Brokeback on Stage

Greetings from London.  The second stop on my world trip was packed with theatre, and I’ve identified a serious problem.  Actors in stage shows based on a film inevitably come up short compared to their celluloid counterparts.  Original plays have less baggage.  Nobody knows what the first Juliet was like – except she was probably played by some guy bounding about in a frock.  In Florida, he’d be arrested!


I’m going to start with the stage adaptation of Brokeback Mountain.  Full disclosure – I’m not a fan of the film.  What can I say?  Long, lingering shots of vistas and sheep don’t do it for me.  This play goes back to the original short story by Annie Proulx and clocks in at 90 minutes.  I like my plays like I like my men – in and out.  In a cast that couldn’t be bettered, Lucas Hedges plays Ennis and Mike Faist takes on Jack – certainly two of the most talented, dynamic and attractive actors today.  Ennis is a man of few words, guarded, and unable to be honest…even with himself.  Jack is more boisterous, expressive, and somewhat reckless.  When Faist smiles, he lights up a room.  He’s so charismatic, he virtually eclipses everything around him.  That’s not to say that Hedges doesn’t hold his own.  Given his character’s demeanor, his outbursts allow him to show terrific range without veering into caricature.  Both are accomplished and brave portrayals.  Because I know you’ll ask, there isn’t any real nudity.  You get to see both men’s torsos and bums quite often.  And at one point, Faist is lying on his back nude.  He swings his legs in the air to get out of bed, and you got a glimpse of…well, you get the idea.

The play is presented as a memory piece, with the older Ennis onstage throughout.  Nothing against actor Paul Hickey, but at times it felt like a lecherous older man was watching two hot young guys canoodling.  I found it a bit voyeuristic and icky.  Even with this caveat, I heartily recommend the thoroughly engaging show and look forward to seeing where it goes after London – and who will play the roles.  By the by, it’s staged at @SohoPlace, which is not only a terrific venue, but the first new theatre in the West End in over 50 years!


Then there’s the musical version of Back to the Future, which hits Broadway next month.  Aside from a handful of songs from the movie, it has an original score…and that might have been a mistake.  I’m typically not a fan of jukebox musicals, but I found the songs by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard unmemorable.  While Marty is ostensibly the lead, the show was pretty much stolen by Corey English as Doc Brown, whose outrageously original portrayal was a crowd-pleaser.  The other standout was Oliver Nicholas as George.  Such a winning and unexpectedly delightful performance.  As Marty, Will Haswell is certainly capable – and has terrific thighs.  I don’t know how old he is, but he appears to be in his late-30s.  The role would be better served by someone younger and slighter.  Frankly, I think much of the show’s success hinges on an innovative production with a DeLorean that flies over the audience!

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