Here are my two cents about the revival of Terence McNallyï¿½s 1975 gay bathhouse farce that has been mounted at Studio 54. In a nutshell, itï¿½s not for every Roundabout subscriberï¿½an opinion confirmed by a relatively large number of walkouts at the preview I saw.
One neednï¿½t look farther than the cover of the Playbillï¿½an image of three buff male bods clad only in the briefest of towelsï¿½to realize that this show is poles apart from the usual family fare served up by the Roundabout. Here weï¿½re in the land of Gaetano Procolo (Kevin Chamberlain), a zhlub from Cleveland who happens to be married to a mafia donï¿½s daughter and who is now hiding from his murderous brother-in-law at the stage equivalent of the infamous Continental Baths where Bette Midler got her start. Chamberlain is ingratiating and nimble in the role but looks about as Italian as bratwurst. Then again, the equally non-Italian Jack Weston played the role in the original show, so I guess thatï¿½s part of the joke.
The plot, which contains much running around, jumping around and slamming of doors, incorporates every gay clichï¿½ you can think of and none you canï¿½t. What may have been fresh and funny 30 years ago now seemed to me (and about half of the audience) to be just ho-hum. No guffaws there.
The Ritz does, however, contain one absolutely spectacular number that won Rita Moreno a Tony in 1975. Iï¿½ll call it the Anti-Sound of Music. Itï¿½s a classic send up of many of the best and best-loved Broadway hits from the likes of Annie, The King and I, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, Gypsy, Funny Girl and Cabaret as filtered through the sensibility of Charo. The sparkling and energetic Rosie Perez performs it here with real pizzazz. For me, that number alone was worth the price of admission.
Iï¿½ve got one word for the overall production that was directed by the ubiquitous Joe Mantello on an elaborate and very red set by Scott Pask with lots of clever spandex costumes by William Ivey Long and hot lighting by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer. That word is SLICK.
Go and enjoy, if you can stand it. Youï¿½ve been warned!
"This latest revival of 'The Ritz' is cute, cuddly and often oddly inert. Stripped of the amyl-nitrite-scented clouds of novelty that clung to it 32 years ago, the show is exposed as a friendly, conventional sitcom for the stage. And though it features ace performances by Ms. Perez and by Kevin Chamberlin as a visitor from the planet of the heteros, Joe Mantelloï¿½s direction rarely revs up to the dizzy velocity that farce demands."
New York Times
"The Roundabout Theatre Co.'s production misses out on opportunities to make the most of what they've got." & "Slapstick chases and physical business, like when Googie accosts Proclo on a bed, are clumsy. What should be airy ends up a cement soufflï¿½."
New York Daily News
"Director Joe Mantello, always in tune with McNally, has gotten a perfect ensemble performance....But if you need just one reason to visit "The Ritz," I can give it to you in two words: Rosie Perez. Her marvelously mangled medley of Broadway hits is in itself worth the price of admission: She never puts a wrong note right in a virtuoso hit parade of the absurd."
New York Post
"In the absence of farce's most essential ingredient - an exquisite pretzel of a plot that twists its characters around in a perfectly closed circuit - "The Ritz" squeezes its laughs from caricatures well past their sell-by date. They might as well wear placards: fatso, pervert, goombah, fairy. "
"Despite the enduring snap of McNally's writing and the talents of a top-notch company, director Joe Mantello's surprisingly fitful revival sometimes registers as rather low on energy. Still, there's enough funny business going on here to tickle the fancy of everybody but the worst prudes. "
"The rare moments where "The Ritz" explodes into door-slamming, bed-hiding mayhem are agonizingly labored ï¿½ the actors practically move their lips counting out the beats as they race to their spots. And those running gags stumble out of the gate, starting out mildly amusing at best and fading from there. "
New York Sun
"Problematic here is that the able Joe Mantello has directed with less than the breakneck speed the genre demands, and that some of the cast aren't first-rate farceurs. Truly outstanding are only Brooks Ashmanskas as Chris, Kevin Chamberlin (though a bit slow) as Gaetano and, perhaps, Perez as Googie, except when she shouts and becomes incomprehensible, which is rather too often. "
"Dialogue gets lost in the mayhem and the hilarity seems a little forced. Relief comes in a final confrontation between Carmine and Proclo on the Ritz's nightclub stage, but by then, the farce has run a little flat and all those 1970s haircuts are starting to look a bit outdated."
"As in his starry but unsatisfying revival of "The Odd Couple" two seasons back, Joe Mantello's slick direction is not always employed to best effect in comedy. In his overproduced staging of "The Ritz," he plays it broad, fast and loud but reveals no feel for farce, which requires a deft balance of giddiness and precision that also eludes most of his cast."