Review by Tulis McCall
In the very first scene of this very long production we meet Bick (Brian D’Arcy James) and Leslie (Kate Baldwin). It is a serious moment in their 27-year marriage. Leslie is upstage looking at Bick who sits down stage on a crate. His head is bowed, and all we can see of him is his big ol’ hat. My first thought was “Best Supporting Hat.” That’s how much this story grabbed me at the beginning, and I am sorry to say that it never strengthened its grip.
I guess a person would have to go back to the movie, or even the book, to see what was left in or taken out etc. - lacking that I’d have to say that it seems as though they left everything in. Kind of reminds me of the way I used to cook – I just tossed things into the pot and wondered why it came out tasteless. I didn’t understand that too many ingredients tend to cancel each other out. These authors are in the same pickle.
We have so many stories laid at our feet it is impossible to grab onto one and go with it. There is Bick, the co-owner with his sister Luz (Michele Pawk) of a Texas Ranch called Reata, who marries Leslie practically on sight in 1925. Brock had travelled “north” to Virginia (not Maryland) to buy a horse and instead falls in love with Leslie. They rush into marriage and return to Reata where Luz greets them with something less than enthusiasm. Then there is that other woman Vashti Hake Snythe (Katie Thompson) whose hopes for a marriage with Bick go down the tubes. And then there is that pesky young man Jett Rink (P J Griffith) who wears stretch jeans and sports a cocky attitude. It is a bumpy landing for the newlyweds.
Leslie discovers that she is expected to act a certain way and treat the Mexican workers a certain way etc. etc. This doesn’t go over too well. Bick comes up against people who want him to drill for oil on his land, when all he wants is to create new breeds of delicious beef. Luz ends up dead after taking a fall riding Leslie’s horse with the wrong saddle. Uncle Baldwin “Bawley” (John Dossett) shows up to sprinkle some sanity on the land. Twins are born Liz Luz Jordy Jr. (the incredible underused Mackenzie Mauzy and Bobby Steggert). Jett inherits a piece of Reata from Luz and becomes a wealthy oilman who is not welcome in the Benedict circles. The children defy their parents. Jordy becomes a doctor instead of a rancher, and falls in love with Juana (Natalie Cortez) the Mexican daughter of one of the workers. Lil Luz wants to be a rancher instead of a debutante. And oh yes, there is Angel (Miguel Cervantes), another Mexican worker, who reminds us there is a war going on by leaving to fight in it. Cervantes has one spectacular scene that warrants his photo on the all the ads for this show. He then goes directly to Heaven with Luz - odd to feature him and then disappear him, no?
And 27 years later, Bick and Leslie are standing on a patch of ground wondering how they got there, including me! Because although Bick and Leslie are supposed to be the ones we care about, our attention is only held by the excellent Katie Thompson as Vashti and John Dossett as Bawley. There is also one fantastic scene with the Leslie, Vashti and Adarene (Mary Bacon) where the women tell each other the truth about their lives – and that in itself could have been a story worth following, but we are not allowed to dawdle along this trail.
And while the story is as sprawling as the land everyone talks about, and the music is even more so. Songs are glorious and big and e-n-d-l-e-s-s. They begin, head out in one direction, then double back for an ambush, then head out again. Makes you just want to hobble them to keep them in one place long enough to finish a thought.
The whole thing is dizzying without being the least bit moving. It’s more along the line of Oklahoma meets Dallas and someone stirred in Copeland’s Rodeo. Fantastic ingredients on their own - but a Giant disappointment when mixed together!
"A mighty tug of gravity that keeps pulling the show down to earth and even threatens to bury it. That force is the weighty obligation of condensing a plot-packed, multigenerational doorstop of a novel — about big old, unruly Texas, to boot — into a work that floats through 3 hours 15 minutes of stage time. And while there’s much to praise in the ascending spirit that animates this show, gravity usually wins. It does have a way of doing that. "
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"Ambitious and often thrilling new musical.
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"While it boasts some bright lights, 'Giant' feels almost . . . small.”
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"At its best, which is often, 'Giant' is compelling musical theater, full of interesting, complex characters and striking, multilayered songs."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage
"The evening has no propulsion. We aren't carried forward by our anticipation of what might happen next."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"While not yet quite ready for the presumably hoped-for jump uptown, this engrossing musical is already pretty swell."
Steven Suskin for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...