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Review: Bruce Springsteen's 'exuberant and intimate' Broadway debut

From BBC - October 12, 2017

Bruce Springsteen is breaking box-office records with his one-man show, Springsteen on Broadway.

The rock star made $2.3m (1.8m) in his first week of previews, behind only Hamilton and Hello, Dolly! - which both played more shows in the same period.

Mixing live music and storytelling, the show is set to run for 16 weeks, with The Boss taking up residence in the 960-seat Walter Kerr Theater.

"It's probably the smallest venue I have played in the last 40 years," he said.

The show officially opens on Thursday night - but the BBC's Elysa Gardner managed to catch one of the previews.

Bruce Springsteen's first Broadway show is neither a musical nor a concert in the tradition of his previous solo tours.

Written and directed by The Boss, Springsteen On Broadway - which arrives roughly a year after his autobiography, Born To Run - is a meticulously crafted, deeply personal journey with set words and music, with the star alternately accompanying himself on guitar and piano.

But the two-hour program is also, in its distinctly intimate, understated fashion, an affirmation of the exuberant showmanship and vivid storytelling that Springsteen's rock and roll shares with musical theatre.

As a songwriter, we are reminded, he's as much an inheritor to Rodgers and Hammerstein as any contemporary pop artist; an unabashed romantic with a probing social conscience, whose soaring tunes give full-throated voice to American dreams and the demons that haunt them.

The songs in Springsteen On Broadway are clearly chosen less to show off Springsteen's array of memorable characters (or hits, for that matter) than to acknowledge the people and events that shaped them.

Not surprisingly, more time and detail are devoted to his youth than his nearly 45 years as one of the most famous people on the planet.

"I come from a boardwalk town where everything is tinged with a bit of fraud," he announced at a preview before the official opening night, before tearing into his first number, the early classic Growin' Up. Two verses in, as if to underline the point, he paused to quip, "I have never held an honest job in my life... and yet that's all I have written about."

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