A new Broadway musical that tackles the vexed question of immortality begins previews March 31 at the Broadhurst Theatre. Based on the 1975 children's novel Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, it's a cross between Brigadoon and Pollyanna. The wholesome values may appeal to conservative families, but the production lacks the excitement and drive of contemporary youth entertainment.
The original cast recording offers a clearer picture of the show than the stage version, with the songs clearly recorded and well balanced. Sarah Charles Lewis avoids the cloying trappings of youthful musical theatre stars and carries off her role as the adventurous Winnie with a maturity beyond her years. Andrew Keenan-Bolger, a versatile performer with his hands in any multitude of entertainment projects, delivers a spirited performance as the youthful Jesse, and Terrence Mann adds some deliciously droll character actor fun to his spooky turn as the mysterious Man in the Yellow Suit.
Directed by Casey Nicholaw (Something Rotten, Aladdin), Tuck Everlasting benefits from smart, judicious craftsmanship. Poignancy mixes with a healthy helping of humor, and the songs, by composer Chris Miller and lyricist Nathan Tysen, are pleasantly varied. A lovely, evocative woodsy folk setting and some delightfully high-kicking dancing add to the mix. But the most powerful moment comes in a stunning, wordless ballet that redeems any of the show's earlier excesses.