Hollywood on Broadway: Who Clicked and Who Didn't in 2013
NEW YORK – Veterans Tom Hanks and Bette Midler drew legions of adoring fans, Scarlett Johansson and Orlando Bloom got stranded in botched productions, Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz explored the dark side of marriage, Emilia Clarke faded in the shadow of Audrey Hepburn, and Alec Baldwin couldn’t escape the pall of Shia LaBeouf. But Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart showed that X-Men’s archenemies could also make beautiful bedfellows.
Those were some of the high and low points marking the annual intersection between Broadway and Hollywood. But stardom in movies or television doesn’t automatically translate to being a major draw onstage, and as always, some theater moonlighters fared better than others.
The excited mob outside the Broadhurst Theatre stage door on any given night this spring looked like the middle-aged equivalent of a swarm of Beliebers. Fans jostled for a handshake or an autograph from Hanks after each performance of the late Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy, with some even chasing the actor’s SUV down West 44th Street. His Tony-nominated performance as scrappy New York news columnist Mike McAlary evoked the 1980s tabloid wars with infectious nostalgia and lifted Hanks into an elite pantheon of movie stars – alongside Denzel Washington, Hugh Jackman and Julia Roberts – who have spun box office gold on Broadway.
One fellow club member is Craig, last seen on a New York stage opposite Jackman in the sellout cop drama A Steady Rain. Taking a break from 007 duty, Craig teamed with his offstage wife Weisz to trace (in reverse chronology) the complicated devolution of an adulterous romantic triangle in Mike Nichols’ scorching revival of the Harold Pinter drama Betrayal. Also starring Rafe Spall in a knockout Broadway debut, the combination drew mixed reactions from critics, but that didn’t keep audiences away from the fall’s hottest ticket.
Right star, wrong production
In her first Broadway outing in the 2010 revival of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, Johansson proved she had ample stage presence, winning a featured actress Tony. While her magnetic qualities remained in evidence, she was seen to lesser advantage the second time around, stepping up to the lead role of Maggie in another mid-century American nugget. Despite the cast’s best efforts, Rob Ashford’s over-emphatic staging of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof drowned the musicality of Tennessee Williams’ language and dimmed the vitality of his desperate characters.
Bloom chose one of the most challenging roles in the classical canon for a young male lead, making his first foray into Broadway in Romeo and Juliet. From his entrance astride a souped-up motorcycle, the Lord of the Rings actor acquitted himself respectably. But the chemistry was off with co-star Condola Rashad as the other half of Shakespeare’s star-cross'd love match, in a modern-dress production from David Leveaux that lacked both heat and tragic grandeur.
Zachary Quinto segued from Star Trek Into Darkness to a superlative Broadway debut in another Tennessee Williams classic, The Glass Menagerie. Hurt and angry, broken and yet determined, Quinto’s portrayal of Tom Wingfield erased the lines separating the playwright from his most autobiographical creation. He etched in achingly real human emotion the character’s corrosive ties with Cherry Jones’ magnificent, maddening Amanda in John Tiffany’s revelatory production.
The untidy exit of LaBeouf early in rehearsals for the spring revival of Orphans, and the actor’s prickly exchanges with co-star Baldwin and director Daniel Sullivan made the actual play seem almost anticlimactic by the time it opened. Critics were sharply divided on an approach that favored savage comedy over the more brooding tones of the original Steppenwolf production of Lyle Kessler’s Pinter-esque 1985 play, and despite dynamic work from Baldwin, Ben Foster and Tom Sturridge, the production closed ahead of schedule.
Playwright Richard Greenberg’s stage treatment and director Sean Mathias’ production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s were such a blundering mess that it’s hard to say whether Clarke, better known as the dragon-taming Dothraki queen on Game of Thrones, has any stage chops to speak of. But the evidence of her charm-deprived Holly Golightly was unpersuasive.