Thursday, July 12, 2007

Screen to Stage

Man, I have been planning to write about Claire Danes being scheduled to appear in Pygmalion ever since it was announced on Monday but haven’t gotten around to it. Then today’s Weekend section in the T-D had an item on it so I’ve got to put in my two cents. There’s a certain type of B-list movie star that makes for an intriguing and exciting stage presence and I’ve been waiting for just the “must-see” opportunity to run up northward. One of the first Broadway shows I ever saw was Noel Coward’s “Design for Living” starring Frank Langella (who was hot at the time because of his sizzling portrayal in “Dracula”), Raul Julia, and Jill Clayburgh. It was an enchanting production, Langella and Julia in particular just lighting up the stage.

More recently, I was pretty disappointed with Natalie Portman in “Diary of Anne Frank.” It wasn’t a bad production but Natalie didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy and, frankly, my sweetheart Holly T. will always be the ultimate Anne in my eyes.

To really get my motor running, the level of star power – and acting prowess – has to be just right to make the trek worthwhile. Julia Roberts or Denzel Washington are too strong both onstage and at the box office. Why pay hundreds or thousands of dollars and battle unseemly crowds just to see Julia flash her pearly whites? Cynthia Nixon is about perfect and I’m not sure why I didn’t break the bank to run up and see her in “Rabbit Hole.” Someone like Anna Paquin, Ryan Gosling, Lili Taylor or Ed Norton would also get me pulling every last string to see them. I would have also said Christian Bale or Kirsten Dunst before they both hit it so big with their superhero franchises; if either of them were to chose to grace the Great White Way, I’d be afraid of being overrun by comics fan-boys and girls.

Claire Danes is definitely in the ballpark. She’s one of those sneaky actresses who are usually better than you think they are going to be (I’d put Paquin in that category as well). She was great in her small role in “The Hours” and I’ll always have a soft spot for her because of her work in “Romeo + Juliet” (now THAT’S filmmaking!) and the tragically overlooked big-screen, non-musical “Les Miserables” (yes, she was Cozette in a cast that included Liam Neeson, Gregory Rush and Uma Thurman!). The problem here is the vehicle. “Pygmalion"? Ho hum. How I wish she had picked something a little more scintillating for her Broadway debut.

So I don’t think I’ll be doing any calisthenics to make it up specifically to see Ms. Danes. In fact, if there’s any “name” star that I’d work up a sweat to go see now it’d be Kate Mulgrew in “Iphigenia 2.0” off-Broadway. Great actress (before, after, and during “Star Trek: Voyager”) and interesting vehicle. And luckily (?), "Voyager" never got popular enough to generate too many fan-boys...


pnlkotula said...

On a side note, the new movie with Claire and Michelle Pfieffer looks amazing. We saw the trailer the other night before Transformers at the BEACH!! Leaving tomorrow :-(

Andrew Hamm said...

I was thrilled to hear that Danes was appearing in Pygmalion. It takes a lot to make me go up to the city, and this combination of superb actor and brilliant script could do it.

Pygmalion is one of the first plays I ever read, and I've had a soft spot for Shaw ever since. And Danes, as you so rightly point out, is the honest center around which Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet wildly revolves.