An American In Paris features some of the most beloved songs of the 20th century - from I Got Rhythm to 'S Wonderful and They Can't Take That Away From Me.

An American In Paris is both classic and ultra modern. It feels like West Side Story, if it were created today.

EVERYTHING works in unison here. It is what musical theater in its most excellence should do! Everything furthers the plot along!

The songs! The dancing! The sets! The lighting! The costumes! It's all spectacular and all the vision of Christopher Wheeldon, who shockingly makes his directory with An American In Paris.

His choices are so bold and inspired! Assured! Nothing would indicate this is a first-time director!

Wheeldon's background is in ballet and he also serves as the show's choreographer. And WOW is there some dancing in this show!

No other Broadway musical has as much dancing as An American In ParisAn American In Paris! And all kinds of dance - from ballet to tap! It feels very Jerome Robbins, and that is a very high compliment!

The dance numbers are so exquisite!

The scenic design is so inventive!

We can't stop thinking about it all, and especially Robert Fairchild in the Gene Kelly role.

The entire cast is great, but Fairchild gives one of THE BEST performances we have ever seen in the theater!

Not only is he an exceptional dancer - he's a member of NYC Ballet - but he also has the vocal and acting chops to pull this all off so seemingly effortlessly.

He is working so hard on that stage but he makes it seem easy!

This is a Tony-winning performance and a timeless production that must be seen by everyone worldwide!

We are glowing from An American In Paris!

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Perez Reviews: Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland fails to take flight - figuratively AND literally.

Harvey Weinstein made a bold and inspiring choice in hiring director Diane Paulus to helm his first Broadway musical as a lead producer.

Unfortunately, Paulus' own genius is to blame for Finding Neverland's lack of pixie dust.

Paulus - a multiple Tony Award winner - is known for her visionary productions. The recent and inspired revivals of Pippin, Porgy & Bess and Hair are all her genius creations.

Paulus has set the bar high. Exceptionally high! And in Finding Neverland she does not reach her usual level of brilliance, sadly.

This production is good but not great. We liked it but didn't LOVE the show.

For a musical about the creation of and featuring Peter Pan, one would expect flying and all sorts of theatrical razzle dazzle. Those moments of wonder and awe are few and fleeting, though.

This Finding Neverland feels confused. It wants to be Wicked but it can't. The central themes of this show - love and death - are pretty dark and Finding Neverland is definitely made for adults.

The scenic design, by Scott Pask, was fine but far from great. Same for the costumes, by Suttirat Anne Larlarb.

The songs, by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, are hit and miss. Some, like Circus Of Your Mind, are outstanding. But most are just fine.

The best thing about Finding Neverland, however, is the casting. Both Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer shine in their roles. If only they had been given better everything to work with!

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