Home Theater Review: “Doctor Zhivago” is “Les Miz” with Russian Dressing and Great Songs

The Broadway crowd sneers at “Les Miz” and “Phantom” type event musicals, so “Doctor Zhivago” was in their gun sights long ago. But last night’s opening was a rousing success as the show’s producer, Anita Waxman, and her many investors finally brought the good doctor onto Broadway after stints in far away places like Australia and South Korea.

Based on the movie and book of the same name, “Dr. Zhivago” is long at nearly three hours. A half hour could have been cut. But I never thought it was boring, and neither did the audience. Among them: legendary songstress Judy Collins, “Jersey Boys” writer Marshall Brickman, and Tony winning composers Alan Mencken, and Stephen Schwartz.

Lucy Simon, whose other Broadway show was “The Secret Garden,” wrote the music for the catchy songs with two lyricists– Michael Korie and Amy Powers. Let me say of the songs that this is a lovely score with some outstanding numbers. “Now,” “Love Finds You,” and “The Edge of Time” are worth being covered by contemporary pop stars like Josh Groban, Christina Aguilera and Michael Buble. “Love Finds You” is a knockout. There is nothing generic here.

All the performers are talented, starting with Tam Mutu and Kelli Barrett, who play Zhivago and Lara. Tom Hewitt and Paul Nolan, as the show’s antagonists are strong in supporting roles.

Michael Weller wrote the book, and keeps the story moving despite dozens of characters and subplots. Still, there is nothing that some smart editing wouldn’t have done to hide the show’s flaws. Often, songs are being sung by or for secondary characters, and it just slows the whole enterprise down. But the voices are very very good, the costumes are excellent (mouth watering Russian overcoats), and the sets are minimalist to good effect.

“Doctor Zhivago” is definitely “Les Miz” with Russian dressing. Subtle, it’s not. But if you want to hear gorgeous music, this is the show. You’ll come out humming, and feeling pretty good. And that’s saying a lot. “Doctor Zhivago” is an epic, with epic appeal.

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