Photo courtesy  of Carol Rosegg
Photo courtesy of Carol Rosegg

The good news: An interesting and thought-provoking piece of theater is currently being staged off Broadway  at Theatre row. The bad news: they’ve set it to music . In most cases, adding  “the Musical” to any title is enough to make this reviewer giddy as a sugarplum fairy.  Here however, we find a  compelling story saddled by a mediocre score. Unfortunately, it  diminishes the potency of an otherwise riveting tale.

Atomic is a new musical dramatization about the scientists  responsible for The Manhattan Project, a top-secret initiative that led to the invention and eventual use of the atomic bomb. With Hitler’s Third Reich gaining momentum in Germany, American scientists were determined to be the first creators of such a nuclear weapon  J.Robert Oppenheimer (Euan Morton) Leo Szilard (Jeremy Kushiner). Enrico Fermi (Jonathan Hammond). Arthur Compton (David Abeles) and Paul Tibbets (Randy Harrison) comprise this group of genius masterminds who left a literal and figurative mark on history.

Danny Ginges and Gregory Bonsignore have crafted a stimulating book that is equally as entertaining as it is educational. Years later, questions of  ethical practicality in detonating the bombs over Hiroshima and Nagisaki remain . What makes Atomic tick, however, is that Ginges and Bonsignore  do not inflict their personal views in the text.  We witness both the actual faces of Japan’s human loss, and the conflicted  faces of those physicists who believed that they were actually defending and protecting  humanity for the universal good.  Did we really  need superfluous song and dance numbers for such questions to be raised? Not really–although the thought of injecting the Pointer Sisters “Neutron Dance”  did come to mind. Still, fine  performances, slick staging, brilliant lighting  and solid direction by Damien Gray make this  a worthwhile piece of live summer entertainment.


Atomic is playing now  through Aug. 16 at the Acorn Theater on Theater Row, 410 West 42nd Street between 9th and 10th aves. For tickets, call  212-239-6200, go to or visit the box office.