Michelle Williams at the Cabaret
Fresh off the announcement that Michelle Williams (Oz the Great and Powerful, My Week with Marilyn) would be Broadway’s newest Sally Bowles in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2014 revival of Cabaret, I must admit that I’m excited at the chance to see the megastar strut her stuff live onstage.
Movie stars are shown at their best on film, but when you don’t get the luxury of yelling “cut” and moving on to another take, the actor’s true talents are revealed. After all, actors most often begin their careers on stage, in school and regional productions, before making the leap (if they’re lucky) to Hollywood. And many actors long to get back to the rush of live performance and to prove that they’ve still got the stuff to give 8 shows a week.
From Screen to Stage
The casting of a movie star in a Broadway show is hardly a new phenomenon. It gives fans the long-awaited opportunity to see their idols in person (on stage if not also at the stage door), and it certainly doesn’t hurt ticket sales. Some Broadway purists object to star casting, especially if they are fans of Broadway performers that have been overlooked in favor of a bigger name.
The ill-fated 2011 revival of Funny Girl drew some criticism for casting Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) in the lead role of Fanny Brice when there are plenty of seasoned theatre vets who would have killed for that job. Leslie Kritzer (Elf) starred in an acclaimed production at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, and other comic actresses like Tony nominees Stephanie J. Block (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) and Laura Benanti (Gypsy) certainly come to mind as possibilities.
Eight Memorable Star Castings on Broadway
1. Christina Applegate in Sweet Charity – She charmed audiences, but understudy Charlotte d’Amboise would have been amazing, too!
2. Scarlett Johansson in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – After her Tony win for A View from the Bridge, this performance seemed to fall a little flat.
3. Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – Is there anyone who doesn’t love Daniel Radcliffe?
4. Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice – An acting legend, this guy really can do no wrong on stage or screen.
5. Jessica Chastain in The Heiress – Her name helped get audiences into this understated play, but her performance kept them enthralled.
6. Ricky Martin in Evita – He did better than people expected, although theatre fans loved when Broadway vet Max von Essen (Les Miserables) got to go on for him.
7. Shia LeBeouf in Orphans – Unfortunately, Shia made more waves for exiting the production than signing on. Thankfully, Ben Foster stepped up to the plate.
8. Catherine Zeta-Jones in A Little Night Music – I thought she was funny and enchanting, but her Tony Awards performance really split the crowds…
For better or worse, star casting is not going anywhere any time soon. This season, fans can look forward to seeing Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz in Betrayal, Ethan Hawke in Macbeth, Mary-Louise Parker in The Snow Geese, Zachary Quinto in The Glass Menagerie, and Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in Waiting for Godot and No Man’s Land. Luckily, with this list of talent, I don’t think we should expect any groan-worthy performances, but only time will tell. At least the Hollywood draw will keep those Broadway alive and its seats filled!