'Sweet Smell' faces critics

NEW YORK — While Broadway’s “The Full Monty” was being celebrated across the Atlantic, the Great White Way’s newest musical, “Sweet Smell of Success,” opened to some of the sourest reviews of the season.

Ben Brantley’s New York Times review began with “Zzzzzzzzzzz” and went south from there. Newsday’s Linda Winer noted “an acrid whiff of desperation” and called the show “ambitious but inert.” The Daily News’ Howard Kissel was no more positive.

Clive Barnes in the New York Post registered the Gotham dailies’ one positive notice. “The musical that opened last night at the Martin Beck is diamond-tough and in most ways just as brilliant,” he wrote of the new tuner, comparing it to the the 1957 film.

But the weekly magazines weren’t upbeat, with Time, New York and the New Yorker registering in the negative.

Clear Channel has not released the exact dollar amount of the “Sweet Smell” advance and declined interviews the day after the show opened in New York, but the $10 million production is in for a struggle if it intends to hold out for Tony publicity.

Critics don’t always have the last word, of course. Gotham’s scribes lambasted “Aida,” which opened in spring 2000, and that tuner has gone on to a very successful run. However, “Aida” benefited from the Disney imprimatur and the star power of Elton John, who inspired Time and Newsweek to write pre-opening feature articles on the musical, an increasingly rare phenom at both newsweeklies.

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