Golden Boy Reviews Are Mostly Raves: Clifford Odets Boxing Drama Back on Broadway

In the Lincoln Center Theater production of "Golden Boy," Seth Numrich plays Joe Bonaparte, a talented violinist who becomes corrupted by his urge for fame and fortune in the boxing ring.
In the Lincoln Center Theater production of “Golden Boy,” Seth Numrich plays Joe Bonaparte, a talented violinist who becomes corrupted by his urge for fame and fortune in the boxing ring.

Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy, first presented on Broadway at the Belasco Theater 75 years ago, is back at the Belasco, for the second-ever Broadway revival about a man who defies his family and a promising career as a classical musician for a shot at immortality in the boxing ring. Directed by Bartlett Sher (South Pacific), the Lincoln Center Theater production features a cast of 19,  including Seth Numrich (War Horse) as Joe Bonaparte, the violinist turned boxer, Tony Shalhoub (Monk, Lend Me A Tenor) as his Italian immigrant father, and Danny Burstein (South Pacific, Follies) as his trainer.

The reviews are largely, but not entirely, raves:

There are several great pleasures in “Golden Boy,”…For all the glories of the Lincoln Center production, there is no disguising that “Golden Boy” is also an old-fashioned melodrama that does not transcend its era the way other works written in (if not necessarily about) the 1930’s have done…This is not to condemn “Golden Boy,” but to provide the key for appreciating it.   It is a work of anthropology, a spoken-word opera,  a vehicle to another era…Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater

Bartlett Sher’s immensely satisfying production roars off the stage of the Belasco Theatre (where the original debuted) with primal force. Sher, whose 2006 revival of Odets’ first hit, “Awake and Sing!,” proved a revelation, once again exhibits acute understanding of this great American playwright, who has been undervalued for far too long. “Golden Boy” is grand and glorious theater. Grade A~Erik Haagensen, Backstage

A superb ensemble cast and inspired design team elevate Bartlett Sher’s 75th anniversary Broadway revival of this Clifford Odets play to ravishing heights…thoughtfully conceived and vividly inhabited ~David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

The point of this Lincoln Center Theater production is the rare opportunity to see a pivotal American period piece staged deeply into the period by Bartlett Sher (“South Pacific”) with a huge, expert cast that only a nonprofit can afford to showcase with such luxurious dedication today on Broadway~Linda Winer, Newsday

…. a dazzling revival…Tony Shalhoub is a stand-out . Great sets by Michael Yeargan that include boxing rings populated by sparring, muscular men and realistic tenement buildings and threadbare offices, costumes by Catherine Zuber that are boxy and masculine while always flattering Strahovski, and dim, moody lighting by Donald Holder all contribute to a gloomy gorgeousness.~Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

…a well-constructed and earthy narrative that depicts a seedy underworld and a violent clash of cultures and competing values – 3 stars – Matt Windman AMNY,

“This production escapes some of the possible pitfalls, but not all of them. The foremost problem is uneven casting.”   Numrich “comes across so refined that you can never be entirely sure what Joe is escaping from” and the set is an unsatisfying  “combination of realism and fantasy that evince the best qualities of neither.” Matthew Murray, Talkin’ Broadway

Plenty of punches are thrown in the forceful new revival of Clifford Odets’s “Golden Boy” that opened on Thursday night at the Belasco Theater. Eyes are blackened, uppercuts fly back and forth, and by the end of the play, the young boxer hero, Joe Bonaparte (Seth Numrich), is staggering across the stage, delirious and practically bathed in blood. But the blows that truly stun are the ones we cannot literally see, the jabs to the soul that Joe inflicts on himself, torn as he is between the urge to make it big as a boxer and the desire to be the artist he feels he was meant to be.Throughout this blistering Lincoln Center Theater production, directed by Bartlett Sher and featuring a superb cast of almost 20 actors — a rare feast on Broadway these days — we watch in anguished anticipation as Joe struggles with a defining question..Do you spend your life trying to shine in a world that values only the mighty dollar and the power it brings, or seek instead to fulfill a humbler, more humane destiny?~Charles Isherwood, New York Times


Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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