You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Paper Moon

Matt Casella conceived the musical version of "Paper Moon" and has staged workshops and a previous full-scale production at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse, so it's astonishing how rudimentary and embryonic it appears to be in its latest incarnation, a Goodspeed Opera House/Walnut Street Theater production.

With:
Cast: Lindsay Cummings or Joanna Pacitti (Addie Loggins), Mark Zimmerman (Moses Pray), Julie Johnson (Miss Trixie Delight), Ariel Harris (Imogene), Blair Ross (Aunt Billie Roy Loggins); J.B. Adams, Ken Triwush, Catherine Fries, Craig Zehms, Lynn Eldredge, Larry Alexander, Natalie Blalock, Sandy Rosenberg, Roy Leake Jr., Brett Cramp, Schele Williams.

Matt Casella conceived the musical version of “Paper Moon” and has staged workshops and a previous full-scale production at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, so it’s astonishing how rudimentary and embryonic it appears to be in its latest incarnation, a Goodspeed Opera House/Walnut Street Theater production. Paper-thin at best, it plays rather like an impoverished “Annie,” a 20th-anniversary revival of which will follow it into the Goodspeed (somewhat repetitive programming, since both “Paper Moon” and “Annie” have bald men and small, orphaned moppets as their central characters). Even the physical production itself looks penny-pinched.

The musical is based on Peter Bogdanovich’s 1973 movie and the Joe David Brown novel from which it was taken. It echoes the film without successfully evoking its 1930s Depressionaura or its haunting black-and-white photography of the Bible Belt South. The show also has difficulty in coping with the fact that the film was basically a road movie, a mood-and-personality piece that owed a tremendous amount to Bogdanovich’s vision and to the chemistry of its stars, Ryan O’Neal and his daughter Tatum. Casella and his creative team lack a comparable vision for the musical, and the cast is efficient at best. This “Paper Moon,” replete with Larry Grossman’s pastiche score, seems more like a dated revival than a new musical.

Mark Zimmerman plays Moses Pray, a con man who preys on emotionally vulnerable widows as he peddles personalized Bibles. His 9-year-old charge, Addie (played by 11-year-old Lindsay Cummings at the press opening), quickly reveals herself to be an even more efficient con merchant than he, as well as a first-rate blackmailer. The basic immorality of the pair is a difficulty handled much more skillfully by Bogdanovich and the O’Neals than by Casella, his creative team and cast.

Hootchy-kootchy dancer-singer Trixie Delight (Julie Johnson) is also a problem for the musical. Her opening number is a deliberately tacky one for her and her three hopeless backup girls. But it is just that, rather than a witty or sly comment on such numbers, leaving big-bosomed Trixie and her girls floundering in the spotlight. Johnson ultimately wins over the audience with her final, sentimental “Girls Like Us” as she convinces Moses to reunite with Addie.

As Moses, Zimmerman is sturdy but scarcely charismatic enough. As young Addie , Cummings works hard and sings loudly, if none too musically, sometimes swallowing the lyrics and, finally, sinking under the weight of her role. The most vivid performance is given by Blair Ross as Addie’s severely religious aunt in the musical’s short, underdeveloped second act.

Because the press opening did not follow the format of the printed program’s musical numbers, some of which seemed to have been moved from the second act to the first, it appears that work is still being done on “Paper Moon.” But a major reconception would seem to be called for if it is to have any staying power. The production plays at the Goodspeed through Sept. 13 and then at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theater Sept. 21 to Nov. 3.

Paper Moon

Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, Conn.; 398 seats; $ 35 top

Production: A Goodspeed Opera House presentation, in association with the Walnut Street Theater, of a musical in two acts with book by Martin Casella, music by Larry Grossman and lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh, based on the novel "Addie Pray," by Joe David Brown, and the Paramount Pictures film "Paper Moon." Directed by Matt Casella.

Crew: Choreographed by John Carrafa, musical direction by Michael O'Flaherty, orchestrations by Ned Ginsburg. Sets, James Youmans; costumes, David C. Woolard; lighting, Kenneth Posner; production coordinator, Todd Little; stage manager, Donna Cooper Hilton; artistic associate, John Pike; associate producer, Sue Frost; general manager, Howard Sherman; casting, Warren Pincus. Executive director, Michael P. Price. Opened, reviewed July 19, 1996. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN. Musical numbers: "Another Little Child," "I Recollect Him," "The Wida' Waltz, " "Pretty Like Your Mama," "Goin' Along," "I Do What I Can (With What I Got)," "Boy-Oh-Boy," "How Many Times," "Doin' Business," "Someday, Baby," "Rabbity Stew ," "Who Belongs to Who?," "You With Me?," "Girls Like Us."

With: Cast: Lindsay Cummings or Joanna Pacitti (Addie Loggins), Mark Zimmerman (Moses Pray), Julie Johnson (Miss Trixie Delight), Ariel Harris (Imogene), Blair Ross (Aunt Billie Roy Loggins); J.B. Adams, Ken Triwush, Catherine Fries, Craig Zehms, Lynn Eldredge, Larry Alexander, Natalie Blalock, Sandy Rosenberg, Roy Leake Jr., Brett Cramp, Schele Williams.

More Film

  • 'Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk'

    Film Review: 'Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk'

    Matt Casella conceived the musical version of “Paper Moon” and has staged workshops and a previous full-scale production at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, so it’s astonishing how rudimentary and embryonic it appears to be in its latest incarnation, a Goodspeed Opera House/Walnut Street Theater production. Paper-thin at best, it plays rather like an impoverished […]

  • Berlin: Asian Brilliant Stars Hands out

    Berlin: Asian Brilliant Stars Hands out Talent Awards

    Matt Casella conceived the musical version of “Paper Moon” and has staged workshops and a previous full-scale production at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, so it’s astonishing how rudimentary and embryonic it appears to be in its latest incarnation, a Goodspeed Opera House/Walnut Street Theater production. Paper-thin at best, it plays rather like an impoverished […]

  • Berlinale -- 2018 -- Norway's 'Home

    Norway's 'Home Ground’ Bows in Berlinale Series

    Matt Casella conceived the musical version of “Paper Moon” and has staged workshops and a previous full-scale production at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, so it’s astonishing how rudimentary and embryonic it appears to be in its latest incarnation, a Goodspeed Opera House/Walnut Street Theater production. Paper-thin at best, it plays rather like an impoverished […]

  • Kiersey Clemons

    Kiersey Clemons to Star in Jonás Cuarón's 'Zorro' Movie

    Matt Casella conceived the musical version of “Paper Moon” and has staged workshops and a previous full-scale production at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, so it’s astonishing how rudimentary and embryonic it appears to be in its latest incarnation, a Goodspeed Opera House/Walnut Street Theater production. Paper-thin at best, it plays rather like an impoverished […]

  • Kristen Bell Pandas

    Film News Roundup: Kristen Bell to Narrate 'Pandas' Documentary for Imax

    Matt Casella conceived the musical version of “Paper Moon” and has staged workshops and a previous full-scale production at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, so it’s astonishing how rudimentary and embryonic it appears to be in its latest incarnation, a Goodspeed Opera House/Walnut Street Theater production. Paper-thin at best, it plays rather like an impoverished […]

  • Lupita Nyong'o Trevor Noah

    Lupita Nyong'o to Star in Trevor Noah Biopic 'Born a Crime'

    Matt Casella conceived the musical version of “Paper Moon” and has staged workshops and a previous full-scale production at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, so it’s astonishing how rudimentary and embryonic it appears to be in its latest incarnation, a Goodspeed Opera House/Walnut Street Theater production. Paper-thin at best, it plays rather like an impoverished […]

  • How 'Greatest Showman' Anthem 'This Is

    Behind the Scene: How Pasek and Paul's 'Greatest Showman' Anthem 'This Is Me' Became a Smash Hit

    Matt Casella conceived the musical version of “Paper Moon” and has staged workshops and a previous full-scale production at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, so it’s astonishing how rudimentary and embryonic it appears to be in its latest incarnation, a Goodspeed Opera House/Walnut Street Theater production. Paper-thin at best, it plays rather like an impoverished […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content