Hannah Ellis and Bryce Pinkham in "Benny & Joon." Photograph by Jim Cox
“Benny and Joon,” the 1993 cult film, was quirky and sweet. Benny & Joon, the world-premiere musical at the Old Globe Theatre directed by Jack Cummings III, is quirky and sweet. So it follows: If you liked the movie, the star of which was neither Benny (Aidan Quinn) nor Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson) but Johnny Depp as the quirky Sam, you’ll like the musical (written by Kirsten Guenther, Nolan Gasser and Mindi Dickstein), which is completed heisted by Bryce Pinkham as the quirky Sam.
Though the narrative of the film and this show on which it’s based address serious underlying issues – schizophrenia, grief, fear of love, to name the most salient -- the story of siblings Benny and Joon, and Sam, the stranger who changes their lives, thrives on charm and even cuteness. In addition to Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder on Broadway), who has a magnetic Chaplainesque quality ideally suited to the role of Sam, Andrew Samonsky and Hannah Elless are sympathetic and more than up to the demands of the show’s modest but melodic score. The upshot is a musical fairytale with a few dark corners on the road to happily ever after. (Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 9/20/17.)
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat