The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review

We're alive, we're alive. . .—the defiant anthem that opens Juno is quickly tested when A group of English soldiers shoot one of their young men, prompting a mournful "How much life must be spilt?"
Conrad John Schuck and Victoria Clark. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
The at once defiantly joyous and mournful opening number quoted above gets right to the heart of the problem that probably caused Juno, the musical adaptation of Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock to be a flop when it premiered in 1959. It's hard to reconcile the upbeat and downbeat elements — exuberant Irish songs and dances overhung by the grimness of a civil war that can bring soldiers with rifles on scene. They cut in the way young men do at a dance, but, instead of the dance continuing, their guns go off and the festivities turn funereal.

Of course, darkness didn't prevent West Side Story, which replaced Juno at the Winter Garden in 1959, from becoming a hit, and we've become more accustomed to musicals with dark stories but as Juno's librettist Joseph Stein, who was on hand for the popular Encores! Saturday afternoon aftertalk, pointed out, the original production suffered from director problems and mostly negative reviews. (Though Stein didn't say so, Shirley Booth and Melvyn Douglas a more notable for their acting than singing, weren't ideal leads). However, it's probably because Juno's dark-bright duality is not as perfectly integrated as the sublime Encores production of Gypsy, that even though blessed with a superb Juno and May Boyle (Victoria Clark and Celia Keenan-Bolger) and a director for whom Irish classics are mother's milk (Gerry Hynes) that the current five performance Juno is unlikely to resurface any time soon. And that's exactly as it should be!

Despite the fact that Gypsy (review) is the latest of a number of Encores productions to transfer to Broadway, the mission of this popular and invaluable series is not as a revival tryout but to give people a chance to become acquainted, or re-acquainted, with a neglected musical. Perfection and Broadway transfer worthiness is not a prerequisite. Fortunately, City Center is a big house so some five thousand people will have had a chance to see this very satisfying staging with Mark Blitzstein's fine and often soul-stirring music ideally sung and Warren Carlyle's spellbinding "Johnny Boyle's Ballet " (a reconceived version of Agnes DeMille's nightmarish dream ballet) before it's final performance.

With Mark Blitzstein, best known for Regina and The Cradle Will Rock, as the composer and never having seen the original Juno, I expected this to be more operatic. But while Blitstein's operatic sensibility is evident in the opening and closing numbers, the composer seems to have become enamored of the O'Casey's Irishness and accommodated his signature style to include jigs, waltzes and show tune style ballads. If this makes for something of a split personality musical, it also makes it a most accessible and enjoyable one.

As edited by the master of this concert format, David Ives, the musicalized story sticks closely to O'Casey's version. It's the saga of a Dublin family during the 1920s civil strife, with Juno ( Clark) keeping the family together with little help from her layabout "paycock" of a husband (Conrad John Schuck), who prefers pub crawling with his pal Joxer (Dermot Crowley) to anything resembling work. The effect of the civil war has already hit home, by costing rebel son Johnny (Tyler Hanes) his arm. Things look up when a British lawyer Charlie Bentham (Clarke Thorell) brings news of a legacy, but the self-indulgent O'Boyle starts spending the inheritance immediately even though it's pretty obvious that it's not going to materialize. Charlie also brings bookish daughter Mary (Celia Keenan-Bolger) closer to her dreams (or so she thinks) than local suitor Jerry Devine (Michal Arden).

The rich score is studded with gorgeously sung solos and duets: Arden's passionate ballad to Kennan Bolger, "One Kind Word" . . . Keenan-Bolger's yearning "I Wish It So " . . .Clark's gut-wrenching "Lament ". . .and Clark and Keenan-Bolger's show stopping "Bird Upon a Tree." Abetted by the stark background and lighting, and color matching costumes, Ms. Hynes has brought the tragic story to emotionally powerful life. Eric Stern's orchestra is, as is usual for these productions, on stage and terrific.

In a perfect world this close to perfect production of an imperfect musical, would be taped for the Lincoln Center Theatrical Library.** At any rate, bravo to the folks at Encores! for another mission accomplished.

Mark you calendar for May 8 to 11th. That's when Encores! brings back a more through and through light-hearted 1920s musical, No, No, Nanette. Though not a flop like Juno it's probably too dated to be re-mounted except to fulfill the Encores! mission. The cast so far includes Mara Davi, Sandy Duncan, Beth Leavel, Rosie O'Donnell and Sharon Wiley.

** I stand corrected, per this note:
Dear Ms. Sommer, I just read your wonderful review of JUNO, and wanted to reassure you that we do indeed live in a perfect world: Juno, like all ENCORES! shows, was in fact taped for the Lincoln Center Library at its Friday performance. I appreciate the support and the understanding of what we're doing at ENCORES!, and we hope to be doing it for the rest of time. Best regards, Jack Viertel
Book by Joseph Stein, based on the play Juno and the Paycock by Sean O'Casey
Music and lyrics by Marc Blitzstein
Directed by Garry Hynes
Music director, Eric Stern
Choreography by Warren Carlyle
Cast: Victoria Clark (Juno Boyle), Conrad John Schuck (Capt. Jack Boyle), Celia Keenan-Bolger (Mary Boyle), Michael Arden (Jerry Devine), Clarke Thorell (Charlie Bentham), Tyler Hanes (Johnny Boyle), Louisa Flaningam (Mrs. Brady), Jennifer Smith (Miss Quinn), Kay Walbye (Mrs. Coyne), Rosaleen Linehan (Mrs. Maisie Madigan) and Dermot Crowley (Joxer Daly).
Ensemble: Annie McGreevey, Kurt Froman, Timothy W. Bish, Troy Edward Bowles, Pamela Brumley, Callie Carter, Leah Edwards, Ryan Jackson, Jay Lusteck, Mary MacLeod, Melissa Rae Mahon, J. Maxwell Miller, Pamela Otterson, John Selya, Timothy Shew, Greg Stone, Megan Thomas, Kevin Vortmann, Alan M-L Wager, Patrick Wetzel.
Scenic Consultant: John Lee Beatty
Costume Consultant: Toni-Leslie James
Lighting by Ken Billington
Sound by Scott Lehrer
Concert adaptation by David Ives.
City Center Encores! At City Center, 131 West 55th Street, (212) 581-1212.
5 performances beginning 3/27/08 and closing 3/30/08
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission.
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Overture/Encores Orchestra
  • We're Alive/Company
  • I Wish It So/ Celia Keenan-Bolger
  • Song of the Ma / Victoria Clark
  • We Can Be Proud /Jay Lusteck,Timothy Shew, Alan M-L Wager, Kevin Vortmann
  • Daarlin' Man/ Conrad John Schuck, Dermot Crowley, Melissa Rae Mahon and Men
  • One Kind Word/Michael Arden
  • Old Sayin's/ Conrad John Schuck, Victoria Clark
  • What Is The Stars / Conrad John Schuck, Dermot Crowley
  • Old Sayin's (Reprise) Conrad John Schuck, Victoria Clark
  • Poor Thing / Rosaleen Linehan, Kay Walbye, Louis Flannigan, Jennifer Smith
  • My True Heart/ Celia Keenan-Bolger, Clarke Thorell
  • On a Day Like This /Victoria Clark, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Dermot Crowley,Conrad John Schuck, Troy Edward Bowles and Company
Act Two
  • Bird Upon the Tree/ Victoria Clark, Celia Keenan-Bolger
  • Music in the House / Conrad John Schuck, Company
  • The Liffy Waltz / Victoria Clark, Company
  • Hymn / Kevin Votmann, Company
  • Ballet: The Ballad of Johnny Boyle/ Tyler Haries, Kurt Froman, Company
  • You Poor Thing (Reprise)/ Rosaleen Linehan, Kay Walbye, Louis Flannigan, Jennifer Smith
  • Farewell Me Butty/ Conrad John Schuck, Dermot Crowley
  • For Love / Celia Keenan-Bolger
  • One Kind Word (Reprise) Michael Arden
  • I Wish It So/Celia Keenan-Bolger
  • Lament/ Victoria Clark
  • Bird Upon the Tree (Reprise)/ Victoria Clark, Celia Keenan-Bolger
  • Finale/Entire Company

The  Playbill Broadway YearBook
The Playbill Broadway YearBook

Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide


©Copyright 2008, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from