The show is too long, particularly the first act. Horne’s amazing life, both as a performer, and a civil rights pioneer, who often sacrificed her family life for those causes, is the kind of struggle that makes dynamic theater and it’s easy to see why book writer Cohen tried to pack everything in. Skillful chiseling is in order and this is too fabulous a show for it not to happen!
Laura Hitchcock – CurtainUp
The still-evolving and sometimes compelling biomusical Stormy Weather, now at the Pasadena Playhouse, is based on the remarkable life of pioneering African-Americaan entertainer Lena Horne, who made that song one of her signature numbers. While the show contains some rousing production numbers and several delightful performances, Sharleen Cooper’s Cohen’s script still needs much pruning and Michael Bush’s direction is often sluggish.
Jonas Schwartz – Theatremania
The marriage of the seven arts makes for a total love fest in this production where every aspect can be described with a single word – exceptional. It is a wonderful tribute to an extraordinary life and with the recent election of President Obama, underscores one of many bridges of diversity that had to be built before the final step could be taken to the White House. Lena Horne was a major architect of that bridge and this presentation is a major step in acknowledging her work.
Jose Ruiz – Reviewplays
If the overstuffed storytelling puts a dark cloud over the show’s Broadway prospects, it’s still easy to imagine “Stormy Weather” enjoying a successful commercial tour. There’s enough grittiness from the two leads to compensate for all the wan predictability of the writing. Like the unforgettable song stylist they’re channeling, they know how to infuse even banal lyrics with hurting truth.
Charles McNulty – LA Times
Michael Bush’s staging compensates for this drawback with sheen, partly because the songs are often so nicely tethered to Randy Skinner’s sleek choreography, must mostly because of Crawford’s knockout voice and sexy charisma, and the tender-sassy interpretations by Uggams.
Steven Leigh Morris – LA Weekly (scroll down)
Leslie Uggams’ triumphant evocation of Lena Horne’s spirit and talent is the main attraction, but bio-tuner “Stormy Weather” at the Pasadena Playhouse also boasts a cavalcade of sizzling standards, a p.o.v. and genuine emotionality. It should earn a wide and appreciative audience, especially with the addition of some stronger material in act one.
Bob Verini – Variety
Her likeness to the legendary performer is stunning, but Uggams harnesses the pain, anger, feisty humor, peaceful acceptance, and charm and funnels them out with both her dramatic presence and especially her musical flair, including the patiently seductive “Honeysuckle Rose” and the elegant signature piece, “Stormy Weather.” We go through the journey with Uggams, and it’s a fulfilling ride.
Peter A. Belaskas – LASplash
Director Michael Bush captures an elegant showbiz atmosphere in this handsomely designed show, though his efforts are compromised by the book’s excesses. Cohen crams too many incidents from Horne’s life into the story, leading to a superficial feel and a three-hour running time. Humor is largely overshadowed by soap-opera gloom. The impulse to avoid a sugarcoated profile is admirable, but the lumbering material belabors biographical incidents.
Les Spindle – Backstage
If you are a fan of Leslie Uggams, or long to hear the music of Lena Horne, or would like to see the birth of a new star Nikki Crawford. Hurry over to the Pasadena Playhouse to see Stormy Weather conceived and written by Sharleen Cooper Cohen and directed by Michael Bush and choreographed by the talented Randy Skinner.
Robert Machray – Stagehappenings
Unfortunately, the script feels hackneyed, clinging to heartbreaks and offering little to clarify what made this major artist so unique. In interviews – like the ’60 Minutes’ segment Ed Bradley considered his career highlight – she comes across as both steely and sensuous. That balance is missing here, especially during scenes with the elder Horne, played by Leslie Uggams, who spends virtually her whole show on stage, watching the events, sometimes jumping back into them to provide moral support, perspective, or uncontrollable frustration, to her younger self, played by Nikki Crawford. Because Cohen and director Michael Bush want that sense of bitterness to be ever-present, Uggams must spend much of the show with a scowl. Even her opening number, “Love,” feels oddly subdued and distant. Uggams is not a great actress and she is unable to breakthrough the layer of stoic resolve her writer and director have paved over her quiet moments. Her many scenes with devoted friend Kay Thompson (Dee Hoty), feel repetitive.
Filed Under: LemonMeter
About the Author: We don’t “review” shows here at the Lemon, rather we "review" reviews by gathering them from a variety of local review sites around the internet, judging them to be positive or negative, then forming an aggregate score that we call a LEMONMETER RATING, showing how well that show has been reviewed in total. For more detail on how the LemonMeter works visit here.