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New York Gives A Warm Welcome To 'Nicholas Ii'

August 30, 1986|DAN SULLIVAN | Times Theater Critic

"Nicholas Nickleby" has opened in New York, to slightly less acclaim than it received in Los Angeles.

Of course, New York had seen it before, in 1981. Mel Gussow of the New York Times felt that the new Royal Shakespeare Company production emphasized the hope in Dickens' tale more than the hopelessness.

"As now performed, the play is bursting with youthful enthusiasm, personified by Michael Siberry's plucky Nicholas, a stark contrast to the brooding intensity of the original Nicholas, Roger Rees," he wrote.

While Gussow missed Rees' magnetism, he found Siberry and the rest of the company "thoroughly engaging." John Lynch as the crippled Smike reminded Gussow of a "wild child newly hatched to civilization. . . . Every step seems to cause a wince."

Don Nelson of the Daily News was less engaged by "Nicholas II," finding several performances (again including Lynch's) on the junior-varsity level. The show was "still a welcome gift to Broadway."

Marilyn Stasio of the Post cheered. "The magic is back. If you've not tasted the delight of 'Nicholas,' come prepared to laugh and cry and lose your heart."

Business is good--"for this time of year," a representative of the show reports. "Nicholas" is scheduled to run at the Broadhurst through Nov. 16, after which it will tour.

Paul Scofield is back on the London stage, not in a classical play, but in an American comedy, Herb Gardner's "I'm Not Rapaport."

Most of the critics were impressed with Scofield and not displeased with Gardner's play, concerning 81-year-old codgers on a Central Park bench, a Jew named Nat (Scofield) and a black man named Midge (Howard Rollins.)

The Daily Telegraph's Eric Shorter went so far as to compare Scofield's portrait of an old man to Laurence Olivier's Justice Shallow. The only strong dissenter was Benedict Nightingale in the New Statesman.

He felt that the play--and, to a degree, Scofield--tried too hard to be cute. "It's an affliction not to take lightly. It can be terminal, deadly to truth and art alike."

"Rags," the new Broadway musical with Teresa Stratas, won't be reopening, as hoped. The producers weren't able to raise enough money to keep the show running so that audiences could test their reactions against the critics' fair-to-poor notices.

The overnight loss: $5.3 million. That's $1 million more than the deficit of the entire American resident-theater movement last season.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: John Houseman in his new book, "Entertainers and the Entertained" (Simon & Schuster, $18.95)--"More and more of our choices and our judgments and even our values and decisions in life are being conditioned and formed by numbers--to the point where these numbers have acquired an attraction and a power of their own, often almost independent of the subject to which they happen to relate."

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