5 Reasons Why We Can Forgive Mr. Saturday Night for Being a Musical
By: Iris Wiener
May 22, 2022: The musical adaptation of Billy Crystal’s Mr. Saturday Night features a score by Tony winner Jason Robert Brown and Tony nominee Amanda Green…but unnecessarily so. This is the Billy Crystal Show, full of heart, Borscht-belt humor, and impeccable timing, but when he opens his mouth to sing, his talent is, well, laughable. With forgettable, throwaway music and Crystal’s complete ineptitude when it comes to vocal work, this would have checked all the boxes as a straight play. Despite this fact, Mr. Saturday Night, which features a book by Crystal, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, is a delightful night of theater. Crystal is once again playing Buddy Young, Jr., just as he did on screen in 1982. He co-wrote, directed and starred in the film about a comedian whose huge ego often gets in the way of his success and alienates his family. Audiences may not be lining up for the soundtrack to this show, but they’ll certainly be smiling after seeing it. Here are five reasons why:
1. Crystal’s movie co-star David Paymer, who played estranged brother Stan to such acclaim that he was nominated for an Oscar, is once again bringing his dry-sensibilities and comedic layers to the story. His arc is one of the show’s most interesting and heart-breaking.
2. More so than the film, the musical focuses on Young’s family, their growth, and their relationships with one another. Randy Graff plays Young’s wife, Elaine…and she is also the woman who got away from Stan. Shoshana Bean’s Susan, a 40-ish year-old woman trying to make a life for herself as a recovering alcoholic, is relatable and tough. Her chemistry with Crystal is perfect, as is John Rando’s direction of their story.
3. Scott Pask’s scenic design is incredibly fun to witness, as the story progresses through multiple stages of Buddy Young’s life. The show is set in 1994 New York City, and has flashbacks from the 40s and 50s, from comedy clubs and retirement homes to a Catskills resort and a hysterical stint guest-starring on The $100,000 Pyramid. The sets are detailed and intelligent to the point that you forget that they are moving.
4. The phenomenal ensemble, made up of Jordan Gelber, Brian Gonzales and Mylinda Hull, demonstrate an innate sense of comedic timing (a big theme in this show!), and an incredible skill with adaptability in telling a story that spans many years- no easy feat! Their extraordinary range in playing dozens of characters defines the magic of Broadway.
5. Though there are quite a few reasons Mr. Saturday Night would be fun any night, none are more noteworthy than Crystal leading his audience in a chant of “Oy Veys!” We dare you to find another show on Broadway that comes close to that!
Mr. Saturday Night
Nederlander Theater, 208 W. 41st St., NYC.
Tue—Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm
Running time: two hours and 30 mins. including intermission. $69—$179. www.ticketmaster.com.
Photography: Mathew Murphy