A Tale of Two Cities
Broadway and World Premiere reviews
Reviews from the Broadway Production
A Broadway must see! Everything is here to stir the soul—young love, purity, vengeance, villainy, valor—all played out against that historic revolution. This “Tale” with its array of song, spectacle and heartbreak, should join the panoply of long-running Broadway musicals.
- Irene Backalenick, The Connecticut Post
It's got a rousing score, the company is first-rate and the story's noble sacrifice, beautifully realized by Jill Santoriello, doesn't leave a dry eye in the house.
It's daunting enough reading the works of Charles Dickens—at least for most readers—let alone taking one of his classic stories and retrofitting it for another medium. It's well known that Dickens was paid by the word and that he preferred, by and large, to get as big a paycheck for his work as he could manage. To distill such a book as A Tale Of Two Cities into a 155-minute musical without disintegrating the meat of the story is tantamount to suicide. This is the first place that an adaptation can go inexorably and horribly wrong under the best of circumstances, and yet it's where Jill Santoriello—the librettist, composer, and writer behind A Tale Of Two Cities: The Musical—went unquestionably right.
Good fiction, like magic, makes it difficult for the audience to see the mechanics of the trick. Charles Dickens was a master magician whose greatest feat was the grand illusion created in the pages of “A Tale Of Two Cities”, and Jill Santoriello's musical has not only recreated that sleight-of-hand, it is guilty of a far less obvious magic: to take a classic novel, long buried under scholarship and praise, and recall it to life.
It was the best of times at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. A tremendous, magnificent grand new musical. A lush production. “A Tale of Two Cities” has earned a special place in the history of the theater.
The music is excellent. Directed and choreographer with brio and warmth by Warren Carlyle. The cast of 40 is one of the best ensembles I’ve seen on stage.
- Rosalind Friedman, WMNR-FM
Rousing and engaging! Designed to be a crowd pleaser, there is no denying “A Tale of Two Cities” succeeds.
- Roma Torre, NY1
The rousing pop opera, inventively designed by Tony Walton, makes a handsome showcase for some of the most gifted voices on Broadway. A compelling love story told against the backdrop of the gritty French Revolution. The creators and the cast have tapped into the universal appeal of the well read Dickens’ story that has sold over 200 million copies around the world. A heart wrenching story told through stirring songs.
- Gordin and Christiano, TheatreLife.com
“A Tale of Two Cities”, a Broadway musical that will open this Thursday night, captures the heart of the story and the audience with an exceptionally strong performance by James Barbour as Sydney Carton, drunken lawyer turned romantic hero. Barbour's terrific voice is no surprise, but that's only the beginning. He makes the character's unlikely moral u-turn credible and handles a handful of critical comedic lines with perfect timing and tone - self-loathingly straight, with a dash of boozy irony.
- As Good As News (Blog)
It’s epic, electrifying musical theatre at its grandest.
As Sydney Carton, a very much hung over, cynical charmer of a guy – Mr. Barbour instills his character with a strength, vulnerability and honesty which makes Mr. Barbour a prime candidate for one of the best leading men on the Broadway musical stage today. His magnificent voice. His throw away wit. His mangy, messy, manly looks. All add up to this thrilling and compelling performance - worthy of the cheers that greet him at plays end.
- Oscar E. Moore, TalkEntertainment.com
I loved it. I want to go again! ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ is one of the best musicals on Broadway. Quite moving.
- Life Upon the Sacred Stage, Retta Blaney
Reviews from the Sold-Out Run at Sarasota's Asolo Repertory Theatre
A TALE OF TWO CITIES has taken its first step toward Broadway. You can catch this epic musical drama at the Asolo Theatre if you’re willing to beg, steal and borrow. The smash hit is already completely sold out. I’d never read the novel but found myself wrapped up in the redemptive story of Sydney Carton and the heartbreaking love triangle between Carton, Lucie Manette and Charles Darnay. This Broadway-bound musical is on the right path, thanks especially to a handful of stirring Jill Santoriello songs, Michael Donald Edwards’ brisk staging, Tony Walton?s ingenious scenic design and a strong company led by James Barbour, pouring his soul into a towering performance as Carton. He could get himself a Tony Award if he plays his cards right.
- PAUL WONTOREK, Broadway.com
I wrote a post once about musical theatre composers who are not household names, but should be. After being swept into Jill Santoriello’s pre-Broadway production of A Tale Two Cities Tuesday night, I am certain she will skip inclusion in that post, and head directly to household name.
- Eric, Man In Chair Blog
'A TALE OF TWO CITIES’ has much to recommend it. Brisk direction. Fluid musical staging. Impressive design. Elegant costumes. Revealing lyrics. A vibrant and rousing first-act finale. Natalie Toro’s powerhouse performance. Nick Wyman is comically dastardly as ‘Barsad.’ Katherine McGrath oozes humanity and sarcasm as the wry nanny, ‘Miss Pross.’ Alex Santoriello is lovingly compassionate as the long-imprisoned, Dr. Alexandre Manette.’ The stage is beautiful as it transforms with graceful elegance from bloody Paris streets to London courtrooms and palaces. There is a story here that certainly can touch audiences.
- JAY HANDELMAN, Variety
Some of the best musicals are the ones that make you forget that you are sitting in a theater. The kind of shows that make the audience feel as if they are a bystander within the plot. Such is the case for Jill Santoriello's enchanting new epic, A TALE OF TWO CITIES. This is an enthralling theater piece. Not one detail has been overlooked. There are too many touching moments, brilliant scenes and wonderful music to mention. Collectively, Derek Keeling, Jessica Rush and James Barbour's performances are well done for this epic. Natalie Toro is remarkable. While there is an urgent seriousness to the musical, there is plenty of comic relief - from the catchy one-liners of Lucie's escort Miss Pross, delightfully portrayed by Katherine McGrath, to Mr. John Barsad's weaseling antics, memorably played by Nick Wyman, to the humorous grave diggers who dub themselves "resurrectionists." From the talented cast of Broadway veterans, to the choreography, direction, costumes and spectacular scenery and lighting designs, this bound-for-Broadway "A TALE OF TWO CITIES" is more than impressive. It shines and stirs.
- JANUARY HOLMES, Bradenton Herald
A TALE OF TWO CITIES is simply the best of times. It is wonderfully satisfying -- visually, musically, histrionically and narratively. It is also mightily pleasing. Tony Walton's grand sets are spectacularly eloquent. David Zinn's scores of costumes are marvelously conceived. Richard Pilbrow's expressionistic lighting creates a whole world of indignant fantasy. Michael Donald Edwards' direction is excellent. The cast is exceptionally talented. Best of all is James Barbour. Jessica Rush has a marvelous instrument. Natalie Toro stuns us with her vocal quality. The songs have that epic quality that multimillion-dollar blockbusters require. They build to their ovations with real confidence. Santoriello's book is near perfect. I’ve seldom seen better work at the Asolo Theatre or anywhere else. Should you see ?A TALE OF TWO CITIES? Absolutely ! It is a stunner.
- MARK E. LIEB, Creative Loafing, Sarasota
'A TALE OF TWO CITIES' is a great experience. The new musical has a terrific cast, splendidly high production values and the pleasure of seeing a beloved classic come to life onstage. James Barbour is a powerfully charismatic presence. The staging is sumptuous. The scenic design is superb. The lighting is vivid. The costumes are lush. Author, Jill Santoriello, has done a skillful job.
- JOHN FLEMING, St. Petersburg Times
The challenges of adapting a classic novel for the musical theatre are enormous. A TALE OF TWO CITIES meets those challenges with considerable skill and artistry
- KAY KIPLING, Sarasota Magazine
Does A TALE OF TWO CITIES live up to all of its hype? In a word, yes. You have your classy story, a top-notch cast, and seamless direction all tied up in a beautifully mounted production designed by the legendary Tony Walton. It is a show that deserves a wider audience. In a demanding operatic style that sets almost all of the dialogue to music, Ms. Santoriello's achievement is considerable. Carton's plaintive "If Dreams Came True" and the finale, "I Can't Recall" have hit potential. The Asolo Repertory Theatre's opening night audience was wowed. The show is mostly sold out. But any fan of thundering final curtains should try to grab a ticket.
- KAREN MAMONE, Pelican Press
It was the best of times for the Sarasota theatre-goers who witnessed the birth of A TALE OF TWO CITIES. We were rewarded with an extremely well-crafted product that deserves a chance on the famed Avenue. Everyone in the cast contributed to the success of the piece. Each had an importance to the entire story. James Barbour's rich baritone goes easily from somber themes to delightful points of self-deprecation. Natalie Toro's powerful voice extracts all the venom from Jill Santoriello's impressive score. The staging is magnificent. This is great, powerful theatre. See it now!
- CAROL and GLENN SWOPE, Long Boat Key News
There is much to praise about this show. A TALE OF TWO CITIES is probably one of the most exciting things that audiences are ever going to see in Sarasota. And those audiences have been up on their feet immediately after the show every night. The musical is destined for Broadway.
- JAY HANDELMAN, The Sarasota Herald-Tribune
A TALE OF TWO CITIES is a triumph. It is the best thing the Asolo Repertory Theatre has ever done. It is better than anything on Broadway. The show is sold out. So beg, borrow or steal a ticket. It?s that good.
- MARJORIE NORTH, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
"A Tale of Two Cities" was a theatrical experience. "Tale" contained the emotional power of "Les Miserables," the mystique of "Phantom of the Opera" and the charisma of "Cats," without borrowing from any of these. This was an American creation. This writer is predicting success for its run on Broadway and elsewhere.
- SANDY COPPERMAN, Sun-Herald.com