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Hollywood Stars on Broadway Bang or Bust?

When Hollywood stars and movie celebrities perform in Broadway Shows, how does it work out ?

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Many Hollywood celebrities and movie stars perform on the Broadway stage. There are two main approaches - one is the limited-run Broadway show. To the movie star or Hollywood celebrity this is all about taking a break from the stresses of movies and Hollywood and a chance to develop their acting chops, especially in a forum where it doesn't matter if they fail. The other is when the celebrities or film stars join a big Broadway show to boost flagging sales. Often the star or celebrity is trying to rekindle a flagging Hollywood career or just cashing in on their household name. Both approaches can be called stunt casting, but this term applies more to the latter than the former. Either way, there is no doubt that we'll be seeing stars on Broadway for sometime to come, as Broadway producers try to use their celebrity as a way of drawing in audiences.

Let's examine the recent forays onto Broadway by big non-Broadway stars:



Broadway Show

The stars performance and the show's Level Of Success


Robin Williams
Chris Rock in The Mother****** with the Hat on Broadway
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (2011) Given Robin Williams' well-known manic comic persona, some were worried that he might start inappropriately ad-libbing and riffing in the Broadway production of Rajiv Joseph's drama, which takes place in Baghdad right after the Iraq invasion. But Williams' acting chops took over, and he gave a strong performance in the unusual role of the bengal tiger referred to in the play's title.
Thumbs Up For This Broadway Show
Chris Rock
Chris Rock in The Mother****** with the Hat on Broadway
The Mother****** with the Hat (2011) Although he has logged many onstage hours as a stand-up comic, and he has played numerous characters on film and TV, Chris Rock had not performed as an actor onstage until The Mother****** with the Hat, his Broadway debut. Struggling at first, Rock eventually became comfortable doing live drama, but unfortunately he lacked the electricity that he has previously brought to his stand-up and sketch comedy work.
Thumbs Down For This Broadway Show
Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe in How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway
How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (2011) With the Harry Potter movies filmed and behind him, Daniel Radcliffe made a bold move by returning to Broadway to star in a big, old-fashioned musical comedy. The gamble paid off, with Radcliffe ably proving that he has the charm and boundless energy to headline a classic Broadway revival. And what do you know, the kid can dance!
Thumbs Up For This Broadway Show
Kiefer Sutherland
Kiefer Sutherland in That Championship Season on Broadway
That Championship Season (2011) The young movie star of the Brat Pack era went on to establish himself as a TV action hero with several seasons of 24. But in his Broadway debut, co-starring in the ensemble of the Broadway revival of That Championship Season, Sutherland plays way against type as a hard-working, demure political consultant.
Thumbs Up For This Broadway Show
Al Pacino
Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice on Broadway
The Merchant of Venice (2010) Considered by many to be the greatest actor of his generation, Al Pacino did not disappoint in this excellent production of Shakespeare's brilliant but difficult play. Under the sure-handed direction of Daniel Sullivan, Pacino embodied Shylock in all of his complexity, asking the audience to feel compassion for a character who is no longer able to feel compassion himself.
Thumbs Up For This Broadway Show
Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington in Fences on Broadway
Fences (2010) The charismatic film star packed in the crowds and gave them a hell of a performance in this revival of August Wilson's drama Fences. Washington did an excellent job of navigating a difficult character, who is initially so likable and funny before he reveals his ugly side.
Thumbs Up For This Broadway Show
Scarlet Johansson
Scarlett Johansson in A View From the Bridge on Broadway
A View From the Bridge (2009) Because of her recent appearances in big Hollywood flicks like Iron Man 2, some may have forgotten that ScarJo once blew away critics with prodigious turns in indie movies like Lost in Translation and Match Point. But if there was ever any doubt of her acting gifts, she proved them again with her Tony Award-winning Broadway debut in this powerful Arthur Miller play.
Thumbs Up For This Broadway Show
Jude Law
Jude Law in Hamlet on Broadway
Hamlet (2009) British actor Jude Law has a long resume of both Hollywood and London-based films, but he is no stranger to the stage. However, this production of Hamlet was his first time to appear on Broadway since he rise to full-blown star status and he was quite impressive in the challenging Shakespearean role . Interestingly, Law's ex Sienna Miller (the pair's relationship had been tabloid fodder for some time) also appeared on Broadway just a few blocks away that season.
Thumbs Up For Jude Law on Broadway
Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell on Broadway in You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush
You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush(2009) Broadway audiences welcomed movie star, Saturday Night Live alum, and all around funny guy Will Ferrell with open arms. The reviews were restrained, but mostly positive, with the critics just sitting back and enjoying Ferrell's well-established "Dubya" persona without over thinking the theatrical merit of the play.
Thumbs Up For This Broadway Show
Katie Holmes Katie Holmes in All My Sons on Brodway in All My Sons All My Sons (2008) With the stigma of being a Hollywood tabloid darling firmly attached, Mrs. Tom Cruise Katie Holmes had little chance of winning over Broadway die-hards, and it didn't help that she couldn't rise to the level of experienced co-stars John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, and Patrick Wilson. Lack of critical love notwithstanding, there were no shortage of fans at the stage door each night waiting to get photos of this Hollywood celebrity.
Thumbs down for this Broadway Show
Daniel Radcliffe Daniel Radcliffe in Equus Broadway Show Equus (2008) Having already received a warm reception from West End theater critics and audiences, Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe arrived on Broadway with the all-important stamp of British approval. Broadway fans and critics embraced the young man as well, and Radcliffe has now officially earned his stripes as a legitimate adult actor.
Thumbs Up For This Broadway Show
Jeremy Piven Jeremy Piven in Speed the Plow Broadway Show Speed-the-Plow
Entourage's Jeremy Piven, who grew up in the Chicago theater scene, received fairly positive reviews when the Speed-the-Plow revival opened on Broadway, but his early departure due to "high levels of mercury" (caused by excessive sushi consumption) lost party-boy Piven the goodwill of the Broadway community - the producers of the show even threatened to slap the Piv with a lawsuit for his fishy exit from the show.
Thumbs down for this Broadway Show
Morgan Freeman Morgan Freeman in The Country Girl Broadway Show The Country Girl
Morgan Freeman began on the stage, but his career truly flourished in the Hollywood film industry. With The Country Girl, Freeman returned to Broadway for the first time in 20 years as a major movie star. Unfortunately, the production got a tepid reception, and though Freeman's notices weren't unkind, it wasn't the triumphant return as a star on Broadway expected for an actor of his caliber.
Thumbs down for this Broadway Show
Laurence Fishburne Laurence Fishburne in Thurgood Broadway Show Thurgood (2008) His first time on Broadway in nearly a decade, Hollywood film actor Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) impressed critics with his performance as Thurgood Marshall in this one-man show, though they generally regarded the play itself as being just a run-of-the-mill biographical sketch.
Thumbs Up For This Broadway Show
Terrence Howard Terrence Howard in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Broadway Show Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (2008) Oscar-nominated Hollywood actor Terrence Howard got mixed to positive reviews for his performance as Brick in this all-black Broadway production of the Tennessee Williams classic, but he lost a lot of goodwill among Broadway fans when he didn't appear for most of the show's extension (he had a prior film commitment) and then went on to describe working Broadway's eight-shows-a-week schedule as "slavery".
Thumbs down for this Broadway Show
Kevin Spacey Kevin Spacey in A Moon for the Misbegotten Broadway A Moon for the Misbegotten (2007) Overshadowed by co-star Eve Best's glowing reception, Kevin Spacey still captured his fair share of positive notice. Some critics took issue with Spacey eking too many laughs out of his performance in this Eugene O'Neill classic, but Broadway audiences certainly didn't consider this a fault.
Thumbs Up For This Broadway Show
Claire Danes Claire Danes in Pygmalion Broadway Show Pygmalion (2007) Though Claire Danes was not universally lauded in her Broadway debut, on the whole her portrayal of Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle was greeted warmly by Broadway reviewers and audiences.
Thumbs Up For This Broadway Show
Julia Roberts Julia Roberts in Three Days Of Rain on Broadway Three Days Of Rain (2006) Broadway audiences were psyched about seeing Hollywood celebrity and "pretty woman" Julia Roberts live onstage, but Roberts' movie fans weren't enough to make this Broadway show a success. Critics didn't care much for the production and it ended its limited run on time amid weak ticket sales.
Thumbs down for this Broadway Show
Christina Applegate Christina Applegate in Sweet Charity Broadway Show Sweet Charity (2005) Broadway wags were skeptical when it was announced that former Married With Children star Christina Applegate wanted to take on a role originated by Broadway legend Gwen Verdon, but Applegate eventually won most Broadway musical fans over with her skills, plucky spirit, and her determination to bring the show to Broadway even after suffering a foot injury during out-of-town tryouts.
Thumbs Up For This Broadway Show
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs Sean "P. Diddy" Combs in A Raisin in the Sun Broadway Show A Raisin in the Sun
One of the biggest stars on Broadway to come from the music world, Sean "Puffy" Combs sold tons of tickets when he starred in a Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun. Unfortunately the critics mostly felt that Combs' performance, while competent, paled in comparison to those of experienced co-stars like Audra McDonald and Phylicia Rashad.
Thumbs down for this Broadway Show
Hugh Jackman Hugh Jackman in The Boy From Oz Broadway Show The Boy From Oz
London saw Hugh Jackman's talent when he played cowpoke Curly in Oklahoma in '99, and he subsequently became a major Hollywood star by playing Wolverine in X-Men. But nobody was prepared to see triple threat Jackman command the stage as Peter Allen in the Broadway musical The Boy From Oz. The show itself wasn't so impressive, but between his dance moves and improv skills, Jackman entranced all of Broadway.
Thumbs Up For This Broadway Show
Antonio Banderas Antonio Banderas in Nine Broadway Show Nine (2003) Although he held his own as Che in the Evita film starring Madonna, and for years was rumored to be the favorite to star in The Phantom of the Opera movie, Antonio Banderas exceeded everyone's wildest expectations when he took the stage in the Broadway musical Nine. The Spanish actor exuded charisma and charm in the difficult role of a narcissistic film director, and left Broadway wanting more.
Thumbs Up For This Broadway Show