Billy Crystal is roving the stage, leading an “oy vey!” call-and-response. There is no exclamation more apt for “Mr. Saturday Night,” the moth-eaten cardigan of a new musical now in residence at the Nederlander Theatre. At first, kvetching seems to be encouraged with a knowing wink. We meet Buddy as a washed-up comedian playing retirement homes in his less-than-golden years, joking that his audience is half dead.
But there is precious little pulse throughout “Mr. Saturday Night,” a double shot at redemption for both Buddy and his marquee creator. When Buddy mistakenly shows up in the Emmys’ In Memoriam segment, he decides to make another go as a funnyman, wrestling with pride, self-doubt and an industry that’s moved on. Crystal’s return to playing the part of Buddy, from the 1992 flop film he also co-wrote and directed, likewise seems to be a personal creative mission.