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Friday, March 07, 2008

The Cat Is Out Of The Bag

Last night in NYC, the first all-African-American cast of the Tennessee Williams play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof officially opened for a limited run on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre. The play's director Debbie Allen was joined by attendees Eartha Kitt, Spike Lee, Jeremy Piven and others on the red carpet for opening night last night ... here are a few pics:


Photo credit: Wireimage

The stars of the play themselves weren't able to walk the red carpet before the show but they did get themselves all dolled up for the after-party at Strata. Here are pics of Anika Noni Rose, Terrence Howard, Phylicia Rashad and James Earl Jones on that red carpet:


Photo credit: Wireimage

The play itself has been getting good reviews altho there are a few folks who didn't seem to care for it. Personally, I loved the show. David and I were able to see a preview performance of the show during my last trip to NYC and I enjoyed every minute of it. For me, the hilarity was a plus .. tho, one review seems to think that all the funny takes away from the intended tone of the play:


Who knew that "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" was such a laugh riot? Certainly, Tennessee Williams' classic play contains its share of humor, as do many of his works. But the current revival directed by Debbie Allen resembles nothing so much as a raucous family sitcom. The results, while undeniably entertaining, cheapen the overall effect -- though apparently not for an audience that was laughing uproariously from start to finish. An all-star black cast has been assembled for the production, including Oscar nominee Terrence Howard, making his stage debut as the alcoholic Brick; Anika Noni Rose ("Dreamgirls") as the sex-starved Maggie; and theater veterans James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad as Big Daddy and Big Mama. The director's efforts to enliven the proceedings are apparent from the beginning, with a saxophone player wandering onstage to play some New Orleans-style jazz and a glimpse of a bare-chested Howard -- cue catcalls from the female audience members -- showering in the background. In the first scene, Rose, wearing Maggie's trademark slip, writhes and poses suggestively with all the subtlety of a porn star. The play rises or falls based on the performances of its leads, and the two younger players are disappointing. The over-the-top Rose conveys Maggie's sexual and emotional hunger in more irritating than poignant fashion. The underplaying Howard retains his dignity, but he's so intent on portraying Brick's existential despair that he forgets to signal his underlying dark humor. Although a bit too histrionic at first, Rashad soon settles down and delivers a finely wrought, moving performance. But not surprisingly, the real star of the evening is Jones, tearing into his role with all the gusto one would expect. This version features particularly salty language that Williams restored for a later production of the play, and hearing the booming-voiced actor delivering it with such relish is surely one of the highlights of the theater season. The second-act scene in which Big Daddy confronts his errant son is the most effective of the evening, thanks to the canny parrying of the two actors. The supporting cast, which also includes the reliable Giancarlo Esposito as the aggrieved son Gooper and Lisa Arrindell Anderson as his hectoring wife, do well enough by their roles. Although much has been made of the all-black casting, it has little effect on the play, with the exception of a few lines that seem jarring in this context. The bigger problem is that the director and actors too often fail to trust the material, hammering its more outrageous elements home with a lack of subtlety that robs the play of its essential poeticism.

Since I had never seen or read the play before nor have I seen the movie version, I don't have a point of reference to compare this version to. All I know is that I was entirely entertained thruout the almost 3 hour performance of this show from beginning to end. I suppose I can see the "sitcom-iness" of the show but maybe that's what I really responded to. The show is very funny and I felt the performances were really great. Yes the veteran actors did an amazing job but I also found the newcomers (especially Anika Noni Rose) very entertaining. I wouldn't at all call her performance annoying. I'm more of a musical person but this is one play that I really, really enjoyed ... I really recommend that y'all check it out ... the run has been extended thru June. I might even have to go back and see it again. [Source]


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