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"Doctor Zhivago", the Musical, Debuts at the Broadway Theatre
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Doctor Zhivago
(Doctor Zhivago Website)

Book by Michael Weller
Music by Lucy Simon
Lyrics by Michael Korie and Amy Powers

based on the novel by Boris Pasternak

At the
Broadway Theatre
1681 Broadway at 53rd Street

Tam Mutu, Kelli Barrett
Tom Hewitt, Paul Alexander Nolan, Lora Lee Gayer
Jamie Jackson, Jacqueline Antaramian
Jonah Halperin, Sophia Gennusa, Ava Riley-Miles

And an Ensemble of Actors/Singers/Dancers

Directed by Des McAnuff
Choreography by Kelly Devine
Orchestrations: Danny Troob
Music Direction, Supervision: Ron Melrose
Scenic Design: Michael Scott-Mitchell
Costume Design: Paul Tazewell
Lighting Design: Howell Binkley
Sound Design: SCK Sound Design
Hair and Wig Design: Charles G. LaPointe
Video and Projection Design: Sean Nieuwenhuis
Special Effects Design: Greg Meeh
Fight Director: Steve Rankin
Makeup Design: Joe Dulude II
Aerial Effects Design: Paul Rubin
Arrangements: Eric Stern
Conductor: Rick Fox
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Casting: Tara Rubin Casting
Press: Polk & Co.
Production Stage Manager: James Harker
Production Management: Juniper Street Productions
General Management: Alchemy Production Group

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 24, 2015

As the audience left the Broadway Theatre tonight, after the gruesome, new stage rendition of Doctor Zhivago, an electrical shortage in the sound system caused ear-piercing static to fill the hall and rafters. People walked briskly holding their ears. This summed up the evening. For the sensitive or squeamish, be aware that not only does the production create constant, explosive sounds of army artillery, cannons included, but it also drags out a gut-wrenching variety of graphic execution scenes. The farthest tune on anyone’s mind, as Michael Weller’s dire plot unfolds, via Michael Korie and Amy Powers’ forgettable lyrics and Lucy Simon’s unmusical score, is the infamous “Somewhere My Love”, also known as “Lara’s Theme”, that melody we all associate with the expansive film. Yet, lo and behold, the war nurses sang that love song tonight, amidst the bloody stage encampments. The play, like the David Lean 1965 film, based on the Boris Pasternak 1957 novel, is set in Russia in the first decades of the twentieth century, between the Russian Civil War and World War I. See a full plot of the Pasternak novel here.

Des McAnuff has directed this two-act extravaganza of visual and anticipatory violence for shock value, at the level of a 3-D action film or video game. The sounds, again, described above, were, literally, a surround-sound of thunderous proportion. The exceptional lead actors performed with poignancy and power, making the most of the fragmented plot of too many sub-plots and secondary characters. Tam Mutu has the role of the poet and doctor, Yuri Zhivago, who marries Tonia Gromeko (Lora Lee Gayer), whom he’s known since childhood. Mr. Mutu develops a charismatic stage presence, throughout, in spite of the ongoing horrors, as he balances Zhivago’s dedication to his wife and son against the pull of a deep, yearning passion. Of course that passion is for Lara Guishar (Kelli Barrett), who has married Pasha Antipov (Paul Alexander Nolan), an army enlistee, who morphs into a dictatorial Communist leader, called Strelnikov. All three leads, along with Tom Hewitt, in the role of Viktor Komarovsky, who had kept Lara as a sex slave in her youth (one of the numerous and lurid sub-plots), and Lora Lee Gayer, as Tonia, possess stage presence, vocal talent, and persuasive characterization. Pasha’s “Blood on the Snow” was sung with projected tonality, and Komarovsky’s “Komarovsky’s Lament” was sung with maturity and depth. Tonia’s “Watch the Moon”, unfortunately, occurred late in the show, past the collapse of the audience’s comfort zone, but Ms. Gayer is an artist to watch.

The two tour de force performances were from Tam Mutu and Kelli Barrett, who sang “Now” (Act I) and “On the Edge of Time” (Act II) with sensuous and luminous musicality. Mr. Mutu and Ms. Barrett are certainly artists to watch for in upcoming seasons. Michael Scott-Mitchell’s scenic design is sparse and lackluster, probably not to over-clutter the visuals, while the mind tries to make sense of the dramatic clutter of the book and the tonal and visual clutter of the war scenes. Paul Tazewell’s costumes for the Moscow scenes are long, heavy, and sophisticated, while his costumes for war and the Ural Mountains are appropriately dark and dreary. The solo-actor, production photos below do not represent scenes from the show, while the group photo is accurate. Howell Binkley’s lighting worked well, especially in the dire, dim, battle scenes. SCK Sound Design, plus those listed above in Special Effects, Fight Direction, Aerial Effects, and Video and Projection Design, will hopefully have a fertile forum for their talent, elsewhere. With the prolonged and agonizing war scenes, I was not drawn to any of Kelly Devine’s choreography. If you want choreography, go see On the Town or An American in Paris, if you can still snag a ticket. Doctor Zhivago, at the Broadway Theatre, needs mesmerizing song and more snow.

Kelli Barrett in "Doctor Zhivago"
Courtesy of Jason Bell

Kelli Barrett, Sophia Gennusa, and Cast
in "Doctor Zhivago"
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy

Tam Mutu in "Doctor Zhivago"
Courtesy of Jason Bell

Paul Alexander Nolan in "Doctor Zhivago"
Courtesy of Jason Bell

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at