Paradise Square Reviews
The New York Times- Somewhat Recommended
"...If most of the score suffers from a mild case of overstatement - whipping up a series of generic rock ballads and throat-shredding anthems - the book and staging suffer from full-blown emphasitis. The book, credited to Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas and Larry Kirwan, is especially problematic. Based on Kirwan's musical play "Hard Times," and apparently rewritten heavily in nine years of development, it strips everything down to the naked basics as it tries to accommodate so many characters along with a checklist of sensitivities."
NY Daily News- Somewhat Recommended
"...The show genuinely wants to be entertaining, of course, and much of the time it succeeds. It movingly celebrates the power of love and of families we make for ourselves. But it does not want to offer the traditional cathartic comfort of musicals; rather, it seeks to reflect all the pain these struggling characters feel. And thus "Paradise Square" will survive on Broadway only if audiences are willing to see that these artists are doing their best not just to reckon with the past, but to make the radical (for a musical) point that the present is not so much better."
Vulture- Not Recommended
'...Dance and history and race and loss tempered with hope — what a subject for a musical this would be, if only Paradise Square had managed to theatricalize it. There’s room for it in its two hours and 45 minutes, but the gluey (and clearly glued-together) book by Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas, and Larry Kirwan uses the real setting and events without, somehow, actually telling their story. Production queasiness is part of the problem, as is the script’s upside-down logic. Corruption-by-a-thousand-fixes accounts for the rest."
New York Theater- Somewhat Recommended
"...But "Paradise Square" was largely a disappointment. By the end of its overlong running time, it felt overcrowded and overbearing; its staging too often of the stand-in-a line-at-the-lip-of-the-stage-and-stare school of emoting; its score loud, strident and insistent - well-sung, but not especially memorable and not much integrated with the story; its story of dubious historical accuracy and by-the-numbers plotting."
Variety- Not Recommended
"...The body can sometimes say more than words, but even the most expressive moves cannot make a coherent case for "Paradise Square." The blunt and belabored history lesson of a new musical set in Manhattan's Five Points, and produced by Garth Drabinsky, purports to be a fable of American race relations. But while conflicts between the neighborhood's Black and Irish residents at times come thrillingly to life through dance, "Paradise Square" is wrong-footed from the jump."
New York Post- Somewhat Recommended
"...The score by Jason Howland (lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Masi Asare) is a mix of bland musical theater, easy listening, traditional Irish sounds and the songs of Stephen Foster (“Camptown Races,” “Oh! Susanna,” etc.). There is one sensational ballad called “Let It Burn” that Kalukango powerfully belts in the second act, soaked in tears. I’d happily pay $10 to watch that one performance and leave."
amNY- Not Recommended
"...Although well-meaning and filled with some striking visuals and pointed political commentary, "Paradise Square" is sappy, overstuffed, overlong, and tiresome."
Time Out New York- Recommended
"...Director Moises Kaufman stages all of the above with a sense of grave pageantry that gets a solid assist from Allen Moyer's rotating set and Toni-Leslie James's rich array of petticoats and vests. It's a handsome production, with a talented and notably large cast; the exciting dance sequences, choreographed by Bill T. Jones, are among the show's highlights, though one senses a missed opportunity in depicting the cross-pollination of Irish step dancing and Black tap traditions. (Even in the aforementioned dance-off-in which Owen and Joah compete to win money they each need badly-the Irish and Black camps stay largely separate, West Side Story style, and Joah's movement seems decidedly modern.) The problem is that the writing doesn't support the spectacle, yielding a ponderous hash of good intentions that often feels like a training-wheels version of Ragtime."
The Wrap- Somewhat Recommended
"..."Paradise Square" has so many big issues crammed into it that the book writers (Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas and Larry Kirwan) leave no room for characters. Tiggens and a disgruntled ex-soldier, Lucky Mike (Kevin Dennis), are bad. Nelly and most everybody else are ready to be canonized. Especially noble is the lesbian couple (Kayla Pecchioni and Camille Eanga-Selenge) who help Washington's girlfriend (Gabrielle McClinton) escape slavery in the South."
Deadline- Somewhat Recommended
"...In fact, Paradise Square, with a book by Christina Anderson (Good Goods, Inked Baby), Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza) and Kirwan - excellent writers one and all - has an unfortunate, even disastrous, tendency to lay blame on its cartoon villains rather than the murky depths of its good-natured common folk. Mr. Monopoly all but single-handedly rouses the white Immigrant rabble to riot against the Draft, at first by convincing them that they're being asked to fight a rich man's war - Trump's got nothing on Frederick for phony populism - and only later turning the riled-up rioters against their Black neighbors."
TheaterScene.net- Highly Recommended
"...Based on historical facts, the new and exciting musical Paradise Square tells a story of fictional characters caught up in real events which lead up to the Draft Riots that occurred in Manhattan in July 1863. Set in the notorious neighborhood known as Five Points, renowned as the most dangerous place to live in the United States, it takes place mainly in the fictional Paradise Square Saloon in the real Paradise Square. Aside from the sensational dancing by choreographer Bill T. Jones and a rousing score by composer Jason Howland who also conducts, the show stars Joaquina Kalukango giving a show-stopping performance in the leading role."
Stage Buddy- Highly Recommended
"..."Paradise Square," educates its audience about that little-known time in New York history. Set in the midst of the Civil War, the action begins with Willie O'Brien (Matt Bogart) and other Irish volunteers of an all-Irish brigade going off to fight. Willie is married to Nellie, the African-American owner of the Paradise Square saloon. Nellie is portrayed by the wonderfully talented Joaquina Kalukango who is likely to win the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Kalukango (Slave Play) is a marvel. Passionate, she possesses a powerful voice and presence. When she sings a duet with Kennedy, there's not a dry eye in the house."
Theater Pizzazz- Recommended
"...While Kalukango provides the production with a majestic, grounded presence, Shively and DuPont lift it up and render it airborne. These two magnificent dancers (playing Owen and Washington) perform Bill T. Jones's marvelous choreography (including step-dancing and Juba styles) with such energy and exuberance that even after the curtain call, as they exit the stage, they are still dancing."
"...It's certainly not the lack of a good storyline that plagues Paradise Square. It has a riveting and compelling story, but the book hammers and repeats itself again and again. In case you missed it in the book, the score will hammer it some more, and if you still missed it, the repetitive choreography will tap, stomp and body slap the message home. However, there is one aspect to the show that makes it worth seeing, and I'll get to that later."
Daily Beast- Somewhat Recommended
"...The plotting of the stories is a miasma. They stop and start, and develop in rushed coda at the ends of bombastic music and dizzying dance. Songs restate plot and thoughts, without moving anything forward. Dance is central to the musical-as you would expect by anything choreographed by Bill T. Jones-but the Irish dancing in particular seems to be used as padding, as does a dance contest that only gets underway after more competitive dancing. When Irish and Black styles of dancing meet, something electric does happen on stage. But after a while, energetic as it is, the dancing just has nowhere to go, except more dancing. Can you have too much dancing? Sorry, yes. In Paradise Square, it just keeps happening and repeating."
Broadway News- Recommended
"...There have been many headlines about the financial trouble at "Paradise Square" and about its producer, Garth Drabinsky, who is a convicted felon. Despite this, "Paradise Square" is the kind of new musical that Broadway needs more of: an original story that is ambitious, moving and entertaining, with a diverse cast singing in formidable harmony."
"...Megamusicals have rarely, if ever, gotten great reviews from the jump, and I suspect this one will be no different. Is this the next Phantom or Les Miserables? No, but as far as these things go, it's a pretty excellent example of the form: a rousing throwback to old-fashioned American entertainment, cobbled together from strange, disparate sources but somehow, somehow still going."
New York Stage Review- Recommended
"...But Kaufman, with ample support from Jones, also culls bravura performances. If Chilina Kennedy's Annie is overwrought-I found myself wondering how the actress is going to get through eight shows a week bellowing her lines as she does-the other principals express their characters' frustration and yearning compellingly, particularly when singing or dancing. Working with step dance veterans and innovators Garrett Coleman and Jason Oremus (both featured dancers as well, though Oremus is out until mid-April due to an injury), Jones draws on both Irish and African traditions to exhilarating and gorgeously lyrical effect. Sidney DuPont and A.J. Shively, who respectively play Washington and Owen, each get physical star turns-Shively's long legs are so agile that you may gasp when he first lifts them-though ensemble members all get opportunities to shine, individually and as a collective."