Published in The New York Times
The relationship between celebrities and Broadway shows goes both ways. Ideally, a clever bit of stunt casting will draw audiences to a show, and the right material will allow a star -- a refugee from film, television or pop music -- to establish a reputation for genuine, non-camera-enhanced acting talent. The results are hard to forecast: “The Graduate” suffered when it cast Lorraine Bracco, from “The Sopranos,” one of the most beloved shows on television, while “Rent” benefited from the addition of Joey Fatone, who isn’t even the most famous member of ‘N Sync, a slowly fading pop group. This spring, a new crop of stars will arrive on Broadway: Sean Combs (better known as P. Diddy), making his stage debut in a revival of “A Raisin in the Sun”; Richard Dreyfuss and Elizabeth Berkley in “Sly Fox,” Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche in “Twentieth Century,” Ray Liotta and Frank Langella in “Match,” Laura Linney in “Sight Unseen,” Christopher Plummer in “King Lear,” Alfre Woodward in “Drowning Crow” and Alfred Molina in “Fiddler on the Roof.” How will they and their shows fare? There’s no way to predict, of course. But here’s a look at the track records of some of their recent predecessors. ZACHARY PINCUS-ROTH
STAR: Farrah Fawcett
BROADWAY ROLE: Bobbi Boland in “Bobbi Boland”
DATES PERFORMED: Nov. 4-9, 2003
REVIEWS: Not reviewed; closed before opening.
FINANCIAL EFFECT ON SHOW: Show closed after seven previews, taking in exactly $100,389.
EFFECT ON STAR’S CAREER: Her manager, Mark Berg, says that despite the play’s failure, Ms. Fawcett “hasn’t lost her marketability.” Though she’s not aggressively pursuing acting roles, he said, she’s still getting offers, and is starring as Danny Glover’s wife in the indie comedy “The Cookout,” scheduled for an August release.
STAR: Ashley Judd
BROADWAY ROLE: Maggie in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”
DATES PERFORMED: Oct. 9 to present
REVIEWS: Some critics agreed that Ms. Judd “understands the rhythm of Williams’s music, but she doesn’t yet swing it” (John Lahr, The New Yorker). Others felt she “doesn’t know where her own voice box is located, or how to support the tone it produces, or much of anything else about acting” (Michael Feingold, The Village Voice).
FINANCIAL EFFECT ON SHOW: Limited run, which ends March 14, has done better business than any other play this season except “Henry IV” and has recouped its costs.
EFFECT ON STAR’S CAREER: Though her co-star Ned Beatty openly critiqued her acting ability in an interview in The Times and her reviews were on the negative side, Ms. Judd’s movie career continues with the forthcoming thriller “Twisted” and the Cole Porter biopic “De-Lovely.”
STAR: Hugh Jackman
BROADWAY ROLE: Peter Allen in “The Boy From Oz”
DATES PERFORMED: Sept. 16 to present
REVIEWS: Critics panned the show but praised Mr. Jackman, calling him “an indisputably authentic star” and a rare “matinee idol” (Ben Brantley, The New York Times) in “one of the breakout leading man musical debuts in recent Broadway memory” (Linda Winer, Newsday).
FINANCIAL EFFECT ON SHOW: Without Mr. Jackman, “Oz” would probably have closed by now, but instead it has raked in more than $800,000 most eight-performance weeks, and the producers simply put the entire show on hiatus during his vacations.
EFFECT ON STAR’S CAREER: By single-handedly saving weak material, Mr. Jackman has only added to his star quotient.
STAR: Melanie Griffith
BROADWAY ROLE: Roxie Hart in “Chicago”
DATES PERFORMED: July 11 to Oct. 5, 2003
REVIEWS: Critics agreed that Ms. Griffith “is no more singer and dancer than she is stage actress” (John Simon, New York), and while some found these flaws fatal, many felt that her “natural vulnerability” gave her a refreshing authenticity (Charles Isherwood, Variety), making her stint “one of the most bizarrely successful debuts in Broadway history” (Ben Brantley, The New York Times).
FINANCIAL EFFECT ON SHOW: Her stint broke house records at the Ambassador Theater, but the film version of “Chicago” had lent the show so much publicity that it racked up 13 straight weeks of at least 95 percent attendance right before she arrived.
EFFECT ON STAR’S CAREER: After her run she told The Times that she was in negotiations to play a lobbyist in a television series, and that she hoped her success in “Chicago” would persuade the show’s producers, Barry and Fran Weissler, to give her the title role in their future Broadway revival of “Sweet Charity.”
STAR: Toni Braxton
BROADWAY ROLE: Aida in “Aida”
DATES PERFORMED: June 30 to Nov. 16, 2003
REVIEWS: The few critics who saw her gave her mixed but respectful notices, ranging from “confidently taken on the role” (Clive Barnes, The New York Post) to “Braxton is no stage singer” and “swallows her phrases but is proud, happy and hard-working” (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly).
FINANCIAL EFFECT ON SHOW: The week Michelle T. Williams of Destiny’s Child replaced her, box office plummeted $270,753 -- 34 percent, while Broadway as a whole dropped just 6 percent.
EFFECT ON STAR’S CAREER: During her run, Ms. Braxton signed with the William Morris Agency for film and television jobs, but she is putting her acting career on hold until she finishes her new album. Her “Aida” stint also helped promote her greatest-hits album, “Ultimate Toni Braxton,” released on Nov. 4, although it entered the Billboard chart at only No. 119.
STAR: Antonio Banderas
BROADWAY ROLE: Guido Contini in “Nine”
DATES PERFORMED: March 21 to Oct. 5, 2003
REVIEWS: Most critics raved, finding him “innocent and charismatic enough to charm an audience into liking a self-obsessed adulterer” (Jason Zinoman, Time Out New York), and many enjoyed his “powerhouse baritone” (Malcolm Johnson, The Hartford Courant), while acknowledging that his accent made the faster lyrics “come out sounding like instant Esperanto” (Charles Isherwood, Variety).
FINANCIAL EFFECT ON SHOW: Standing room only for the last 19 weeks of his run; gross plunged $207,063 (27 percent) the week John Stamos took over, while Broadway as a whole went up 10 percent, not counting new shows.
EFFECT ON STAR’S CAREER: Mr. Banderas gained respect from a stunned theater community but will continue to do films, like the forthcoming “Shrek 2” and “Zorro 2.”
STAR: Paul Newman
BROADWAY ROLE: Stage Manager in “Our Town”
DATES PERFORMED: Nov. 22, 2002, to Jan. 26, 2003
REVIEWS: While some thought his low-key approach “doesn’t provide the show with the propulsive force it needs” (Jeremy McCarter, The New York Sun), most praised what may be “the most modest performance ever by a major American star on a Broadway stage” (Ben Brantley, The New York Times).
FINANCIAL EFFECT ON SHOW: Thanks to Mr. Newman, the play sold $3 million in tickets and recouped its $1 million capitalization, all before the first preview.
EFFECT ON STAR’S CAREER: Both before and after “Our Town,” Mr. Newman has enjoyed enduring popularity. He will appear in HBO’s forthcoming film “Empire Falls,” and will lend his voice to the Pixar animated film “Cars.” According to his publicist, Warren Cowan, Mr. Newman said that the Thornton Wilder play would be his last stage appearance.
STAR: Lorraine Bracco
BROADWAY ROLE: Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate”
DATES PERFORMED: Nov. 19, 2002, to March 2, 2003
REVIEWS: Reviews were mixed, ranging from “lacks variety and depth” (Howard Kissel, The Daily News) and “a lethargic bore” (Adam Feldman, Broadway.com) to “just enough vulnerability” (Linda Winer, Newsday) and “she’s simply sensational” (Clive Barnes, The New York Post).
FINANCIAL EFFECT ON SHOW: Gross dipped 36 percent, with Broadway down 4 percent, the week she took over from Kathleen Turner. Ms. Bracco’s stint eventually closed the show, but the play itself -- which got scathing reviews -- may have simply lost its legs.
EFFECT ON STAR’S CAREER: Ms. Bracco moved on to the Graduate tour and continues until March 14, when she hands her role to Kelly McGillis. That’s one week after Ms. Bracco returns to HBO in the premiere of the fifth and penultimate season of “The Sopranos.”
STAR: Joey Fatone
BROADWAY ROLE: Mark Cohen in “Rent”
DATES PERFORMED: Aug. 5 to Dec. 22, 2002
REVIEWS: The few critics who saw him had mixed opinions, ranging from “a sweetly sincere, fully committed performance” (Ken Mandelbaum, Broadway.com) to “too bland and too cool” (Mark Evans, Associated Press).
FINANCIAL EFFECT ON SHOW: Gross increased $105,144 (30 percent, with Broadway up just 8 percent) in his first week.
EFFECT ON STAR’S CAREER: Mr. Fatone got more acting jobs, including Danny Zuko in an Orlando production of “Grease” and the Big Bad Wolf in a yet to be released film version of “Little Red Riding Hood.” He turned down an offer to play the beast in Broadway’s “Beauty and the Beast” this spring to continue auditioning for television and film.
STAR: Molly Ringwald
BROADWAY ROLE: Sally Bowles in “Cabaret”
DATES PERFORMED: Four months in 2001-2 and six in 2002-3
REVIEWS: Though some thought her performance was “absolutely dazzling” and “carefully nuanced” (Clive Barnes, The New York Post), as a result of “the vulnerability that Ms. Ringwald still radiates” even a decade and a half after her heyday (Ben Brantley, The New York Times), some felt she was “competent but calculated and consistently obvious” (Charles Isherwood, Variety).
FINANCIAL EFFECT ON SHOW: Small, if any. Gross went up $20,664 (6 percent) during her first week, while Broadway as a whole went up less than 1 percent, but several other shows had similar increases that week.
EFFECT ON STAR’S CAREER: Ms. Ringwald next starred in the unsuccessful Broadway play “Enchanted April” (for which she received mixed reviews). She recently had her second child and is now looking for television roles.