Picture this: It’s 2010, you’re 15 years previous, and also you’ve saved up your allowance to purchase the Wicked soundtrack from FYE. You haven’t truly seen the present, however your good friend swears it modified her life when she noticed the tour and also you heard Rachel and Kurt cowl of “Defying Gravity” on Glee. So you play the CD in your previous janky CD participant, making an attempt to visualise the gorgeous particular results that your finest good friend gushed about, however since you don’t actually know what the heck is happening, you pull up the Wikipedia web page for the musical, studying alongside to the plot as you nod alongside to the songs.
Is this the perfect expertise to eat Wicked? Probably not, however you’re 15, and it’s the very best factor you’ve bought.
Apple TV Plus’ Central Park, a brand new animated comedy from Bob’s Burgers creator Loren Bouchard, one way or the other replicates this expertise of consuming a musical however probably not consuming a musical. The animated present boasts a stellar forged, kooky characters, and a few actually enjoyable songs, and when all these separate items come collectively, it’s an advanced type of the animated musical. Instead of a Disney film, the place the music serves to focus on the animated story, the visuals in Central Park increase the expertise of watching a musical. But within the first 4 episodes of Central Park, these moments are few and much between, making the present really feel, at instances, just like the Wikipedia state of affairs — adequate for now, however missing when in comparison with these moments of totally realized musical theater glory.
Central Park follows park groundskeeper Owen (Leslie Odom Jr.), his reporter spouse Paige (Kathryn Hahn), and their two kids Molly (Kristen Bell) and Cole (Tituss Burgess), together with scheming heiress Bitsy (Stanley Tucci) and her assistant Helen (Daveed Diggs). Each of them have their very own inside motivations and struggles, however they’re all pulled collectively by Bitsy’s grand plan to purchase New York’s legendary park and switch it right into a mall.
And wouldn’t it be an animated musical with out Josh Gad? In Central Park he performs a avenue musician named Birdie, who defies logic, narrating your complete present to the viewers and interacting with the characters. He serves to bridge the scenes providing transitions that you simply positively couldn’t name refined — very similar to an omniscient Greek choir member, or the physique textual content of a Wikipedia article — however they’re efficient. Whether or not they’re humorous is determined by how a lot you get pleasure from gratuitous fourth-wall breaking.
Central Park juggles every character’s particular person storylines and, whereas they usually cross, it’s loads to trace, particularly when a few of them weigh heavier on the overarching Bitsy-buys-out-the-park storyline than others. While Paige’s quest to be taken critically as an actual journalist means she’s weaving out and in of native politics and studying concerning the scheme, Molly’s hung up over a boy she’s by no means actually talked to, and her daydreams about him grind a few of the pressure to a halt.
Lots of the scenes in-between songs wrestle in an analogous manner, feeling non-essential or meant as construct up for one thing higher. That’s to not say that smaller character moments don’t deserve their time or that the boy Molly’s crushing on isn’t detrimental to the plot (he slips out that Bitsy is his aunt at one level), however the scenes main as much as her songs have a tendency to pull and the songs themselves don’t fairly hit.
There are items of musical brilliance in Central Park, they usually communicate to the potential of the collection. The first musical sequence — an ensemble piece the place every character sings about their motivations à la “One Day More” from Les Misérables or the prologue from Into the Woods — totally embraces what makes such sequences in musicals so memorable (it’s all about coming collectively!) and makes use of the animation to showcase the side-by-side harmonies. The fourth episode sees Owen going head-to-head with the supervisor of an area rubbish plant, with a fast backwards and forwards as they dive right into a guide of New York City statutes, paying homage to Hamilton’s “Washington On Your Side.”
It’s these moments of splendidly realized musical theater that transcend the living-vicariously-through-Wikipedia slog and provides a glimpse of what Central Park could be as soon as all of the items are working collectively. The first 4 episodes of any present’s first season gained’t be its finest, however there’s sufficient pure pleasure in Bouchard’s collection to maintain tuning in. It’s a present that feels extra like musical theater than an animated comedy, however in its finest moments it blends the 2 and shines.
The first two episodes of Central Park at the moment are out there on Apple TV Plus.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media might earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. For extra data, see our ethics coverage.