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700 Sundays Reviews: Billy Crystal Back on Broadway

BillyCrystal700SundaysBilly Crystal reprises his autobiographical one-person show, 700 Sundays, through January 5, that he presented on Broadway in 2004. Many of the reviews are positive, although some feel the show, which lasts about two and a half hours,  could easily have been trimmed, and the reviewer for New York Magazine calls it “a gussied-up Vegas act… I just can’t make myself call it a play, though it’s advertised as such.”

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Loss… is at the root of the Long Island-based stories in “700 Sundays,” especially the death of Crystal’s father, Jack, “my first hero,” who died of a heart attack at age 54 when Crystal was 15. This year marks the 50th anniversary of his father’s death, prompting Crystal for another run of the show that he first brought to Broadway in 2004….A father’s death at so tender an age is heartbreaking and yet Crystal has decided to return to the pain night after night. We are all the better for it.

Jessica Shaw, Entertainment Weekly: In a laugh-out-loud — if quite long — revival of his 2004 one-man, autobiographical show 700 Sundays, you can practically hear his heart soaring as he recounts wacky and sentimental stories about his childhood….Sure, some of it feels like Old Jew Telling Jokes, but Crystal knows his audience and he kills with lines like ”Bris is the prefix for brisket” and ”Yiddish is a combination of German and phlegm.”

Jason Zinoman, The New York Times: The core pleasures of this warmly affectionate portrait of a New York childhood involve nostalgia and sentiment, the sex and violence of today’s Broadway….With Mr. Crystal, jokes move quickly; everything else is slow. The show rambles for two-and-a-half easy-to-trim hours.

Rafer Guzman, Newsday: The jokes sometimes sound pre-modern — retail-obsessed Jews, Italian meatheads, hulking black high-schoolers — but never mean-spirited. Only an entertainer as big-hearted as Crystal could make such stereotypes sound so affectionate.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: a slick package delivered with a lot of heart.

Jesse Green, New York Magazine: Regular as his grandfather’s gas, the funny coming-of-age stories are followed by sad reminiscences, most especially of his father’s death when he was 15… there are way too many morals for what’s really a gussied-up Vegas act. Wild Uncle Berns teaches young Billy that “even in your worst pain it’s still okay to laugh.” Well, fair enough, but it’s also okay to gag.

Matt Windman, AM New York:  The show’s title refers to the fact that Crystal really only got to spend time with his father — a proud jazz connoisseur who worked multiple jobs — on Sundays. Hence, he spent roughly 700 Sundays with his father during his life. With the façade of a plain suburban house in the background, Crystal manages to hold the audience in the palm of his hand for 21/2 hours, even during the somber portions of Act Two. Crystal’s masterful storytelling is neatly integrated with observational and lowbrow humor and selections from photo albums and home movies.

Matthew Murray, Talkin Broadway: 700 Sundays has not lost much of its spark… If there’s a flaw with 700 Sundays in this incarnation, it’s that it’s a little too slick. Crystal seems a shade more mechanical in recalling his stories this time, and there were times …he seemed reluctant to drift too far from autopilot mode

Robert Kahn, NBC NY: The veteran entertainer, a city slicker-turned-awards-show-hosting-juggernaut, has turned the story of his own coming-of-age into such a relatable piece of theater that any one anecdote may start your waterworks flowing, even while you’re doubled over in laughter.

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About 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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