Featuring book and lyrics by Kathie Lee Gifford and music by David Pomeranz and David Friedman, Scandalous began performances at Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre (250 W. 52nd St.) on October 13, 2012. Opening Night is tonight, November 15th.
SCANDALOUS stars two-time Tony Award nominee Carolee Carmello (Sister Act, Mamma Mia, Parade) as Aimee Semple McPherson, two-time Tony Award winner George Hearn (Sunset Blvd., La Cage aux Folles, Sweeney Todd) as James Kennedy and Brother Bob, Candy Buckley as Minnie Kennedy, Edward Watts (Finian's Rainbow) as Robert Semple and David Hutton, Roz Ryan (Chicago, Dreamgirls) as Emma Jo Schaeffer andAndrew Samonsky as Harold McPherson and Kenneth Ormiston.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: “The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson,” as the show is subtitled, are actually much more fascinating than you would gather from this formulaic Broadway musical...“Scandalous"...condenses and rearranges McPherson’s story to fit smoothly into the familiar grooves of celebrity biography. In the process the show reduces McPherson’s remarkable life to a cliché-bestrewn fable about the wages of fame…“Scandalous” isn’t so much scandalously bad as it is generic and dull…Ms. Carmello, a gloriously gifted singing actress, has never managed to snag a star-making breakout role on Broadway — not all that surprising in these difficult days for musical theater. Sister Aimee certainly provides plenty of opportunities for Ms. Carmello to thrill us with the purity and power of her voice. She leads a few rousing come-to-Jesus gospel-tinged numbers with bright-beaming intensity. She delivers the climactic soul-baring ballad with plenty of emotional heat. What she cannot do — no singer without the power of miracle could — is bring distinction to songs that never rise above the serviceable.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: But Scandalous — which features a fine cast led by stage veteran Carolee Carmello and vigorously directed by David Armstrong — has many lighter, brighter moments, as well as something rarer in contemporary musicals: the courage of its sincerity. Gifford and co-composers David Pomeranz and David Friedman have crafted a two-hour-plus journey that neither wallows in its self-importance nor looks down its nose at the quaint folks it chronicles.
Steve Suskin, Variety: Picking up where "Leap of Faith" left off, "Scandalous" is another big-budget, evangelist-with-feet-of-clay tale from the hinterlands, and despite various prior incarnations, it looks woefully out of place on a Broadway stage. Thesp Carolee Carmello ("Parade") does everything she can to breathe life into this bio-musical of forgotten celeb Aimee Semple McPherson, aka Sister Aimee, but no amount of proselytizing is likely to convert Gothamites. The composer, lyricist, librettist, director, choreographer and producers are all Broadway first-timers; so much for beginner's luck.
Linda Winer, Newsday: There is nothing remotely scandalous about "Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson," the biographical musical that has book, lyrics and additional music by Kathie Lee Gifford. Despite the inevitable celebrity-lite target on Gifford's back, the musical about the media-star Christian evangelist of the 1920s does not have the toxic aura of a vanity production. It is well-produced and professional. It's also not interesting, alas, at least not interesting enough to sustain 2 1/2 hours of fast-forward storytelling and inspirational songs that almost always end in throbbing climax…But we have a reason to give thanks, and that is Carolee Carmello. One of our most deeply wonderful, inexplicably underutilized singing actors, Carmello finally gets a giant vehicle that needs her massive talents.
Keith Staskiewicz, Entertainment Weekly: Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson...may not have a firm grasp on whether its subject was a heroically crusading woman of God or a hypocritical mountebank, but one thing's for certain: She sure was a grand ol' gal! That seems to be the main theme of Kathie Lee Gifford's script, and it works in part. The songs...provide emotional and plot development that help keep the story moving at a quick clip...David Armstrong's direction flows effortlessly from one episode in McPherson's life to the next with minimal hiccups, and Carolee Carmello gives a charismatic performance in the lead, belting out her numbers like a one-woman church choir...The scandal of the title is given surprisingly short shrift...It's a complex story filled with a lot of knotty issues, but much of the nuance gets glossed over in this production, overstuffed as it is with other, less fascinating anecdotes, like a lengthy introductory sequence about her early life as a Canadian farm girl. Still, Scandalous has enough high energy and witty lines to help to atone for some of its sins. B–