If the NYU Steinhardt production of Sweet Smell of Success is any indication, the future of New York City theater is bright. The show has a short run this weekend, opening on Thursday, and with two more performances left, it's worth going out to see it. There are few shows in the Big Apple that provide more razzle dazzle for your buck.
For most of the show, you forget that you're watching a production performed by students. Only with the occasional dropped prop or dance misstep are you brought back to reality, but those few errors are excusable in the name of young nerves and limited theatrical experience. Some of the actors showed themselves to be rising stars, particularly Zach Monroe in the main role as JJ Hunsecker. Monroe takes command over every scene in which he appears, conveying the intimidation and authority built into his role. Monroe is so effective that at times you're unsure if the others around cower in fear because their parts are written that way or maybe they can't find a way to match wits with a master.
For her role of Susan, Jane Kivnick brings an impressive set of pipes that overshadows all others in this performance. Kivnick is a blessing inside of a play full of aggressive and masculine men; her Susan is an expected meek, only showing her own cajones when push finally comes to shove. Overall, the acting and singing both match what you'd find at any off-Broadway performance in New York City, a testament to the hard work that this young talent put into the production.
Hats go off to John Simpkins who did a fabulous job directing the show. At time the choreography and other stage choices, particularly the huge, movable set and its various pieces, feel a bit too much for the young cast to handle, but it's amazing to witness so much going on at once to see all of the parts working in tandem. There's just a whole lot to see here.