“The Real Thing” Opens on Broadway

A Stoppard Play with an All-Star Cast

the-real-thing-pink-and-blackOn October 30, 2014, The Real Thing opened at the American Airlines Theatre, one of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s three Broadway venues. The play, a classic by Tom Stoppard (Arcadia, Rock n Roll, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead) originally produced in 1982, was directed by Sam Gold, a relative newcomer who has taken New York theatre by storm with such productions as The Realistic Joneses, Seminar, and many Off-Broadway hits. With such a creative team behind it, the production was able to a number of Hollywood stars. Two are making their Broadway debuts: Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight, Donnie Darko, White House Down) and Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting, Big Fish, Star Wars). Furthermore, the show stars Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City, Broadway productions including Wit, Rabbit Hole, Angels in America) as well as Josh Hamilton (Dead Accounts, The Coast of Utopia, Proof). With all of these powerhouse names behind it, the show was destined to be a critical hit. However, something the perfect ingredients do not make the perfect stew, and in this case, the result was sadly underwhelming.

Mixed Reviews from Critics

The most influential of New York theatre critics, Ben Brantley of The New York Times, gave The Real Thing a review that was all but playwright Tom Stoppard event gray whitedisdainful. He called the revival “tinny,” and claimed that the production lacked any real evidence of chemistry between the performers, or any sort of deep feelings in general. The beauty of Stoppard’s work often lies in the fact that his words may be highly complex and intellectual, but there is a deep humanity bubbling beneath the surface. Brantley’s view is that this production (due to a mixture of casting and directing) lacked that crucial underlayer. Other reviewers were less critical, falling prey to the combination of writing and fame onstage that can persuade the audience they are enjoying a well-done production. Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press, for example, thought the revival was thoroughly excellent, and enjoyed the interspersed tunes that Sam Gold opted to include between scenes, often hummed along by the actors. Thom Geier of Entertainment Weekly also praised the production, perhaps delighted merely to see his Hollywood favorites onstage. He claimed Gyllenhaal’s performance oozed poise and sophistication, which may be true, but the argument could also be made that the softness beneath was missing. David Rooney from the Hollywood Reporter was more on the fence, correctly praising Ewan McGregor’s Broadway debut for the professional excellence of his performance, but also calling Gold’s direction “hollow.”

Struggling at the Box Office

It is always interesting to follow how the combination of recognizable playwright, famous actors, and critical response has on the box office. In this case, audiences were not moved by the result, certainly not enough to make this show stand out financially. The show has never reached more than 77.56% of its gross potential in any given week, and the weekly numbers have been squarely in the $400,000 range for each week. With stars such as McGregor, Gyllenhaal, and Nixon onstage, this is almost an insult. And for the true theatre aficionados, the fact that a Stoppard play would be given this treatment is just a shame. However, given that the revival is produced by Roundabout, a not-for-profit theatre institution with an endowment and a subscriber base to keep it afloat, the show will likely be able to play out its intended limited run. The show is scheduled to close on January 4, 2015.

Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” Begins Performances

A Legendary Playwright and an A-List Cast

the real thingOn Oct 2, 2014, the second revival of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing began previews at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway venue, the American Airlines Theatre. The official opening will take place on October 30, 2014. Arguably the world’s greatest living playwright, Tom Stoppard has written countless works for the stage including the Lincoln Center produced trilogy The Coast of Utopia, as well as Arcadia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Indian Ink, which is simultaneously being produced by Roundabout in their Off-Broadway venue, The Laura Pels Theatre. Of the seven actors in the cast, four are household names, and five are making their Broadway debuts. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is known for such films as The Dark Knight, Donnie Darko, Secretary, and White House Down, is making her Broadway debut in the role of Annie. Meanwhile, Ewan McGregor, celebrated for his roles in such films as Trainspotting, Big Fish, and Star Wars: Episodes I, II, and III, is making his Broadway debut in the role of Henry. Cynthia Nixon, the beloved “Sex and the City” star whose stage credits are numerous, plays Charlotte, and Josh Hamilton, known for The Bourne Identity, J. Edgar, and Ice Age, plays Max. The remaining three actors – Alex Breaux, Ronan Raftery, and Madeline Weinstein – are all making their Broadway debuts as well.

Cynthia Nixon Returning to Her Groundbreaking Roots

In the original Broadway production of The Real Thing in 1984, Cynthia Nixon was cast as the witty young Debbie. This was her second Broadway role, following The Philadelphia Story in 1980. That production of Stoppard’s play was directed by Mike Nichols, who was so impressed with Nixon’s performance that he suggested she play a role in David Rabe’s Hurlyburly, when The Real Thing had only just opened. She took the opportunity and traveled to Chicago to premiere Hurlyburly, leaving the role of Debbie to her understudy. When she returned to New York for Hurlyburly’s Broadway transfer, she was informed that her replacement in The Real Thing was not doing very well, so she did an unprecedented thing. She made Broadway history by being the first and only person ever to play two non-repertory Broadway roles simultaneously. This was possible because her role in Hurlyburly only appeared in two scenes – the first and one near the end – and her role in The Real Thing only came on for one scene-stealing performance at the beginning of the second act. It also helped that her character in Hurlyburly had undergone a significant transformation – from innocent to depraved – between her two scenes. Now, decades later, Nixon returns for this revival to play the more principal role of Charlotte.

Sam Gold Continuing His Young Success Story

sam gold director

Sam Gold

The director of this production of The Real Thing is Sam Gold, who directed his first Broadway show in fall 2011, and this marks his fifth Broadway credit. This is in addition to numerous high-profile Off-Broadway directing credits. A graduate of the Juilliard directing program, Sam Gold stormed onto the scene and immediately was credited with a new type of directing: one defined by a certain stilted awkwardness. Though this does not necessarily imbue all of his work, it does connect him to the millennial generation and let him stand out as an original artist. His five Broadway credits to date are Seminar (2011-2) by Theresa Rebeck starring Alan Rickman, Picnic (2013) by William Inge starring Ellen Burstyn, The Realistic Joneses (2014) by Will Eno starring Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, and Marisa Tomei, The Real Thing (2014), and the upcoming Broadway transfer of Fun Home (2015). It is rare for such a young director to be given so many early opportunities to showcase his talents, and this pairing with Tom Stoppard is a whole new level of achievement in his career.

The New Revival of Kander and Ebb’s ‘Cabaret’ Begins Previews

Willkommen. Bienvenue. Welcome.
These three words – or rather, this one word in these three languages – is deliciously familiar to Broadway fans far and wide.

cabaret Roundabout Theatre on Broadway It is therefore with great anticipation that audiences welcome the new revival of Cabaret to Broadway, which begins performances tonight: March, 21, 2014.  These are the lyrics that begin the opening number of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s musical masterpiece, sung by the ultimate provocateur, the Master of Ceremonies.  This role, in a turn of events generally unusual for Broadway but not for this show, is revived along with the musical itself.  Alan Cumming, the beloved Scottish actor most recently seen on Broadway in his one-man adaption of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, will reprise the Emcee role, which he also played in 1998 when the musical last appeared on Broadway.

The 2014 revival is produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company at one of their two Broadway houses: Studio 54 on West 54th Street.  This marks the show’s third Broadway revival.  It originally premiered in 1966, when it ran for 1,186 performances (including previews) and was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, winning 8 (including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by a Featured Actor – Joel Grey as the Master of Ceremonies, and Best Director – Harold Prince).  Cabaret’s first Broadway revival took place in 1987, with Harold Prince once again directing and with Joel Grey reprising his role as the Emcee.  The second revival played 2,377 performances, becoming the third-longest running Broadway revival in history, and featured Alan Cumming as the Emcee, a role he had debuted in the 1993 London revival.

When Alan Cumming first played the Emcee, he significantly altered the interpretation from that portrayed by Joel Grey.  Grey had embodied the consummate asexual entertainer, but Cumming took on the role in a highly sexualized fashion.  Still, both interpretations were so inimitable that each actor was asked to reprise his role for the following revival.  Furthermore, following in Harold Prince’s tradition of the director reprising his position for this show, Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, who co-directed the last revival, will also direct the 2014 production.

Starring alongside Cumming in this revival is Michelle Williams in her Broadway debut, playing the role of Sally Bowles: the 19 year-old English cabaret performer who falls in love with a young American writer.  Williams rose to fame in the late 90s on the WB’s teen television drama Dawson’s Creek.  She was then nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Brokeback Mountain, and also garnered acclaim for her performances in I’m Not There, Synecdoche New York, Shutter Island, and Blue Valentine.  The musical also features Tony Award nominees Linda Emond (Death of a Salesman, Life x 3) as Fraulein Schneider, and Danny Burstein (Follies, Golden Boy, South Pacific, The Drowsy Chaperone) as Herr Schultz.

The musical officially opens on April 24, 2014.  Though the last revival ran for 6 years, this is slated to be a 24-week limited engagement, with the closing date scheduled for August 31, 2014.

Roundabout To Bring Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” and Donald Margulies “Dinner with Friends” To Broadway

Roundabout Theatre CompanyThe Roundabout Theatre Company, which is currently represented on Broadway by The Mystery of Edwin Drood and the soon-to-open The Big Knife, has announced that its 2013-2014 Broadway season will include revivals of the plays Dinner With Friends and The Real Thing.

A favorite of Tom Stoppard fans, The Real Thing is about a playwright whose marriage is collapsing — both on stage and in real life. The 1984 play was most recently seen on Broadway in 2000 in an acclaimed production starring Stephen Dillane and Jennifer Ehle.

Dinner with Friends, written by Donald Margulies, is a Pulitzer Prize winning play that previously enjoyed a run Off-Broadway, but will be making its Broadway premiere with the Roundabout production. Tracking the journey of two couples, it is also a play that deals with the subject of marriage.

Forthcoming Broadway Revival of Picnic Announces Casting

Maggie Grace

Casting for the Roundabout Theatre Company’s upcoming revival of the William Inge classic Picnic has been announced.  The impressive leading cast includes some of New York City theater’s finest actors, as well as some notable film and TV performers.  The cast is headed by Ellen Burstyn (TV’s Big Love), Mare Winningham (TV’s Hatfields & McCoys), Maggie Grace (Taken, TV’s Lost), Sebastian Stan (TV’s Once Upon a Time, Talk Radio on Broadway), Reed Birney (TV’s Gossip Girl), and Elizabeth Marvel (Other Desert Cities on Broadway).  Ben Rappaport, Madeleine Martin, Cassie Beck, Maddie Corman, and Chris Perfetti will also star in Picnic.

Picnic, an American classic set during a hot Labor Day in the Heartland, originally opened on Broadway in 1953.  The Pulitzer Prize-winning play went on to be preserved in a famous film starring William Holden and Kim Novak.

Under the direction of Sam Gold, Picnic will begin performances at the American Airlines Theatre on December 14, with an official Broadway opening set for January 13, 2013.  Tickets can be purchased at roundabouttheatre.org or by calling 212-719-1300.

Jake Gyllenhaal Stars in Off-Broadway Play

Film star Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain, Donnie Darko) is currently making his debut on the New York stage, but not on Broadway, as would be expected for a star of his fame.  Instead, Gyllenhaal has taken a role in the new Off-Broadway play If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet, produced by the non-profit Roundabout Theatre Company and playing at the Laura Pels Theatre.

Written by British playwright Nick Payne, If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet is about an overweight teen who is struggling with both school bullies and her family’s unsuccessful attempts to help her.  Jake Gyllenhaal plays the teen’s drifter uncle, with whom she develops an unexpected bond.

Also starring Brian F. O’Byrne, Michelle Gomez, and Annie Funke, If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet officially opens Off-Broadway on September 20 for a run that is scheduled through November 25.  For tickets, click here.