Michael Moore has a new show on Broadway called “The Terms of My Surrender.” According to a review published Thursday by the NY Times, even Moore’s core audience of progressives looking for confirmation of their own superiority may find this show a bit tiresome:
“The Terms of My Surrender,” which opened on Thursday at the Belasco, is a bit like being stuck at Thanksgiving dinner with a garrulous, self-regarding, time-sucking uncle. Gotta love him — but maybe let’s turn on the television.
At least it’s smoothly delivered and professional though, right? It’s not as if people are paying to see a guy verbally bumble his way through his own stories.
Mr. Moore, awkward and often tongue-tied, is not a natural stage creature. There is a script, but it seems to be more of a reconfigurable scaffold, changing from night to night…A lot of the material is thus delivered semi-impromptu, with all the stutters and longueurs that entails.
To make up for this Mr. Moore affects a cute, common-man delivery that fools no one, though the crowd at the Belasco, including a few shills, claps for almost all of the bait he tosses. Some toss bait back, including vulgar imprecations against the president that are hardly distinguishable from the cries of “Lock her up” that horrify us in other settings.
Eventually, the author points to a contradiction which is present in all of Moore’s material. He has always presented himself as a common man from a blue-collar background. He was wearing those caps long before Donald Trump. At the same time much of his material is based on contempt for the stupidity of, for instance, blue-collar workers who voted for Trump. The author calls this “disguised elitism” and, when you think about it, it’s really not that disguised.
Lest you think the NY Times review is an outlier, the LA Times review of the show isn’t much better:
Every story ends in the glorification of Michael Moore. The lesson he wants us to take home is a noble one: Innocent idealism can only prevail if it holds to what is true and doesn’t succumb to despair. But these plucky narratives, largely recycled from his writings and talks, have the monotonous ring of an infomercial for his brand.
I have no political beef with Moore. I have long admired the way he has fought on behalf of working people. But I found myself cringing at the self-congratulatory applause that would break out when he would utter one of his pieties. And I lost patience with the way he seemed to want both sympathy for being a victim of the right and adulation for being the champion of all mankind.
Back when this show was announced, I pointed out that there might be an unspoken reason Moore was headed to Broadway: His last film bombed. “Where to Invade Next” grossed $3.8 million at the box office in 2016. About half of that total goes to exhibitors so the actual amount the film made for the producers was under $2 million. No doubt there were DVD sales and streaming rights to help raise this total. Still, I wonder if the producers were able to break even. If Moore bombs on Broadway, where will he take his tired act next?