By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
If you've lived in Texas a while, you've been in a house like that, on a ranch or in Highland Park. Where you won't see Ferber's Reata is in DTC's Giant, which suggests wide horizons and bigger-than-life furnishings with a puffy-cloud backdrop, a wooden water tower and a clunky staircase to nowhere.
The other "giant" of Ferber's tale is Bick himself, and here's where Broadway director Michael Greif went cockeyed on casting. Actor Aaron Lazar, star of the recent New York revival of A Little Night Music, is short, skinny-legged, slope-shouldered and squinty. Rock Hudson's Texas accent as Bick in the 1956 Hollywood Giant was cornpone, but he looked like a big man who could sit a saddle and run a ranch. Under a too-new Stetson, Lazar bears an unsettling resemblance to George W. Bush, nobody's idea of a romantic lead.
Quick takes on the rest: Kate Baldwin has a powerful mezzo as Leslie, belting tunes you'll forget as soon as the notes strike your earlobes. She has zero chemistry with Bick. Dee Hoty is tough as beef jerky as Luz. Pearson's script kills Luz off earlier than Ferber did, so the musical brings her back in the second act as a ghost. Dumb.
PJ Griffith plays Jett Rink (the James Dean role) with wrist-flapping, lead-from-the-pelvis fey ooze. Katie Thompson as Vashti Hake, the chubby ranch girl Bick was supposed to marry but didn't, is a first-rate singer and actress in a second-fiddle role. Her solos in each half of the three-hour Giant are waker-uppers, though both songs are about how miserable she is.
Join the crowd, darlin'.