Lately, there’s been a spate of musicals that you just’ll take pleasure in ‘even in case you don’t like musicals’, like Hamilton with its astonishing word-wizardry, or the retro-cool La La Land. The Promenade isn’t any such musical. It’s intensely, unabashedly, razzlingly, dazzlingly Broadway, a musical for individuals who love musicals, during which lots of the songs are about musicals. Anybody allergic to such issues needn’t apply.
For everybody else, Ryan Murphy’s first function directorial effort since 2010’s Eat Pray Love provides an eye-poppingly vibrant finale to a grim yr. The Promenade — with its ultra-stylish shiny aesthetic, penchant for prime kitsch, legendary actresses chewing the surroundings, and centring of LGBTQ+ narratives — ticks a number of containers of the Murphy oeuvre, in an adaptation of Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin’s 2018 stage manufacturing. Each scene sparkles, every floor shimmers, and block-colours dominate the body.
Main the way in which is a starry showbiz forged — most of whom have their very own Broadway expertise — gleefully taking part in a bunch of narcissistic luvvies. Meryl Streep and James Corden are Dee Dee Allen and Barry Glickman, whose new Eleanor Roosevelt musical lands dire evaluations (“What did they not like? Was it the hip-hop?” asks Barry in a Hamilton dig). In response, they plot with fellow thespians Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman) and Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells) to turn out to be movie star activists and earn some optimistic press, travelling to Edgewater, Indiana, to assist brazenly homosexual scholar Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), whose want to attend her promenade as a part of a same-sex couple has sparked uproar from the area people. “We’re gonna assist that little lesbian, whether or not she likes it or not!” sings Glickman.
As ever, Ryan Murphy delivers one hell of a present.
It’s clear all concerned are having a blast. Streep specifically camps it up one thing royal because the deluded Dee Dee, whereas Kidman fairly actually struts into body in a bright-green sequinned robe for her grand entrance. Corden taking part in effeminate camp would possibly wrinkle some noses, however Barry is a relentlessly entertaining character, firing out continuous zingers.
This, although, is Emma’s story, and he or she will get misplaced within the combine. Newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman is charming and wide-eyed — paying homage to a youthful Emma Stone — however the character feels skinny, the script hinting at horrifying hardships she’s endured with out creating house to discover them. The truth is, an absence of depth is The Promenade’s largest challenge — after a riotous Act One, the second half turns into saggy and unfocused, and the depiction of the city’s illiberal values feels overly simplistic and ill-defined. In the end, The Promenade is best at satirically skewering Broadway than it’s at significantly skewering homophobia, which looks like a missed alternative.
Nonetheless, you’ll root for Emma to finish up with Alyssa (Ariana DeBose, Anita in Spielberg’s upcoming West Aspect Story) come the rousing finale, which visualises the extra numerous and inclusive world we might all be residing in if bigotry didn’t rear its ugly head. In the end, that’s Murphy’s whole raison d’être as a creator — and, as ever, he delivers it in a single hell of a present. Not fairly a standing ovation, however a giant bravo.
The Promenade is a loud, proud glitter-ball of a movie, and doesn’t faux to be the rest. It stumbles within the second half and the relentless cheer is somewhat exhausting, however its vitality and wit stays infectious.