Sunday, April 14, 2024

Broadway Review: “Water for Elephants” Musical Overcomes Book, Movie with The Flash–Grant Gustin –Leading a Real Circus to Victory

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Thursday night, the elephants got their water on Broadway.

A new musical based on the book and movie, Water for Elephants, stormed the Imperial Theater. A magnificent lifesize puppet elephant turned up on stage with a very talented cast including Grant Gustin (The Flash on TV), Gregg Edelman, and Paul Alexander Nolan, plus Isabelle McCalla.

While the story sometimes sags, and the music isn’t exactly Sondheim, the production itself is so overwhelmingly good that you never notice the flaws. Director Jessica Stone stages the most thrilling circus since the real one was at Madison Square Garden, combining elements of Cirque du Soleil like performances and the Big Apple Circus — plus a little of Diane Paulus’s landmark “Pippin.” The acrobats are so balletic, athletic, and energetic there are times when you actually gasp as they do their tricks.

The story is simple: Gregg Edelman plays an older Jacob Jankowski, who goes to the circus and recalls his days as a young veterinarian in the 30s traveling with a long ago troupe. As he tells the story, it’s of a triangle between him (Gustin), the circus owner’s wife (McCalla), and the owner himself (Nolan). That’s it, but along the way we meet all the different performers, as well as Rosie the Elephant (who could get a Tony nomination) maybe a distant cousin of the horse from “War Horse.”

Among the standouts in the supporting cast are Stan Brown as Camel, an old sage still riding the circus train, and the entire ensemble of circus workers who dance, fly, and tumble with soulful and precise choreography.

A little more later — keep refreshing — on this hit production that will be garnering a dozen or so Tony nominations. “Water for Elephants” is a knockout!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
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