Sunday, July 1, 2012

Review: 'Harvey' Takes Up Residence at Studio 54 on Broadway

(photo: TheHopefulTraveler)
Jim Parsons (Elwood P. Dowd) (production photos: Joan Marcus)
My previous knowledge of ‘Harvey’ is only that a 1950 film, which I have not seen, adaptation starring Jimmy Stewart exists involving the lead character’s insistence that his friend is a six-foot-tall rabbit. Sadly I’ve never made the time to see the film. Now in a Broadway revival with television star Jim Parsons (“Big Bang Theory”) taking on the Stewart role, I finally had no reason to deny myself the opportunity since I happen to be in the city at the same time.

A play written for an audience with values of 60 years ago could be difficult to produce for an audience in 2012. But as presented by the Roudabout Theatre and directed by Scott Ellis, he brings a gentle hand in maintaining the light-hearted nature of Mary Chase’s comic fantasy and upping the ante as the comic misunderstandings builds into the second act.

Parsons stars as the harmless middle-aged Elwood P. Dowd, the sole-heir of his late mother and master of their elegant Victorian home. He is driving his sister Veta (Jessica Hecht) literally crazy by insisting that his friendship with an invisible white rabbit is real. She attempts to commit him to a sanitarium where as she describes the strain that Elwood and his rabbit friend has placed on her she is mistakenly seen as the one that needs to be committed.

When Elwood arrives at the sanitarium he in fact charms everyone there including Carol Kane who plays the wife of the head of the clinic lead by Charles Kimbrough. Comic chaos ensues once everyone is aware that they let Elwood leave the clinic and attempt to retrieve him and release the traumatized Veta.
(story continued below)

Jessica Hecht (Veta) and Jim Parsons

Carol Kane (Betty Chumley) and Jim Parsons
If the play starts out slow with the obligatory exposition, hilarious performances are eventually turned in by Hecht when she is committed and Charles Kimbrough who plays the head of the clinic who anxiously chases after Elwood. In her one scene in the first act, Angela Paton’s double takes are priceless when she is introduced to the imaginary Harvey.

Parsons maintains a calm exterior which is how one would expect normal people to act which makes it all the more funnier when he references Harvey. He oozes likeability and every now and then offers a sly smile as if he knows more than everyone thinks.

Kudos goes to David Rockwell for his sets. The intricate wood detail in his design of the mansion of Elwood’s family clearly shows the clan comes from wealth. This is in contrast to the bright clinical set of the sanitarium. The two sets are placed on a revolving platform and efficiently moves the action between the two locations. Lighting by Kenneth Posner plays up the contrasts between the sets. Costume designer Jane Greenwood dresses the cast as if evoking the movies produced at the time of the play’s writing but in full color.

For some reason one fault that was a distraction was Kane’s delivery of her lines. For some reason her voice did not carry even though I was seated in the first row and I felt like I had to bend my ears to hear each word she spoke. Since the show was already running two weeks after opening, I’m guessing this was an unusual occurrence.

After seeing ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ last night, I will claim this classic play is lacking in as many laughs and may be too old-fashioned for audiences. But it’s a credit that most of the cast including the two leads can command the stage that we don’t mind being introduced to Elwood’s friend for a couple of hours. In fact the audience will be seeing rabbits all over the place by curtain call. I guarantee it.


  • Website:  
  • Where: Studio 54
  • Location: 254 West 54th Street, New York City
  • When: Tue-Sat 8pm; Wed, Sat & Sun 2pm
  • Running Time:
  • Ticket Prices: $47-$165
  • Opening: Jun 14, 2012 (previews from May 18, 2012)
  • Closing: Aug 5, 2012
  • Book Online:
  • Ticket Services: 212-719-1300

Charles Kimbrough (Willim Chumley), Jessica Hecht and Jim Parsons.
Larry Bryggman, Holly Fain, Charles Kimbrough, Morgan Spector and
Rich Sommer.
Jim Parsons, Angela Paton, Jessica Hecht and Tracee Chimo.
Jim Parsons, Jessica Hecht and Rich Sommer.
Tracee Chimo, Jessica Hecht and Larry Bryggman.


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