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Theater Smackdown: Do Stars Shine or Fade on Broadway?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Michelle Williams (seated) with the Kit Kat girls and Alan Cumming (Joan Marcus)

Stars are shining across Broadway this season. There is James Franco as a migrant worker in Of Mice and Men, Michelle Williams and Alan Cumming in a new revival of Cabaret, and Neil Patrick Harris as a transgender East Berlin rocker in Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Theater critics Joe Dziemianowicz of The Daily News and Elisabeth Vincentelli of The New York Post completely disagree about how well each star performs on the stage.

On Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig:

Vincentelli: "He is working it, but he is not feeling it."

Dziemianowicz: "To me he captured the anguish just right."

Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig (Joan Marcus)

On James Franco as George:

Dziemianowicz: "Franco actually has a confidence on stage and a face that actually reads very expressively."

Vincentelli: "It's a vacuum, there is nothing behind that pretty-boy facade."

Chris O'Dowd and James Franco in Of Mice and Men (Richard Phibbs)

On Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles:

Dziemianowicz: "I think Michelle Williams is like the 2013-2014 theater season: It started really slow and really disappointingly, and then found a strong finish."

Vincentelli: "I can't really say that she owns the stage, she is renting the stage. But she has a certain charm that worked for me."

On Alan Cumming as the Emcee:

Vincentelli:"He is absolutely fantastic."

Dziemianowicz: "He is the king of creepy charisma."

Vincentelli and Dziemianowicz do agree on one thing: They enjoy getting feedback from their reviews, especially from actors themselves. They said they applaud James Franco's venting on Instagram against The New York Times' Ben Brantley's negative review.

"I like the notion that a star  . . . and he is a star, will take the time to let us know that he reads the reviews," said Dziemianowicz.

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Comments [3]

Nancy Braman from Port Washington

While substantive criticism of Mr. Franco's performance is in the realm of respectful critique, the comment of Ms. Vincentelli about Mr. Franco tweeting in his head onstage was beneath the dignity of your usual discussions. It was simply a nasty, mean-spirited comment, and undermines that critic's credibility and dignity. I hope you do not invite her back.

Apr. 25 2014 11:12 AM
Andrea from Philadelphia

Alan Cumming should not be in this category. He may be a star, but he is an experienced theater actor--this isn't his first rodeo, or even his first time playing the MC in Cabaret (I saw his earlier performance in the role). The others are new to the stage and got cast for their star power despite their lack of theatrical chops.

Apr. 25 2014 09:58 AM
Robert P. Cohen from Port Washington, N.Y.

I don't know when Kander and Ebb's "Cabaret" which I saw in 1966 changed from a clever diatribe against fascism and more specifically the rise of Nazism in the Germany of the '30's into a gay burlesque but I feel the whole worthy point of the show has been lost. "Cabaret" was and is for me a lesson in being aware of the evil of self serving, facistic politics which exists around us even today. It is not meant to be an entertainment which employs cross dressing and simulated, perverted sex as a tittilation for a bored new generation of theatre goers. Or is this idea just to radical and politically incorrect for today's critics?

Apr. 25 2014 09:28 AM

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