Farrell Fan

Sweet Smell of Success

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The only critic I read who liked this show was Clive Barnes in the NY Post. I liked it too, possibly because I'd never seen the movie with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. In his NY Times review, Ben Brantley said those were the people most like to enjoy the musical. Be that as it may, what made the evening for me were two sensational performances -- by John Lithgow and Brian d'Arcy James. Lithgow is terrifically despicable as J. J. Hunsecker, the tyrannical but spineless columnist modeled on Walter Winchell, and James manages to be sleazy while retaining a certain innocence as his acolyte, Sidney Falco.

The score by Marvin Hamlisch is loud and jazzy and sounds too much the same throughout. Lyrics by Craig Cornelia aren't as clever as they should be. I can't tell what John Guare's book adds to or detracts from the original movie. Director Nicholas Hytner uses Greek choruses to pester, warn, and generally nag Falco. The set by Bob Crowley is a marvelously brooding sylization of Manhattan.

A particular reason I saw the show was Christopher Wheeldon. By choreographing a Broadway show, he was following the tradition of NYCB choreographers, from Balanchine and Robbins to Martins. What he's come up with looks like generic Broadway

razzmatazz, slick but unremarkable. There is also a song-and-dance routine performed by Hunsecker at a telethon, meant to contrast his public persona with his capacity for doing evil. It doesn't quite come off.

To add period atmosphere to the fifties setting, a lot of cigarette smoking is done by Hunsecker and various other characters. But I didn't see any of them inhale.

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I'd forgotten that the late Marvin Hamlisch provided this score...

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