The Glass Menagerie Concludes Its Run On Broadway

The Glass MenagerieThe critically lauded revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie finished its 24-week Broadway run this past Sunday, February 23rd 2014.  Starring Zachary Quinto (Angels in America, TV’s Heroes) as Tom, two-time Tony winner Cherry Jones (The Heiress, Doubt) as his mother Amanda, Celia Keenan-Bolger (Peter and the Starcatcher) as his sister Laura, and Brian J. Smith (The Columnist) as the gentleman caller Jim, the production swept critics and audiences away with an essentially perfect record of critical acclaim.  Following its opening on September 26, 2013, audiences flocked to the theatre, allowing the show to recoup its $2.6 million investment with seven weeks remaining to reap profits.

Revivals are not always successful on Broadway, as it takes a truly eloquent reimagining for an older work to strike a chord with critics and audiences alike.  Director John Tiffany, who along with his award-winning design team from Once, crafted a magnificent recreation of Williams’ vision by surrounding the Wingfield family apartment with a pool of reflective black liquid.  The play made numerous top 10 lists at the end of 2013, celebrating this as a landmark production of the American masterpiece.

The production attracted a wide demographic due to the play’s classic status and national familiarity.  With its original New York production in 1945, this play became the first major work by Tennessee Williams and has now been produced a total of seven times on Broadway.  Williams is also renowned for plays such as the Pulitzer Prize winning A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, both of which have been revived numerous times, including in the past two years.  The Glass Menagerie was also adapted into two Hollywood films; the more well-known version, directed by Paul Newman in 1987, starred Joanne Woodward (Amanda), Karen Allen (Laura), John Malkovich (Tom), and James Naughton (Jim).

Williams is known as an autobiographical writer; as legendary director and frequent Williams collaborator Elia Kazan once said, “Everything in his life is in his plays, and everything in his plays is in his life.”  The Glass Menagerie is understood to mimic his life even more so than his other writing, as Williams (whose real first name is Tom) grew up with his neurotic, Southern belle mother not unlike the character Amanda, and his older sister named Rose who, like the character Laura, suffered from physical and mental instability throughout her life.  In writing this piece, Williams coined the term “memory play,” granting a poetic freedom to real life that has enabled this work to be particularly resonant.

This production transferred to Broadway from its original staging at Boston’s American Repertory Theatre, produced by Jeffrey Richards, John N. Hart, Jr., and Jerry Frankel.  The frequent producing team Richards and Frankel are represented this upcoming spring season with the following productions: Robert Schenkkan’s All The Way starring Bryan Cranston; Marsha Norman and Jason Robert Brown’s musical The Bridges of Madison County starring Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale; Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses starring Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, and Marisa Tomei; and Lonny Price’s Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill starring Audra McDonald.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Opens on Broadway

black white Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Broadway Show scarlett johansson debra monk rob ashfordThe latest Broadway revival of the Tennessee Williams masterpiece Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opens at Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theater this evening. Following her Tony Award winning success in another dramatic classic, the recent revival of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, film actress Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers, Lost in Translation) now takes on the iconic role of Maggie the Cat, made famous on film by Elizabeth Taylor.

Playing opposite Scarlett Johansson is Benjamin Walker (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson on Broadway, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter on film) as Brick. The cast also features Irish actor Ciaran Hinds (The Seafarer), Debra Monk (set to star again on Broadway in the musical Pump Boys and Dinettes later this season), Emily Bergl, Michael Park, and Brian Reddy.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof began performances on December 18, 2012. The limited-run production, which is directed by Rob Ashford, is scheduled to play through March 30, 2013.

A Streetcar Named Desire Closes on Broadway

The most recent Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire has its final performance at the Broadhurst Theatre today. Blair Underwood (L.A. Law) , Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent), and Nicole Ari Parker (Boogie Nights) starred in this production of the American classic about an unstable Southern belle who goes to live with her sister and the sister’s husband.

Some people had doubts when the production was first announced. Would Blair Underwood, with his matinee idol looks and suave demeanor, be convincing as the brutish Stanley Kowalski? And would having the character (a working class Polish man living in 1940s New Orleans) played by an African-American actor be confusing? The latter question was ultimately answered by the production simply leaving Stanley’s last name and any references to his ancestry out of the script. Continuing a recent trend of artists from the jazz and R&B world contributing to Broadway plays, multiple Grammy winner Terence Blanchard provided underscoring for A Streetcar Named Desire. Under the direction of Emily Mann, the production ended up getting mixed reviews overall, with largely positive word-of-mouth.

From the beginning, this Streetcar was scheduled for a limited run to end on this date, but at one point the show did announce it was extending through August 19. In mid-June, the extension was canceled and it was determined that the production will transfer to London for a run this autumn.