The Heiress, starring Jessica Chastain in the title role, is now in previews at the Walter Kerr Theater on Broadway. It will run for a limited engagement of 18 weeks.
Based on Henry James’ novel Washington Square, it is such a powerful story that audiences can’t get enough of it. The novel is one of James’ most popular and certainly one of his most readable books. In 1947 Ruth and Augustus Goetz wrote a play based on the book called The Heiress, which opened that year on Broadway and ran for a year. A movie, starring Olivia de Havilland, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of the pathetically shy Catherine Sloper, came out in 1949. In 1995 the play returned to Broadway with Cherry Jones turning in Continue reading “The Heiress Comes (Back) to Broadway!”→
You’ve got to love the folks at the Signature Theater for making it possible to experience legitimate theater for just $25. The problem with the experience is the space! They have a new home designed by Frank Gehry and on Sunday afternoon, we saw it. In my opinion it is cold, sterile and absolutely charmless. There are actually three theaters, but the literal centerpiece—the thing that dominates the space— is what they erroneously call “the cafe,” an example of the curious bastardization of the language that I’ve noticed as we move forward in this century, something like devaluing the word “friend,” which used to denote someone sort of special, and was always a noun. There’s nothing intimate or charming about the Signature food pit. “High school cafeteria” would be more accurate. But I digress.
I don’t expect an off-Broadway venue to be lavish. But surely we can do better than this. The whole thing with its plywood walls and brutal lobby decoration struck me as something you might find inside any mall in America Give me a little black box theater any day.
Of course, the ultimate New York theater experience happens in the theaters of the Great White Way that were built during the first quarter of the 20th century and have been restored to their former grandeur. The greatest actors of the legitimate theater played these houses and it was here that the golden age of the musical theater transpired. The Belasco, the Shubert, the Palace, the Winter Garden, the Al Hirshfeld, the Nederlander, the Music Box. . . the very names connote the magic. These were the days when more was more, and the theater space was considered very much a part of the magic. They shimmer with gilding and tinted glass. Painted panels and plaster frescoes adorn the walls and the heavy proscenium curtain conceals another world, which remains secret as people take their seats.
At the top of my list of favorite things is the musical theater. I like to be on hand as soon as the House opens so I can soak up the surroundings as I watch the theater fill up. And then, finally, there is that utterly delicious moment when the house lights dim, and the overture begins.