We gave it a C
There’s a fundamental error being made in the HBO Storybook Musicals specials so far: the music. In Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, the second in the series, which started in September, Judith Viorst’s engaging story about a quarrelsome, self-pitying child is transformed into a plodding libretto, as when Alexander’s mom sings ”Come on, you guys/Get up or else/You will be/Late for school.” Stephen Sondheim this ain’t.
My children have read and enjoyed the book on which this show is based, but they barely lasted five minutes into the TV adaptation. The mediocre lyrics and music got in the way of the story, slowing down the momentum. Alexander is, like all of Viorst’s prose and pop poetry, an acquired taste; either you find her whining funny or you don’t, and Alexander, it should be said, is certainly one of her better efforts.
The HBO version does a good job of capturing Alexander’s cranky & disappointment over the course of his day: his squabbles with siblings, his arguments with elementary-school pals, his annoyance at having a cavity when he visits the dentist. But where Viorst’s book simply allowed Alexander to feel bad, the chirpy music and zippy attitude of the TV version forces a cheerful tone that seems phony. C