Billy Crystal brings yuks to Broadway

The borscht belt is alive and well on Broadway.

At the Nederlander Theater is Billy Crystal’s new joke-filled musical ‘Mr. Saturday Night,” which opened on Wednesday and focuses on old-school yuks. Warm laughter. The glorious punchlines that have eluded most new musicals are here knocked out of the park by a master.

theater review

Two and a half hours, with an intermission. At the Dutch Theater,
208 W. 41st St.

I will have what Billy has. The 74-year-old actor is in terrific shape and the generous showman persona we love him for, not to mention his godlike timing, is allowed to go crazy. He’s done a few failed movies lately, but it’s Crystal reliving his prime “When Harry Met Sally.”

Crystal’s musical, for which he wrote the book alongside Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, is based on one of his lesser films, “Mr. Saturday Night,” which received mixed reviews at the The story of a TV comedy comeback attempt graces the stage and comes at a more appropriate time in the actor’s life.

Buddy (Billy Crystal) rubs shoulders with his old friends, played by Jordan Gelber, Mylinda Hull and Brian Gonzales.
Matthew Murphy

Thirty years older and wiser, he still plays Buddy Young, a faded comedy legend from a long-defunct black-and-white show called “Coleman Comedy Hour” who was blackballed after a nervous breakdown. Now he does depressing morning gigs at nursing homes. One of his essential gags: “Moses called. He said you were a good f–k!

One night, while watching the Emmys with his wife Elaine (Randy Graff), he spots his own mug during “In Memoriam.” And the next morning, he embarked on an energizing career “I’m not dead!” press tour.

Buddy’s newfound notoriety forces him to face bitter family disputes. Crystal brought back her movie co-star David Paymer, who earned an Oscar nod for playing Buddy’s estranged brother Stan. He has become tender and formidable again. Stan doubled as Buddy’s manager, and they didn’t speak until Stan thought his brother was kaput. The Emmys mess brings them closer.

Talented singer Shoshana Bean is frantic and upset as Susan, Buddy’s daughter, who resents her pop’s self-absorption. The role is bigger than it should be, but ends up wrapping the show in a touching arc.

We see flashbacks to Buddy's early days as a stand-up comic at a Catskills resort town.
We see flashbacks to Buddy’s early days as a stand-up comic at a Catskills resort town.
Matthew Murphy

Buddy is also rocked by a young agent named Annie (Chasten Harmon), who is completely unaware of not only her illustrious past, but all of the great comedians before her. She does her research and becomes her biggest advocate. (I have a feeling this character is going to tick off a lot of real agents who are showbiz encyclopedias.)

Three rambunctious actors (Jordan Gelber, Brian Gonzales and Mylinda Hull), channeling the proteans in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, play every other role – from writers to chefs and little kids. There are kitschy flashback scenes to Buddy and Stan’s early life at a Catskills resort, and director John Rando takes us there using Jeff Sugg’s video screens. The simple landscape, at times, could use some of the spirit of the book.

There’s one thing to know about “Mr. Saturday Night”: it would be better as a play than a song-and-dance show. as hilarious or textured as the text.Similar to “Tootsie” before it, the star here is the scenes, not the tunes.

But, oh, those scenes. Where else on Broadway can you find Billy Crystal leading an audience in a chant of “OY VEY!” OY VEY! »?

New York Post

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