The cast of "Broadway Celebration" currently running at New York, New York works very hard during their 65 minute presentation of numbers from Broadway shows. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t work. Produced by David King and Spirit Productions, this show feels more like a cruise ship show you’d go to after the buffet or having had the cast members teach you shuffleboard earlier in the day on the Lido deck. This should work in Vegas but due to wrong material choices, odd musical arrangements and sometimes the cast itself, this show never finds its land legs.
Two male and two female singers are the featured performers with an ensemble of dancers containing five girls and four guys (who on occasion remember to lip sync to the overly recorded background vocals on the music tracks).
The show starts with a big, splashy, recorded tap number to "We’re In The Money" from "42nd Street," a perfect way to start the show but as soon as one of our hosts for the evening begins to speak, we’re in trouble. The two male vocals are given the unfortunate task of delivering dialogue in between some of the numbers that is poorly written and doesn’t help the audience to understand why the numbers they’re about to see performed were chosen.
In fact, as someone who has seen many Broadway shows (and just about as many Broadway revues) I found myself trying to find the thread that made sense in the choices of material for this show to the people who put this show together. I gave up trying to make sense of it less than half way through.
Out of the "42nd Street" opening the cast goes into "Hello, Dolly" with a blonde vocalist who seems to be doing a bad Barbra Streisand impersonation of Dolly Levi from the movie (perhaps the only point of reference this young girl had or was given). But besides her mediocre performance and miscasting, the real distraction is her stringy hair that has dark roots with blonde on the ends that just hangs down looking unkempt and wrong for the proceedings for every number she is in.
The brunette female vocalist fares better in her numbers except she has that pageant contestant quality where every note seems to be taking everything out of her as she makes faces that would make you think she’s in pain instead of trying to convey whatever she’s supposed to be emoting.
It becomes apparent rather quickly that this show is what happens when "Toddlers and Tiaras" contestants grow up. If you watch the show featuring kiddie pageants you discover that the kids aren’t without talent, they’ve just been directed to make goofy faces, wear shiny cheap costumes and occasionally stand with their leg in their hand over their head for no apparent reason.
All of this happens in "Broadway Celebration," too. The cast isn’t without talent but the shiny and very wrinkled costumes are distracting (please someone get a steamer if you don’t think it will disintegrate the cheap-looking costumes).
The music also has the strangest arrangements you’ve ever heard (try "Cabaret" getting a mix-up with "Burlesque," or a cover of "America" from "West Side Story" that keeps modulating to sound more and more like a church choir arrangement than the Broadway show). And one of the hosts makes more faces than Frank Gorshin as he delivers ballads from "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Les Miserables," making the audience cringe.
To be fair, I looked around the audience and they just seemed to be more confused than anything else. Imagine an crowd three quarters full with their heads tilted to one side like the RCA Victor dog logo and you’ll have a sense of what the audience was doing the night I was there.
While the "Les Miserables" section is one of the better put together sections, it’s odd that the host invites us to "go back to the barricade" (Were we ever there?) and that they wear white tails and gold evening gowns for the section. A medley of Broadway songs from shows inspired by ’80s movies seems to be on the right track but quickly is reduced to songs that go on too long, lots of face making and a female dancer who has been tasked to do every dance move from the movie "Flashdance" in a minute as the two female vocalists do their best pageant version of the theme song from the movie.
They sell this show with its current companion, "Dancing Queen," that plays two hours after "Broadway Celebration" at a discounted rate if you buy both shows. I’ll be attending "Dancing Queen" this week and while "Broadway Celebration" was less than the celebration I’d hoped for, I think this production company and cast may do better with a revue of disco music instead of Broadway, where it requires the performers to act as well as sing and dance. Here’s hoping!
"Broadway Celebration" enjoys an extended run at the Broadway Theatre at New York, New York 3790 South Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas. For info or tickets, call 866-606-7111 or 702-740-6969, or visit newyorknewyork.com.