Cyrano de Bergerac will always be Cyrano — that is to say, you can’t expect new revelations from Edmond Rostand’s often exhausting, bloated 1897 play itself. In the Roundabout Theatre Company’s new Broadway production, it’s still the same sing-songy piece about a tragic, weird love story set in an opulent, war-torn 17th-century France.
A good Cyrano is all about casting — particularly the poetry-spewing, large-nosed hero. Here, thankfully, Douglas Hodge turns in a performance that’s got lots of gusto — and possibly just too much, although it services the character nicely. Hodge — known to American audiences for his brilliant Tony-winning turn as the cross-dressing Albin in the 2010 Broadway revival of La Cage aux Folles, opposite Kelsey Grammer — tears his way around the stage as Cyrano, almost to the point of spitting while spewing the show’s rhymed couplets.
No one wants a Cyrano who’s understated, and it’s refreshing to see Hodge on stage flexing a variation on the drag muscle he exercised in La Cage. The impeccably trained actor knows exactly what he’s serving with his salty Cyrano, presenting the poet/soldier as an outlandish, dueling, lovelorn guy who — despite his over-size facial disfiguration — wins over the audience easily with a brash charm. Hodge’s participation is largely why this presentation is a pleasure to watch, especially in the quicker, better-paced second act, where his pre-death monologue becomes the show’s defining moment. It feels quiet and emotional, which is odd for the otherwise madcap show.
The rest of director Jamie Lloyd’s production is similarly admirable. Harry Potter star Clémence Poésy is sublimely understated as Cyrano’s great love, Roxanne, and Soutra Gilmour’s simple, flexible set smartly suggests a Renaissance-era painting brought to life — albeit with a bunch of very wacky, verging-on-insane characters led by one very nosy guy. B+
(Tickets: roundabouttheatre.com or 212-719-1300)