[N.B.: If this supposedly quick-and-dirty reviewing project is going to work up any steam, I have to establish some self-imposed limits. Not Twitter-length: though Paul Ford's SXSW tour de force makes a critical virtue of the crushing imperatives toward for Procrustean compression under present conditions, I'm not actually "on assignment" here. Except in special cases (and we'll see how many of those there are), I'll try instead to observe the five-sentence rule of thumb recently recommended by productivity/GTD types. (That whole world, by the way, awaits its Kulturkritik.)]
Marc Blitztein's adaption of Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock was a Broadway bomb in 1959, partly because neither of its bankable leads (Shirley Booth and Melvyn Douglas, both charming in the right roles) were not up to realizing the rather difficult score, and partly because the play is a huge fucking downer that Blitztein was, to his credit, uninterested in softening. On the evidence of Cradle Will Rock and No For An Answer, it's seemed to me that Blitztein's equal commitment to (a) a modernism that disallowed easy show-tune solutions and (b) a very '30s left-populism left him very little room to move. This show is actually quite accessible by his standards: the Irish setting allows for folkier melodic material and dance forms (though the excellent orchestrations, restored for this revival, often complicate the picture), and one of the central events/images of the original play (the family's acquisition of their first phonograph, an effective enough figure of modernity) is a better excuse than most for some diegetic genre writing (a John MacCormack pastiche, "The Liffey Waltz"). But O'Casey's themes of intolerance and resignation (best encapsulated in the mother-daughter duet "Bird Upon the Tree," one of the few numbers I could imagine being detached from the show), not to mention their political context, do tend to make the lighter elements seem an uncomfortable compromise. (The cheery OCR cover above, based on the original Playbill design, gives a sense of how uneasy the show's producers must have been about marketing it: no dancing cat was in evidence on stage.) The final stage picture -- a line of young Republicans raising their guns to the audience -- is evidence, if there was any doubt, of Blitztein's Brechtian leadings, but since I couldn't see that the play as a whole had done much to implicate its audience (unlike Sondheim's Assassins, which has a similar moment), the device seemed tacked on. Oh, and there is an unplanned teen pregnancy involved, though I'd be more than a little surprised to learn that Diablo Cody was making an intentional allusion.
[Okay, that was seven, not bad for me.]