Reviews from our 2004 NYMF Concert Production
starring Donna Lynne Champlin and Michael Halling
They should be handing out martinis and cigarettes over at The Theatre at St. Clements where Meet John Doe, the new lush and jazzy 1930s-era musical is playing. Based on the 1941 Frank Capra film of the same name, Meet John Doe is far from perfect, but given a festival that has presented its fair share of satiric and parodic shows, how refreshing it is to see a work that is decidedly smart and serious. Finally, a sophisticated musical for adults that doesn't talk down to the audience!
Show Business Weekly
With music by Andrew Gerle, lyrics by Eddie Sugarman and a book by both men, I previously raved about this adaptation of one of Frank Capra's greatest films after hearing a few songs at Merkin Hall's Bound for Broadway series a few months ago. It was great to hear the rest of score and realize what I heard wasn't a fluke. Gerle is a genuinely gifted composer with soaring melodies, a gift for the unexpected chord and a real feel for writing music that sounds both "period" and "contemporary" at the same time. Sugarman's lyrics are uniformly smart, tart and concise; utilizing a vernacular that's both referential to the 1930s as well as accessible to today's audiences.
The creative juices that went into transforming director Frank Capra's 1941 film "Meet John Doe" into musical theatre are impressive... The creators have a knack for seamlessly blending dialogue into musical numbers, propelling the plot forward... The well-crafted book by Gerle and Sugarman, with additional story by Matt August, who directed, respects the idealism of Capra's movie... The script refreshingly avoids the smart-aleck irony that pervades many contemporary musicals.
Andrew Gerle and Eddie Sugarman's Meet John Doe is the kind of show that puts a big fat smile on my face and makes me think "Yeah, that's why I love musicals." You'll find nothing new or innovative in their adaptation of the same-named 1941 Frank Capra-directed flick, just a solid use of the standard formula of a well-crafted musical featuring crackling dialogue and lyrics and a score infused with enough cool jazz to have the gang at Birdland bobbing their heads for weeks.