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NEW YORK — Broadway again proved a magnet for Hollywood talent in 2012, even if the cross-pollination didn’t quite match last year’s harvest.
That was when Hugh Jackman, Daniel Radcliffe and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone all made theater headlines and generated stellar box office.
This year, the intersection of stage and screen yielded highs and lows.
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield were the marquee names in the Tony-winning revival of Death of a Salesman, delivering wrenching performances. But it was director Mike Nichols’ bold reclamation of his theater roots that pulled all the elements together with startling clarity, making Arthur Miller’s 1949 drama a trenchant work for our times.
Al Pacino showed he could still draw crowds even in an unremarkable retread of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. But the headliner’s fussy, underpowered work was overshadowed by more electric turns from Bobby Cannavale and John C. McGinley.
Mamet did no favors to Debra Winger, making her belated Broadway debut in The Anarchist. That poorly received — and short-lived — new play forced the actress to muffle her natural tenacity in the service of a tediously talky op-ed piece.
Other stars also made perplexing choices. Jessica Chastain’s luminous delicacy was a mismatch with Henry James’ socially awkward wallflower Catherine Sloper in The Heiress. And while Katie Holmes showed freshness and charm in her first Broadway leading role, those qualities were wasted in Dead Accounts, a wisp of unfocused sitcom.
Jim Parsons fared better in the midcentury chestnut Harvey, for which his droll courtliness proved an ideal fit. Their chosen vehicle might not have seemed entirely at home on Broadway, but watching Paul Rudd and the redoubtable Michael Shannon face off in Grace was riveting.
Finally, the wave of movies being retooled as Broadway musicals continued unabated.
At the top of the heap was the Celtic-flavored romance Once. A richly satisfying expansion that retained the intimacy of Fox Searchlight’s 2007 microbudget indie feature, the show landed eight Tony Awards, including best musical.
Disney reworked its 1992 big-screen flop Newsies into a crowd-pleasing stage production, in which scrappy underdogs unleashed their street smarts and their athletic dance moves on the profiteering newspaper barons of 1899 Noo Yawk.
And the 1983 MGM holiday cable favorite A Christmas Story got a zesty musical overhaul that looks poised to enjoy a long life in seasonal engagements. Even jaded critics stepped out of Grinch mode to applaud the show.
Less lucky in their screen-to-stage transformations were Leap of Faith, which turned the forgettable Steve Martin movie into a strained evangelical tent show that didn’t have a prayer; and Ghost, a tortured rehash of the Patrick Swayze–Demi Moore afterlife romance that was dead on arrival.
The spring 2013 season will see a fresh wave of familiar film and TV faces hitting Broadway.
Among them are Scarlett Johansson in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; Maggie Grace and Sebastian Stan in Picnic; Amber Tambyln in The Miss Firecracker Contest; Tom Hanks in Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy; Alec Baldwin and Shia LaBeouf in Orphans; and Cicely Tyson, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Vanessa Williams in The Trip to Bountiful.
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