It's a Brit Broadway Takeover ; Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry -- Homegrown Talent Is All over the New York Stage This Season, Says Matt Wolf

By Wolf, Matt | The Evening Standard (London, England), August 21, 2013 | Go to article overview
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It's a Brit Broadway Takeover ; Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry -- Homegrown Talent Is All over the New York Stage This Season, Says Matt Wolf


Wolf, Matt, The Evening Standard (London, England)


WHEN Orlando Bloom steps onto the stage of New York's Richard Rodgers Theatre on Saturday, as Romeo in a production of the Shakespeare tragedy directed by British director David Leveaux, the event will represent more than simply the Broadway debut of the Pirates of the Caribbean star. Bloom's shift of gear also heralds the most Britdominated season that Broadway, on or off, has seen in an age. Or as Sonia Friedman, the London-based producing veteran of the West End and Broadway, puts it, "We're all looking at each other and going, 'Wow'."

Wow, indeed, even by comparison with New York's affection of late for the likes of James Corden, Rufus Sewell, Eve Best and Richard Griffiths, all of whom either won a Tony or were nominated within the past decade.

The line-up of UK acting talent on Broadway this season alone constitutes a Who's Who that extends from Bloom and Mark Rylance (in the Friedmanproduced pairing of plays from Shakespeare's Globe), via Broadway newcomers Rachel Weisz, Rebecca Hall and Kenneth Branagh to such New York veterans as Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Oh, yes, and Daniel Craig.

Bloom's evident box-office appeal notwithstanding, the arrival of Mr and Mrs Craig in a fresh Broadway production of Betrayal is the hottest ticket of the season. Directed by Mike Nichols, it promises to ensnare both admirers of Harold Pinter's compelling triangular drama (Rafe Spall completes the cast) as well as those who want merely to gawp at a famous acting couple, cast as a pair whose marriage is rent asunder when the wife (Weisz) has an affair with the best friend (Spall) of her husband (Craig).

Betrayal has been seen on Broadway twice before, both times without a Brit in the cast. (The two women who previously filled Weisz's shoes were Blythe Danner -- now better-known as Gwyneth Paltrow's mum -- in 1980 and Juliette Binoche in 2000). One wonders whether Pinter's cunning reversechronology scenario would prove such an attraction without James Bond above the title. As it is, the 14- week run is expected to sell out before its first preview on October 1 at the Barrymore Theatre.

Barely will Betrayal be into its stride before two repertory seasons heave into view in a city that, unlike London, can go for years without ever embracing the classics. The last Broadway venture to try rep was, in fact, the 2009 transfer from the Old Vic of The Norman Conquests, produced by Friedman.

Starting Broadway previews within a fortnight of one another are Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry in the Globe's all-male versions of Twelfth Night and Richard III (at the Belasco Theatre from October 15), followed soon after by Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart reprising their 2009 West End alliance in Waiting for Godot and pairing that with a new production of Pinter's No Man's Land. Sean Mathias, McKellen's one-time partner, directs both (at the Cort Theatre from October 26).

So how much Shakespeare and Pinter can this town take? With the right names attached, apparently quite a lot, while Rylance's famously fluttery take on Twelfth Night's grieving Olivia could well nab him a third Tony to go with his trophies for Boeing-Boeing and Jerusalem.

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