'Capeman' blanketed with murderous reviews Theater: Paul Simon's long-awaited Broadway musical has not been a hit with the critics.

February 08, 1998|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

"The Capeman," Paul Simon's much beleaguered and highly publicized Broadway musical, opened Jan. 29 to scathing reviews. The $11 million show had postponed its originally announced Jan. 8 opening -- a practice that has had dire consequences for past Broadway musicals.

During its painful gestation, the show toted up four directors. The most recent hire was Jerry Zaks, a Broadway veteran. Zaks trimmed a half-hour out of the production and also brought in choreographer Joey McKneely, although Mark Morris, a leading figure in modern dance, remained the show's director and choreographer of record.

"Capeman" tells the true story of a 16-year-old Puerto Rican gang member convicted of murdering two teen-agers in New York in 1959. Its book and lyrics were co-written by Simon and Nobel Prize-winning poet Derek Walcott.

Despite its difficulties, "The Capeman" has a $6 million advance ticket sale, and, according to a production spokesman, the producers have vowed to keep it open at least until the Tony Award nominations in May. The score and the set -- two of the only elements praised by the critics -- could well receive recognition.

Here's what some of the critics had to say:

* New York Times (Ben Brantley): "The show registers as one solemn, hopelessly confused drone. It's like watching a mortally wounded animal."

* Variety (Greg Evans): "Years from now, when some savvy producer is scouting old theater material for a scaled-down concert staging, 'The Capeman' should be first on his list -- scrap the irredeemable book, make peace with the static nature of the show, and dispense with any foolhardy attempt to flesh out one-note characters or raise the barely-a-footnote real-life tale to the stature of social significance."

* USA Today (David Patrick Stearns): "In short, 'The Capeman' is a dud. The result is so stilted that it makes 'Phantom of the Opera' seem naturalistic."

* Associated Press (Michael Kuchwara): "There may be a Broadway musical in the life of Salvador Agron, the teen-age killer known as 'The Capeman.' Just don't look for it in the anemic retelling concocted by pop songwriter Paul Simon and company."

* Newsday (Linda Winer): "The show that finally cranked open in the unwelcoming Marquis [Theatre] has integrity, ambitions and lots of fascinating mixed-culture music that might be best heard as a recorded song cycle. Everything seems heartfelt and authentic. It's also inert and dramatically inept. There is plenty of beat here, but no pulse."

* Daily News (Fintan O'Toole): "How can all these great artists not know that a musical has to appeal, not just to the eyes and ears, but also to the human desire for coherent stories? Amid its fine melodies, 'The Capeman' answers those questions only with the sound of silence."

Pub Date: 2/08/98

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