×

New Jersey Stage menu
New Jersey Stage home
New Jersey Stage search button

Search website


 

NEWS | FEATURES | PREVIEWS | EVENTS

REVIEW: "Benny & Joon" at Paper Mill Playhouse

By Charles Gruber


originally published: 04/19/2019

REVIEW: "Benny & Joon" at Paper Mill Playhouse

I have seen many musicals at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, Northern Jersey’s salute to Broadway theater.  Each one has been on an entertainment arc between spectacle and spectacular.  When a play’s content is average, the music, singing, dancing, sets and choreography push it to spectacle.  When a play’s storyline flows, then all the elements are there and we have spectacular.

REVIEW: "Benny & Joon" at Paper Mill PlayhouseBenny & Joon is based on a 1993 movie, with Aidan Quinn as Benny, who runs a car repair shop in Spokane, WA, Mary Ann Masterson as his mentally challenged sister Joon, and Johnny Depp as an eccentric stranger, Sam, who moves in with them.  The musical begins disappointedly on the lower end of the entertainment arc.  Benny, played by Claybourne Elder, and Joon, played by Hannah Elless, are each appealing and have pleasant opening songs.  In the first 20 minutes, there are comedy routines by Benny and his employees and a poker game with unusual stakes.  But there is no real spark until Sam, played by a brilliant Bryce Pinkham, enters the proceedings.  He is charming and whimsical, expressed in a delightful song: “In My Head.”  His facial mannerisms and miming ability are extraordinary.  He makes delicious pancakes with a steam iron.  He quotes movie lines in uncanny imitations of the originals. (Animal Crackers, 1930: “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas.  How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”)  He is a perfect blend of Mary Poppins and Marcel Marceau, with an extra measure of Siskel and Ebert.  Benny thinks of him as definitely odd but also sees him as a suitable caretaker for Joon.  Joon sees him differently.  In a scene with her therapist, Joon states that she no longer has a caretaker “because he is a Sam.”

“Is Sam a man?” asks the therapist.

“He’s a man,” Joon responds, “definitely a man.”

In Act Two, Sam has a show stopper of a song while trying to prove to a video store owner that “I Can Help.”  Of course, Sam and Joon fall in love.  Benny and Joon, who, in the title song, “go together like a bowl and a spoon,” begin to drift apart.  Benny becomes enraged at Sam, until Sam, in a heroic bit of derring-do, proves his devotion to Joon.  The music of the night poses a question: if love is crazy and magical, why can’t it be between two crazy, magical people?  Ending under a stage of sky blue, Benny & Joon is itself a little crazy and a lot magical.  On the arc of spectacle to spectacular, it is super spectacular.



 
Advertise with New Jersey Stage for $50-$100 per month, click here for info



So let’s all sing together.

We won’t hesitate…or wait

We’ll just go…to a fabulous show.

Benny & Joon runs now through May 5th at Paper Mill Playhouse (22 Brookside Drive) in Millburn, New Jersey. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

Here are some additional photos from the production.  All photos by Jerry Dalia.

REVIEW: "Benny & Joon" at Paper Mill Playhouse

REVIEW: "Benny & Joon" at Paper Mill Playhouse



Charles Gruber has an M.A. in Journalism from Columbia University. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America. His first play, Hanky Panky, a comedy with music, had a production several years ago in Montclair, NJ. His latest play, My Night With Marlon Brando, was produced last year by the Grange Playhouse in Howell, NJ. He can be contacted at cgcharlesgruber@gmail.com.






 



 

more in theatre




EVENT CALENDAR

ART | COMEDY | DANCE | MUSIC | THEATRE | COMMUNITY

Elf, the Musical

Sunday, December 05, 2021 @ 3:00pm
Algonquin Arts Theatre
60 Abe Voorhees, Manasquan, NJ 08736
category: theatre

Click here for full description

ANASTASIA

Sunday, December 05, 2021 @ 1:00pm
State Theatre New Jersey
15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
category: theatre

Click here for full description

ANASTASIA

Sunday, December 05, 2021 @ 7:00pm
State Theatre New Jersey
15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
category: theatre

Click here for full description

A Forever Motown Holiday Celebration

Sunday, December 05, 2021 @ 7:00pm
Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC)
100 South Street, Morristown, NJ 07960
category: music

Click here for full description

Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey presents "Classical Christmas"

Sunday, December 05, 2021 @ 4:00pm
Patriots Theatre at the War Memorial
1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, NJ 08608
category: music

Click here for full description

"Water In My Hands" by Emma Gibson

Sunday, December 05, 2021 @ 2:00pm
Oakes Center
120 Morris Avenue, Summit, NJ 07901
category: theatre

Click here for full description

Eric Mintel Quartet

Sunday, December 05, 2021 @ 3:00pm
Grunin Center
1 College Drive, Toms River, NJ 08754
category: music

Click here for full description

The Spongebob Musical

Sunday, December 05, 2021 @ 3:00pm
Axelrod Performing Arts Center
100 Grant Avenue, Deal Park, NJ 07723
category: theatre

Click here for full description



For more event listings, click here


 

 

New Jersey Stage © 2021 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram



Art | Comedy | Dance | Film | Music | Theatre | Ad Rates | About Us | Pitch a Story | Links | Radio Shows