top of page

Stereophonic opens to rave reviews

Saturday, 20 April 2024

Critics have been raving about Stereophonic following a triumphant opening night. Review highlights below: 

Naveen Kumar, The New York Times: Peering behind the mystique of rock ’n’ roll has undeniable voyeuristic appeal. So there is an immediate thrill to seeing the mahogany-paneled control room and glassed-in sound booth that fill the Golden Theater stage, where “Stereophonic” opened on Friday. But David Adjmi’s astonishing new play, with songs by the former Arcade Fire member Will Butler, delivers far more than a dishy glimpse inside the recording studio during rock’s golden age.

Sara Holdren, Vulture: It’s also a stunning feat of scoring by Adjmi — whose hypernaturalistic script captures the ebb and flow of overlapping speech both inside and outside the studio’s sound room — and by director Daniel Aukin and composer Will Butler. Aukin and the show’s stellar cast play Adjmi’s rigorously constructed, deceptively casual prose with as much exactness and audacity as the actors, all playing their instruments live, pour into Butler’s songs: Smart, well-crafted tunes that blend the folk and blues and prog vibes of the ’70s with the soaring indie yearning of Butler’s former band, Arcade Fire. (There’s a cast album on the way.) The show is part concert and part breakup drama, part sound-design marvel (Ryan Rumery is the hero responsible) and part beautifully observed period piece (everyone’s legs look dynamite in Enver Chakartash’s bells and flares, and that lovingly intricate set is by David Zinn). But it’s the thing Adjmi conjures up at the end of Act One that makes Stereophonic such a meaningful and exceptional piece of work: In its bones, it’s a love song, bittersweet and wounded and ferociously loyal, to the act of making art — specifically, art that requires that most exhausting, infuriating, transcendent element: collaboration.

Frank Rizzo, Variety: Audiences may feel the same way after seeing this work of theatrical virtuosity, realizing that all the tiny details, wild rhythms, and clever hooks presented on stage have added up to a work that is brave, purposeful, and rich.

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: David Adjmi’s intimately epic behind-the-music drama Stereophonic has now moved to Broadway after a hit fall run at Playwrights Horizons. At the smaller venue, the audience felt almost immersed in the room where the show takes place: a wood-paneled 1970s recording studio—decked out by set designer David Zinn as a plush vision of brown, orange, mustard, sage and rust—where a rock band is trying to perfect what could be its definitive album. Some fans of the play have wondered if it could work as well on a larger stage, but that question has a happy answer: Daniel Aukin’s superb production navigates the change without missing a beat. The jam has been preserved.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Funny, raw and poignant in equal measure, this expertly sculpted play has the feel of both a behind-the-music docudrama and a lost Robert Altman film, with its astute microcosmic focus, its frequent wash of overlapping dialogue and its sly nudges toward satire. In fact, while the music — fabulous original songs written by Will Butler, formerly of Arcade Fire — is pop-rock rather than country, Stereophonic could almost be an expanded vignette lifted right out of Nashville.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Adjmi captures that claustrophobia and inability to communicate, making his “Stereophonic” one of the very best plays to open last year Off Broadway and now this season on Broadway.

Dalton Ross, Entertainment Weekly: At over three hours long, Stereophonic never feels like too much. And the extended runtime works to the show’s advantage in that it puts the audience into marathon mode with the band itself as they approach a year of recording and re-recording. It’s a riveting, painful, funny, intense, toe-tapping journey, and the end result can best be described as solid gold.

Joey Sims, Theatrely: For three glorious hours, Stereophonic drops its audience into a unique agony: the pursuit of artistic perfection. David Adjimi’s astounding new work, itself near-perfect, captures the wondrous highs and excruciating lows of the creative process with a hilarious, painstaking precision. You’ll want to live in this play forever.

Gloria Oladipo, The Guardian: Stereophonic, one of Broadway’s most striking plays of the season, is an allegory of industry greed and artistry. But the play, as a work itself, serves as a triumphant example of what happens when art has the time to develop, to home in on the basics of craft, character and spirit.

Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post: Still, “Stereophonic,” directed by Daniel Aukin, is undeniably transportive, and it’s a pleasure to be immersed in this creatively robust decade for a while. David Zinn’s neat set is the control room of a recording studio, with a soundproof booth upstage behind glass. It casually evokes the ‘70s without going full-blown “Brady Bunch” kitchen.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: The play, which opened Friday at the Golden Theatre, is a hypernaturalistic meditation on the thrill, and also the danger, of collaborating on art — the compromises, the egos and the joys. It’s an ode not just to the music business but perhaps to the theater world, too.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Just before the end of playwright David Adjmi’s masterful “Stereophonic,” a three-hour dissection of ego, insecurity and the messy, messed-up gorgeousness of the creative process, I decided I’d had enough of these beautiful people in the recording studio with their complaints, their cocaine, their obsessive-compulsive neuroses, their phenomenal talents. A Zen-like “Let it be” had twisted in my skull to “Let me out.” And then I realized that was precisely what Adjmi wanted everyone at the Golden Theatre to be feeling at the final curtain. He’d just explained why great bands break up; why famous geniuses who seemingly have all the gifts, money, autonomy, adulation and sex that anyone could possibly want just can’t hold it together; why having a Billboard hit does not stop the childhood-driven imposter syndrome ringing inside your brain but actually makes it louder. Heck, I’ll go even further: He’d just explained why things end. Period. What a brilliant piece of must-see Broadway. It’s Chekhovian, babe.

Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: Watching this play by David Adjmi made me think of the last (and possibly the only other) play I’ve seen that was set in a recording studio, “Million Dollar Quartet,” not because there were any similarities between the two, but precisely because their differences made me realize how I could be impressed by the writing and acting in “Stereophonic” and still be disappointed by it.

Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: A three-hour play about an unnamed 1970s band recording an album, set entirely in the recording studio: That’s, essentially, the elevator pitch for Stereophonic, which just opened on Broadway after a sold-out 10-week run at Playwrights Horizons in late 2023. But that doesn’t even begin to describe the genius on display at the Golden Theatre.

Bob Verini, New York Stage Review: Playwright David Adjmi’s extensive resume has included an intimate portrait of Syrian Jews in Brooklyn (Stunning), a fanciful contempo take on Marie Antoinette, and 3C, a controversial sexed-up parody of the sitcom Three’s Company. Interesting work all around, but none of it prepares us for the hyperrealistic triumph that is Stereophonic, now at the Golden Theatre for a limited run after a similarly limited run at Playwrights Horizons.

Allison Considine, New York Theatre Guide: The band is back together on Broadway. David Adjmi’s Stereophonic had a critically acclaimed, sold-out run off Broadway in fall 2023 at Playwrights Horizons, and now it’s hitting all the right notes at the Golden Theatre.

bottom of page