Billy Crystal brings yuks to Broadway

The Borscht Belt is alive and kvell on Broadway.

Over on the Nederlander Theatre is Billy Crystal’s joke-stuffed new musical “Mr. Saturday Night time,” which opened Wednesday and places the followspot on old-school yuks. Hearty laughs. The wonderful punchlines which have eluded most new musicals are right here knocked outta the park by a grasp.   

Theater evaluate

Two and a half hours, with one intermission. On the Nederlander Theatre, <br>208 W. forty first St.

I’ll have what Billy’s having. The 74-year-old actor is in large kind and the beneficiant showman persona we love him for, to not point out his god-like timing, is allowed to go bananas. He’s made some dud movies recently, however that is Crystal reliving his “When Harry Met Sally” prime.

Crystal’s musical, which he’s written the guide for alongside Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, is predicated on considered one of his lesser movies, 1992’s “Mr. Saturday Night time,” which acquired combined critiques again then. The story of a TV comedy has-been’s try at a comeback strikes gracefully to the stage, and comes at a extra applicable time within the actor’s life. 

Buddy (Billy Crystal) buddies round along with his associates from the outdated days, performed by Jordan Gelber, Mylinda Hull and Brian Gonzales.
Matthew Murphy

Thirty years older and wiser, he nonetheless performs Buddy Younger, a pale comedy legend of a long-gone black-and-white present known as the “Coleman Comedy Hour” who was blackballed after a psychological breakdown. Now he does miserable morning stand-up gigs at retirement houses. One in every of his go-to gags: “Moses known as. He stated you have been a superb f – – ok!”

One evening, whereas watching the Emmys along with his supportive spouse Elaine (Randy Graff), he spots his personal mug through the “In Memoriam.” And the subsequent morning, he goes on a profession revitalizing “I’m not useless!” press tour. 

Buddy’s new notoriety forces him to confront bitter household conflicts. Crystal has introduced again his film co-star David Paymer, who acquired an Oscar nod for enjoying Buddy’s estranged brother Stan. He’s as soon as once more tender and terrific. Stan doubled as Buddy’s supervisor, and so they weren’t talking till Stan thought his bro was kaput. The Emmys’ screwup brings them collectively.

The proficient singer Shoshana Bean is frenzied and upset as Buddy’s daughter Susan, who resents her pop’s self-absorption. The position is bigger than it must be, however ultimately wraps the present in a touching bow.

We see flashbacks to Buddy's early days as a stand-up comic at a Catskills resort.
We see flashbacks to Buddy’s early days as a stand-up comedian at a Catskills resort.
Matthew Murphy

Buddy can also be shaken up by a younger agent named Annie (Chasten Harmon), who is totally unaware of not solely his illustrious previous, however any comedy greats earlier than her time. She does her analysis and turns into his biggest defender. (I’ve a sense this character will tick off lots of actual brokers who’re showbiz encyclopedias.)

Three boisterous actors (Jordan Gelber, Brian Gonzales and Mylinda Hull), channeling the proteans in “A Humorous Factor Occurred on the Strategy to the Discussion board,” play all the opposite elements — from writers to cooks and little youngsters. There are kitschy flashback scenes to Buddy and Stan’s early days at a Catskills resort, and director John Rando takes us there utilizing Jeff Sugg’s video screens. The easy surroundings, at instances, might use a few of the guide’s wit.

There’s one factor to kvetch about with “Mr. Saturday Night time”: it will be higher as a straight play than a song-and-dance present. Jason Robert Brown has composed a bland point-A-to-point-B rating that’s not as hilarious or textured because the textual content. Much like “Tootsie” earlier than it, the star right here is the scenes, not the tunes.

However, oh, these scenes. The place else on Broadway can you discover Billy Crystal main an viewers in a chant of “OY VEY! OY VEY!”?

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