Theater Critic: Hollywood doesn’t equal Broadway

With the pressure for a Broadway show to make money, producers are starting to see the perks in casting a Hollywood star. A big name sells more tickets, garners more Tony nominations and ultimately brings in more dough. Several A-list celebrities have found their way to the Broadway stage this season. From the small to the big screen, everyone is flocking to stages on the Great White Way.

For the past several months the highly recognizable voice of James Earl Jones (Star Wars) has been gracing audiences in the new production of Driving Miss Daisy. Jones, who is starring next to another one of Hollywood’s elite — Vanessa Redgrave (Letters to Juliet), has been receiving rave reviews for his role. Other stars are also receiving wonderful press these days — Robin Williams (Jumanji) in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, John Leguizamo (Ice Age) in Ghetto Klown and Kiefer Sutherland (24) in That Championship Season.

One celebrity currently taking the stage by storm is Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, who is starring in the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Radcliffe, who is not known for being a song-and-dance man, is performing to sold-out audiences every night, which is a pleasant surprise. On the flip side, not all celebrities seem to have the chops. Chris Rock (Grown-Ups), who is currently starring in the foul-mouthed play Motherf**ker with the Hat, has been receiving nothing but terrible reviews, thus posing the eternal question, “Is it alright for producers to settle for weak acting in order to book the big star?”

I am all for seeing a huge Hollywood name, but not at the expense of good acting skills. There are several things wrong with this method: the rest of the cast is weakened by the performance of one actor, even a brilliant script can become intolerable, genius directing can get lost, and most importantly, audience members are out extreme amounts of money. In my opinion it is not worth the extra boom at the box office and possible Tony Award nomination.

I had the chance to see the “stunning” production of Motherf**ker with the Hat that Rock was unfortunately starring in. His lack of knowledge of how theater works was clear and truly brought down the production. Rock’s forgetfulness that there was a live audience present and no director to yell “cut” was a major problem. This is one case where a lesser-known actor with more theater experience would have been 10 times better for the production. Big star does not always equal big talent.

As the theater season continues, more and more celebrities will continue to roll into New York. Jim Belushi (According to Jim) will begin performances in the comedy Born Yesterday; Ben Stiller (Meet the Parents) and Edie Falco (The Sopranos) will star in the dark comedy The House of Blue Leaves; and Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) and Lee Pace (When in Rome) will team up for The Normal Heart. Only time will tell whether these celebrities have the skills it takes to give a stunning performance on Broadway.

– Ryan Oliveti

Junior elementary education and theater major

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