Excited to get your $37 tickets to a Broadway show at the Booth Theatre? It certainly is a discount from a typical $150 ticket, but, as with most things, when you get a deal, there's a reason. The show is closing early, after only about 1 month's run.
Actor Forest Whitaker has born the brunt of a lot of criticism for his starring role in the show after, well, not knowing his lines during opening week of previews for Hughie. And really, theatrical actors from high school to Broadway know that this a given. I sympathize with an actor not knowing his/her lines (that's how my anxiety dreams take form--I'm on stage and I forget my lines! Terrible feeling, and we're all human. I get it.). But people pay good, I mean, good money for shows like this, and to say they expect you to at least know your lines is a vast understatement. This has been hailed as a main reason why the show had to close early (even after the cast and crew took pay cuts to try to keep the show running). Word of mouth runs deep and far.
Yet while Forest Whitaker is a renowned actor, this is his first Broadway role--and he hasn't acted on stage since college. Maybe he just doesn't have the live-stage experience to be getting back into theatre on, well, one of the biggest stages in the world. And that is perfectly acceptable. Should a movie-actor like him start on some smaller off-off Broadway stage with a bit less pressure? Perhaps, but I doubt producers would even let him. For the past few decades, it seems there is a great deal of pressure on celebrities to perform on Broadway when they may not have the experience. We are lucky to see shows with versatile celebrities who can truly sing, act on tv, in films, and on stage. This does happen. But not all actors are like this. I mean, do we really need Jeff Goldblum to star in The Music Man? I love Jeff Goldblum, I do (he's my big science/nerd crush), but he was not meant for this role. Why do we force it?
I know why we force it, of course. Celebrities, stage actors or no, have the clout to bring in audience members, which brings in money, which keeps shows open.
So let's put Forest Whitaker to the side for Hughie. While I haven't seen the show (and don't intend to), I actually think he probably does a decent job performing--flubbing up lines aside. So--the show itself?
Reviews of the show have been mixed--they aren't all bad. This is Eugene O'Neill and this is Broadway after all. You've got talent talent talent. But I do wonder if part of the failure of this production stems from the play itself. Was this O'Neill's best work? I doubt many would argue it is. O'Neill himself never saw it staged in his life time, and who knows how serious he was about having it produced (I know that oftentimes shorter works are preps for longer works--such as is the general thought Hughie was for The Iceman Cometh). You're going to get lots of opinions on the actual script, but it is not a story with a ton of action, and any play where you can describe the central character as one who "regales" and tells "tall tales from his glory days" is not going to seem as exciting to most as one where there is present action and a driving plot. And if you're going to charge $150 for a play that runs about 1 hour...well, you better make that hour count.
And in this case, for many people, that hour did not count. Or, maybe it counted as 2 or 3 or 4 hours, and that is not really what you want the audience to be feeling.
But hey, if you want to get rush day-of tickets for $37 to see an hour show on Broadway--go on down to 222 West 45th Street and enjoy your last chance to see, what Michael Riedel calls, a "dreary drama."
Share your thoughts: Have you seen Hughie? Or have you been a part of a production of Hughie? Have you seen its televised version? How do you feel about exclusive screen actors making stage debuts straight on Broadway?