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Tuck Everlasting review at Broadhurst Theatre, New York – ‘a polite misfire’

The company of Tuck Everlasting at Broadhurst Theatre, New York. Photo: Joan Marcus The company of Tuck Everlasting at Broadhurst Theatre, New York. Photo: Joan Marcus
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A little whimsy goes a long way in Tuck Everlasting, a new Broadway musical based on a children’s novel that was first published in 1975 and previously turned into a Disney movie in 2002. It’s a show about a family who live with a dark secret: they’ve drunk from a well that has made them immortal and frozen their lives at where they were 102 years previously.

The musical, however, I fear will have trouble achieving any sort of comparable longevity, even though it is done with a painstaking sincerity and open-hearted warmth. The prolific director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw is best known on Broadway for such knowing, self-referential works as The Drowsy Chaperone, The Book of Mormon and Something Rotten (and even Aladdin having its share of sly show business winks and references), but here works in a different register entirely.

There’s lots of decorative, wafty balletic dancing, and a final 15 minutes that are quite formally audacious for playing out the ending entirely as a narrative dance ballet. It’s an eccentric device, but it finally rescues the show from the bland proceedings that have come before.

As in The Secret Garden, it’s a show about mortality seen through children’s eyes, as we follow 11-year-old Winnie Foster (Sarah Charles Lewis) whose father died the year before as she meets the immortal Tuck family. But unfortunately what it sounds like is a lot of formulaic, generic ballads, albeit delivered with fervour and passion by a cast led by Broadway veteran Carolee Carmello as the Tuck matriarch, with Michael Park as her husband Angus and Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Robert Lenzi as their sons.

The set – sprouting foliage that looks uncannily like an installation of the architect Frank Gehry – adds to the air of unreality in this misfiring family musical.

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A polite misfire of a musical about immortality that feels like it goes on forever