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Review Roundup: 700 Sundays

700 Sundays, Billy Crystal’s autobiographical solo show, opened at the Imperial Theatre on Nov. 13 for a nine-week engagement. Combining stand-up comedy and memoir, the show traces Crystal’s Long Island childhood and the many relatives who influenced him, especially his father who died when Crystal was 15. The title refers to amount of time they had together. Directed by Tony winner Des McAnuff (Big River, Jersey Boys), 700 Sundays employs real home movies and video projections to paint an indelible portrait of Crystal’s funny and memorable family. The show originally opened at the Broadhurst Theatre onDec. 4, 2004, ran for 163 performances, and won the Tony Award for Special Theatrical Experience as well as the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for Outstanding Solo Performance. How did the critics greet Crystal’s Broadway return? Here are excerpts from the major reviewers.

Billy Crystal during the curtain call of '700 Sundays' Opening Night (Photo: Brad Barket/Getty Images)

Billy Crystal takes a bow during the curtain call opening night (Photo: Brad Barket/Getty Images)

Jason Zinoman, The New York Times
“Mr. Crystal has been a star for so long and in so many arenas that he feels like family. When he did an old bit about his glands bossing him around as a sex-obsessed teenager, I chuckled not just because his timing was precise but also because I recall listening to the same jokes on a cassette over and over as a kid. Back then this sweet story seemed a tiny bit dirty and I had yet to encounter countless jokes built on the tyranny of the male libido. The jokes may not seem as funny today, but reliving those early laughs is its own potent pleasure.”

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News
“Back on Broadway, Crystal has so much energy and enthusiasm it’s as if he’s unwrapping a world premiere, even though it’s the same show, lightly tweaked with tangy, topical references to Obamacare, Rand Paul’s plagiarism and Osama bin Laden.”

Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post
The autobiographical solo show has been done to death. Doesn’t matter if it’s a celebrity or an unknown — everybody wants to talk about themselves. But you have to hand it to Billy Crystal: He has a good story to tell, and he tells it a lot better than most.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press
“Crystal prowls the stage in slacks and a loosened tie with ease and perfect timing in front of a facade of his childhood home at 549 East Park Avenue in Long Beach. He does brilliant imitations and jokes about whacky relatives as the theater fills with the sounds of Dixieland Jazz. The three windows in the front act as screens for photos and video. At some points he apologizes if there are still parts that are works-in-progress but don’t believe it: This is a very well-oiled machine. A cynic might say it’s too slick, but no one can deny that Crystal has set the bar high for a one-man show.”

David Cote, Time Out New York
“Playing the bemused, occasionally flustered observer serves Crystal as well as it did Bill Cosby and Jerry Seinfeld. And he observed much growing up in Long Island, traveling into the city with his jazz-impresario father and hobnobbing with the likes of Billie Holiday. Apart from an obligatory Obamacare joke, the monologue is basically the same: a seriocomic routine about embarrassing relatives, teenage hormonal angst and sports humiliations, with special attention paid to his hard-working yet dreamy father. Aiming for both your heartstrings and your funny bone, Crystal hits both.”

Rafer Guzmán, Newsday
“Named for the too-few number of days that Crystal had with his late father, 700 Sundays is an irresistible blend of Borscht Belt shtick and heartwarming schmaltz. Crystal, still a savvy crowd-pleaser at 65, also salts this comfort food with just the right amount of coarse humor. The jokes sometimes sound pre-modern—retail-obsessed Jews, Italian meatheads, hulking black high-schoolers—but never mean-spirited. Only an entertainer as big-hearted as Crystal could make such stereotypes sound so affectionate.”

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
“Back on Broadway with 700 Sundays almost a decade after the solo stage memoir broke box office records and landed him a special Tony Award, Crystal again shows his gift for taking an Eisenhower-era childhood that was both ordinary and exceptional, and rendering it universal for a nostalgic public.”

Elysa Gardner, USA Today
“At the Imperial Theatre, where Sundays opened Wednesday, Crystal proves an impressively spry senior, even doing a cartwheel at one point. But it isn’t youthful energy that seems to propel his rapid-fire delivery as much as a sense of urgency that his story, and the story of his extended family, be shared again.”

Jessica Shaw, Entertainment Weekly
“Many of the stories are riveting (I could hear a whole show about Billie Holiday, a pal of Billy’s father, taking a young Billy to see his first movie, Shane). Others drag on for too long (Crystal looooves a fart joke). Still, it’s hard to begrudge the guy, who, at the show I attended, was so eager to stay in the spotlight after two-and-a-half hours that he continued telling stories after a long standing ovation and even did some impressive-for-a-grandfather moves. ‘I’m the only 65 year old doing cartwheels on Broadway!’ he said, beaming. That’s true, and no one loves that fact more than he does.”

Matt Windman, AM New York
“Crystal’s masterful storytelling is neatly integrated with observational and lowbrow humor and selections from photo albums and home movies. With childlike enthusiasm and tremendous physical energy, he offers impressions of all his family members and his younger self.”

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