×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Enron

This London bombshell is both a dazzling piece of entertainment and a gripping cautionary tale.

With:
Jeffrey Skilling - Norbert Leo Butz Kenneth Lay - Gregory Itzin Claudia Roe - Marin Mazzie Andy Fastow - Stephen Kunken

Industry doomsayers were all wet about “Enron.” This London bombshell is both a dazzling piece of entertainment and a gripping cautionary tale about the criminal chicanery that eviscerated the most respected corporate body in America. Still, it cost a bundle (a reputed $5 million) to haul this hi-tech show into town, and everyone’s wondering if starstruck musical junkies will part with their coin for a straight play. What’s clear is that the sensational stage effects deliver the same blood-pumping thrills of a musical, wrapped around a play, by Lucy Prebble, with more brains in its head than any tuner since “Assassins.”

So it cost $5 million. So big deal. The theatrical effects alone — a dizzying funhouse of flashing saber lights, full-face and head masks, snarky puppets, cowboy line dancing, hypnotic split-screen projections, a drill-team chorus of marching financial traders, and a gigantic Big Board that never stops its flashing and whirling — are worth every drachma. If we were still living in the disposable play-money Age of Enron, Rupert Goold (who won both the Olivier and the Evening Standard Award for best director) and his inventive creative team would be pulling in sweet bonuses.

Besides, if this extravaganza ever does go on to become the full-blown musical it stylistically aspires to, show’s sensational star, the indefatigable and unstoppable Norbert Leo Butz (“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Wicked”), has solid chops and copious cred in musical-theater land.

In order to compress, explicate, and make us shudder over the hugely complicated boondoggle that was at the heart of the Houston-based energy company’s fabulous fortunes, Prebble has wisely narrowed her storytelling focus to the personal trajectories of four of the principal scoundrels — Enron’s infamous CEO Jeffrey Skilling (Butz), currently in prison but clamoring to get out; sexy thorn-in-his-side Claudia Roe (Marin Mazzie, reveling in her bitch moment); that Teflon guy Kenneth Lay (Gregory Itzin); and the nerdy accountant who gamed the funny numbers, chief financial officer Andy Fastow (Stephen Kunken). But Skilling is the crazy man with the cockamamie plan and Butz has precisely that edge of comic insanity that gives him entree into the minds and so-called hearts of brilliant egomaniacs like Enron’s golden boy.

The Expressionistic storytelling techniques devised by Prebble and artfully conceptualized by helmer Goold clarify the complexity of all the crooked high finance while holding it up to raucous ridicule. And here’s where the stagecraft comes in.

Those bogus “shadow companies” Fastow dreamed up to hide Enron’s mountainous debt are rendered by masked and fearsomely hungry “raptors” hidden away in the bowels of company headquarters. Lehman Brothers shows up as two greedy guys trussed into a single coat. Arthur Andersen defends his shoddy accounting practices with the help of a ventriloquist’s dummy. And Three Blind Mice in huge head masks let us know that nobody in the Bush government is paying the slightest attention — and is indeed abetting — this corporate chicanery.

Some of this spectacle is genuinely daring. There’s a jarring moment at the top of the show when the entire cast comes out marching to “The Star Spangled Banner.” Had this been the company from the show that originated at London’s Headlong Theater and is still playing on the West End, they might, indeed, have had their English heads handed to them. But this American-cast company raises the stakes for the show and actually helps Prebble to get her larger point across — that this is about more than the implosion of one high-flying company. It’s about the manic greed that fueled the Zeitgeist of the exuberant 90s.

Will the show make it? It all depends on how pissed-off people are at the kind of cynical manipulation that goes on in the Enron-inspired companies still thriving in America’s scandalously unregulated corporate universe. If all the victims of Bernie Madoff’s schemes and all the investors sold a bill of goods by Goldman Sachs would just line up for tickets, “Enron” could run forever on the fumes of their rage.

Enron

Broadhurst Theater; 1172 seats; $121.50 top

Production: Enron
A Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Matthew Byam Shaw, ACT Prods., Neal Street, Beverly Bartner & Norman Tulchin, Lee Menzies, Bob Boyett, Scott M. Delman, Infinity Stages, JK Prods., the Araca Group, Jamie deRoy, Mallory Factor, Michael Filerman, Ian Flooks, Ronald Frankel, James Fuld, Jr., Dena Hammerstein, Jam Theatricals, Rodger H. Hess, Sharon Karmazin, Cheryl Lachowicz, Ostar Parnassus Enterprise, Jon B. Platt, Judith Resnick, Daryl Roth, Stein and Gunderson Co., Anita Waxman, the Weinstein Co., Barry & Carole Kaye, Stewart F. Lane & Bonnie Comley, Fran & Barry Weissler and the Shubert Organization presentation of a Headlong Theater, Chichester Festival Theater and Royal Court Theater production of a play in two acts by Lucy Prebble. Directed by Rupert Goold.

Creative: Sets and costumes, Anthony Ward; lighting, Mark Henderson; composition and sound, video and projections, Jon Driscoll; choreography, Scott Ambler; production stage manager, Barclay Stiff. Reviewed April 26, 2010. Opened April 27. Running time: 2 HOURS, 20 MIN.

Cast: Jeffrey Skilling - Norbert Leo Butz Kenneth Lay - Gregory Itzin Claudia Roe - Marin Mazzie Andy Fastow - Stephen KunkenWith: Jordan Ballard, Brandon J. Dirden, Rightor Doyle, Anthony Holds, Ty Jones, Ian Kahn, January LaVoy, Tom Nelis, Jeff Skowron, Lusia Strus, Noah Weisberg, Madisyn Shipman, Mary Stewart Sullivan.

More Legit

  • Signature Theatre Celebrates Millionth Subsidized Ticket

    Signature Theatre Offers $35 Subsidized Tickets, Celebrates Millionth Sold

    Just the other night, a Manhattan cab driver told Signature Theatre executive director Harold Wolpert that he couldn’t afford to take his girlfriend to a show. In response, Wolpert motioned to his theater, saying that they offer $35 subsidized tickets. The driver said he’d try it out. “It was a great moment,” Wolpert said. “We’re [...]

  • SOCRATES The Public Theater

    Tim Blake Nelson Waxes Philosophical on Writing a Play About Socrates

    Despite Tim Blake Nelson’s knack for playing folksy characters in films such as “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” in his soul lurks the heart of a classicist. Nelson, who stars in HBO’s “Watchmen” series this fall, has also penned the play “Socrates,” now running at New York’s Public Theater through June 2. Doug Hughes directs, [...]

  • TodayTix - Brian Fenty

    TodayTix Banks $73 Million to Boost Theater and Arts Ticketing App

    TodayTix, a Broadway-born mobile ticketing start-up, is looking to expand into a bigger global media and transaction enterprise with a capital infusion of $73 million led by private-equity firm Great Hill Partners. The investment brings TodayTix’s total capital raised to over $100 million, according to CEO and co-founder Brian Fenty. Part of the new funding [...]

  • Ethan Hawke, Bobby Cannavale and Griffin

    BAM Gala Marks Leadership Change, Celebrates Brooklyn as 'Cultural Center of New York'

    Wednesday’s annual gala celebrating the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) served as a poignant moment of transition for the New York stalwart of contemporary performance. As long-time artistic director Joe Melillo, who along with Harvey Lichtenstein transformed BAM into a vanguard of progressive art, prepares to pass the torch to new leadership, gathered patrons and [...]

  • Tootsie Santino Fontana

    Listen: Santino Fontana on How Broadway's 'Tootsie' Was Adapted for Our Times

    Broadway’s “Tootsie” has turned into one of this season’s Tony Awards frontrunners, winning raves for its deftly funny update of potentially problematic source material — and for a firecracker cast led by Tony nominee Santino Fontana (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Frozen”), who makes his character’s transformation, from difficult actor Michael Dorsey to female alter ego Dorothy Michaels, [...]

  • Death of a Salesman review

    London Theater Review: 'Death of a Salesman'

    August Wilson famously disavowed the idea of an all-black “Death of a Salesman.” In 1996, he declared any such staging “an assault on our presence and our difficult but honorable history in America.” Arthur Miller’s antihero is no everyman, Wilson implied; Willy Loman is very specifically white. Critic John Lahr was inclined to agree: “To [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content