Here's Jose to talk about a currently odd Broadway trend.
People like to complain about the movies running out of ideas, with only remakes and sequels in production. But the stage is no different.
Here in New York, Times Square can fool you into thinking you've fallen in a time vortex which has dropped you back in the mid-90s. Billboards for Broadway shows adapted from 1990’s movies are all over the place (The Lion King, Aladdin, Kinky Boots) and two of the newest and biggest are for Bullets Over Broadway (which starts previews next week!) and The Bridges of Madison County. The latter makes me ponder the peculiar choices of its leading lady Kelli O'Hara. Is she secretly a cinephile or actressexual?
More after the jump (help us guess what Kelli will star in next!?)
Almost a year ago I sat in the audience for a stage version of Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven which had beloved Broadway star Kelli O’Hara play tragic 50’s housewife Cathy Whitaker. Julianne Moore's Cathy Whitaker in the 2002 film was a vulnerable, porcelaine frail creature coming to terms with the imminent shattering of the perfect world she’d been living in. O’Hara was also moving in the stage version but within the show’s even more obvious artifice (framed against Mondrian-esque metallic structures on which “Wish You Were Here”-like projections were displayed) she stood out as its only sincere element. She was pregnant during the show’s off-Broadway run (as Julianne was while filming the movie!) and other than admiring her vocal skills and worrying whether she should be running around and climbing stairs with her belly, I couldn’t help but develop an instant crush.
The question then was, how long would it take the four-time Tony nominee to be back onstage after her baby’s birth? The answer was not very long. And with even more of an attention grabber: The Bridges of Madison County. When it was announced she’d be taking on the role of Francesca and performing a whole new set of songs written by Jason Robert Brown ("The Last Five Years") I was on cloud nine. But how would O’Hara fare being compared to the Streep herself? Clint Eastwood’s version of Robert James Weller’s bestseller was unarguably the movie that “brought Meryl back” after a string of meh performances in the early 90s. But O'Hara fares just fine.
She's exceptional in the part, really, bringing an earthiness to Francesca that practically allows you to smell her sweat as she invites a handsome photographer (Steven Pasquale, who played her husband, the Dennis Quaid role, in Heaven) into her house. From there Kelly transforms into a devastating portrayal of cultural displacement and nostalgia. The day after I saw the show I couldn’t remember a single note sung by the performers (unfortunately the same happened in Heaven) but I kept wondering if Kelli O’Hara had made it her mission to play all the great Best Actress losing parts.
Which great Best Actress losing role deserves a stage version? And who would cast in that role? Have you ever seen Kelli O’Hara perform?