While musicals will probably always be king on Broadway, two of the hottest tickets for the 2014-2015 season are “It’s Only A Play” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” two plays that are taking New York by storm. While there are plenty of reasons these plays are expected to be such theatrical treasures (not the least of which being the brilliant writing and clever direction), both of them are depending on their casting choices to draw in audiences by the busload. However, while both of these casts seem to be patron magnets, they couldn’t be more different.
“It’s Only A Play,” a brilliantly dark comedy written by Terrance McNally back in 1982, took the “Ocean’s Eleven” approach and congregated as many big names as they could fit on one stage. From movie stars (Matthew Broderick and Rupert Grint) to television stars (Megan Mullally and F. Murry Abrams) to stars of the stage (Nathan Lane and Stockard Channing), “It’s Only A Play” is bursting with positively blinding star power. It’s no wonder tickets are already selling out to a show that permeates such stardom. Not only do audiences flock to the opportunity to sit right in front of the personalities that have filled their televisions, magazines, and YouTube channels for so long, but they also get the promise of some utterly fantastic performances – after all, these performers didn’t get to be famous by being mediocre. Not only that, but when so many respected artists agree to work on a project such as this, there is an overwhelming feeling that the work itself must have some great artistic value and you would be a fool not to be the first in line to see it.
On the flip side, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” an inventive and visually stunning adaptation of Mark Haddon’s book written in 2003, stars a company made-up mostly of unknowns including Alexander Sharpp, the Julliard graduate who is making his professional theater debut with the leading role in a play that tied the all-time record of most Olivier awards won in its London production. While “Curious Incident” can’t light up a city with the stars on its marquee, it does promise something tantalizingly exciting by presenting a show of such promise with relatively unknown actors. Audiences are drawn to these types of performances because there’s always that hope that instead of seeing the stars of yesterday revive an old classic, they’ll be able to see a star born in an exciting new work.
From Denzel Washington, to Whoopie Goldberg, to Carli Rae Jepson, shows have been using star power for years to draw audiences into the theater. Similarly, we’ve seen unknowns such as Sutton Foster, Idina Menzel, and Julie Andrews rocket to stardom because of their fantastic theatrical performances. Thus it’s a nearly impossible to choose between a star-studded “It’s Only A Play” or a wistfully promising “The Curious Incident…”. For whether you’re seeing the first gleam of a stars light, or its final blaze of glory before it fades into the darkness, there is nothing more entertaining than theatrical stargazing.