There is a reason that Tennessee Williams is one of the most brilliant playwrights of the 20th century. His characters are so human, full of the same experiences, joys and mistakes that we all go through in life.
This weekend, I saw a revival of The Glass Menagerie starring Cherry Jones.
The Glass Menagerie is the story of a family living in the midwest during the 1930’s. Amanda Wingfield is a single mother living with her adult children, Tom (Zachary Quinto) and Laura (Celia Keenan-Bolger). Tom is working at a local factory and frequently argues with his mother. Laura is walks with a limp and only socializes with her mother and brother, suffering from anxiety attacks if she has to socialize with anyone else.
Amanda is determined to bring in gentleman callers for her daughter and fondly remembers her youth and the gentleman callers she used to entertain. When Tom bring in a gentleman caller (Brian J Smith) home for dinner, a slim chance of happiness and marital bliss appears for Laura, only for it to be smashed into tiny pieces by the end of the play.
Tennessee Williams is one of my favorite playwrights. I love Streetcar Named Desire, it’s one of the most brilliant plays ever written, Blanche Bubois is hands down one of the great characters ever created. The same themes of reality vs. fantasy, the dream like memories of the past vs. the rough and not so nice present appear in both plays.
Cherry Jones is a wonder in this part. I saw her a few years ago in Mrs. Warren’s Profession. She blew me away then and she blew me away this weekend. Zachary Quinto and Celia Keenan-Bolger as her children seem on stage as if they are really siblings, instead of actors pretending to be siblings. Brian J Smith as the gentleman caller gives the audience hope that Laura may find the happiness that both she and her mother want to have.
The play closes on February 23rd. If you have the opportunity to get tickets, I highly recommend this show.
This past Thursday, NBC aired a live telecast of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical The Sound Of Music.
Any national or Broadway revival of this musical will obviously be compared to the original production from the 1950’s with Mary Martin in the lead role and the iconic 1965 movie.
Carrie Underwood as Maria was an interesting choice by the producers. Yes, the woman can sing. One does not win American Idol and sell as many albums as she has without the ability to sing as well as she does. However, singing your own songs on a concert stage or acting in a music video which will ultimately be less than five minutes long is very different than playing one of the most iconic characters in musical theater. Did she know her lines? Yes. But there was little emotion behind those lines.
And now to Stephen Moyer. A great actor who is incredibly sexy on True Blood. And so wrong for Captain Von Trapp.
He is age appropriate and is as much as a name as Carrie Underwood. I don’t expect him to hit the high notes that Maria hits, but I found him to be stiff and his singing to be simply underwhelming. The Captain is emotionally closed off and stiff at the beginning of the story, but that is his character. Even when he began to open himself up to his children and become the father they needed, Moyer just wasn’t doing it for me. I found myself wishing that Christopher Plummer was still young enough to play this part again.
The upshot to this production was the decision to hire Broadway veterans to fill out the adult supporting roles. Audra McDonald (Mother Abbess), Laura Benanti (Elsa Schrader) and Christian Borle (Max Detweiler). Benati played Maria in the last revival, perhaps she might have imparted some advice to Underwood.
I applaud NBC for this undertaking, a live televised production of one of the most beloved musicals is not an easy thing to pull off. But next time, if there is a next time, I would recommend choose actors who actually have musical theater credentials and not just pop stars and TV actors who can sing.