Friday, April 21, 2006

Not Such a Pretty Woman After All

Hollywood's most profitable leading lady, Julia Roberts, made her big fat Broadway debut this week...and bellyflopped like Bruce Vilanch jumping off the high dive. While some of the blistering critical reaction can be explained by the general snootiness of New Yorkers (they don't like it when movie stars decide to flounce about on theatrical stages), it remains clear -- after high-profile failures by Denzel Washington, Jessica Lange, and Alec Baldwin -- that film acting and stage acting are very different skills to master.

To be fair, some Hollywood types do well on Broadway -- Hugh Jackman triumphed in The Boy From Oz, Philip Seymour Hoffman led a remarkable True West, and Ralph Fiennes is currently on the boards acquitting himself nicely in a revival of Faith Healer -- but most of them cut their teeth for years in the theatre before transitioning to film. Ms. Roberts, on the other hand, hasn't foot on a stage since her high school years in Georgia.

The play she stars in (with Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper, of 40-Year-Old Virgin and Wedding Crashers fame, respectively) is a revival of Three Days of Rain, by Tony winner Richard Greenberg. Kudos to Julia for picking difficult material (she plays two roles in different acts), but her flat line delivery leads me to believe that Erin Brockovich: The Musical will not be in the cards anytime soon. - ModFab

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Anonymous said...

Denzel Washingtion is an OBIE Best Actor winner for his off-broadway stage performance in A Soldier's Story in 1982. Before he became a movie actor, he acted in many stage productions to critical acclaim, including When The Chickens Come Home To Roost (where he first played Malcolm X). He doesn't actually need to prove himself as a stage actor, because that's how he first made his name.

Julius Ceasar may not have been his finest hour, but that doesn't make him an incompetent stage actor. It's more likely that he's been out of practice. And Shakespeare is always judged more harshly than contemporary works. No stage actor will always hit home runs. Al Pacino has won 2 Tony awards, but has given some of the worst reviewed Shakespeare performances in broadway history. Peter O'Toole is a great film and stage actor, but his 1982 London production of Macbeth still goes down in legend for the awfulness of his performance. Vanessa Redgrave is a great stage actress, who just recently got trashed for her last stage performance.

Denzel is like Pacino, Peter O' Toole, Vanessa Redgrave ect. An experienced and trained stage actor, who has starred in a high profile stinker. I'd say that Alec Baldwin falls into that catergory as well. Baldwin is an experienced, acclaimed and Tony nominated stage actor. Jessica Lange is also a proven, critically acclaimed stage actress.

Julia Roberts is a different case. A stage novice with little or no experience of live theatre, she has yet to prove herself a competent stage actress. You can't lump her in with Denzel, Bladwin and Lange simply because they all make movies. All have earned major critical acclaim and awards for their stage acting. They are not stage amateurs. Roberts is.

Anonymous said...

The only huge actor/actress that I've seen do both very well is Nicole Kidman(she did The Blue Room...although it wasn't on broadway) besides that I haven't seen that many other great examples(I sadly don't live near a theatre so it's hard to be able to catch up.)

Anonymous said...

Indeed Nicole Kidman received glowing reviews for her performance in "The Blue Room" (by the way the play was peformed in London and on Broadway as well). But she was trained on stage when she was a teenager in Australia. She appeared in "Sweet Bird of youth", "Equus", "Steel Magnolias", "Spring Awakening"... therefore she was no stranger to theatre.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous: Did you happen to see Denzel in any plays? I've seen him now twice on stage, and he wasn't even passable in either. Just because you did a few plays doesn't make you good at it. And his OBIE for SOLDIER'S STORY has more to do with the part than with the performance.

Stage acting is a SKILL, separate and apart from film acting. You either learn it or you don't.

broadway shows in new york city said...

I bet Julia Roberts is a good actress so as with the stage playing. Though I haven't seen her in the stage but I can really say that she is good at it because I've seen her acting well at eat, love and pray.