misery on broadway


Last night Tom and I went to see the new stage adaptation of “Misery” with Laurie Metcalf and Bruce Willis and I can honestly say it wasn’t miserable. I have to applaud the producers for their courage in staging a thriller for the Broadway stage. It hasn’t been done  in a LONG time and it is a difficult genre to pull off, especially in live theater. We all like to get scared, but it seems easier on film with dramatic lighting, a spooky score and not knowing who or what is around the corner or on the telephone extension “in the house”. And while this production did have all of that it tends to be a bit clunky on stage.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were a couple of moments where I actually screamed like a girl. But, in taking a film such as “Misery”, that was brilliantly performed with deadpan humor and steely fright by Kathy Bates, I wonder, are we scared of what we know is coming? And is it the memory of the film that makes us scream or what the actors are actually doing on stage. A couple of other Broadway shows fall into this category, the much anticipated flop “Young Frankenstein the Musical” and “Roman Holiday”. In “Young Frankenstein” I kept thinking am I laughing at what I am seeing on stage or my vivid memories of the film? And with “Roman Holiday”, also a musical, I just say WHY??? Such an iconic film and the entire audience was waiting for Audrey Hepburn to come out on stage.

All of the heavy lifting, literally, was done by Ms. Metcalf. Her Annie Wilkes was nurturing, funny and off the charts unstable. Usually when we are scared, or nervous or uncomfortable what do we tend to do? Laugh. But the humor in her Annie was deadpan funny and well placed. The one territory that she only skimmed the surface of was threatening. Her moments on stage were welcomed, as a matter of fact when she left the stage the production literally stopped cold. (Read between the lines Mr. Willis)

I also want to applaud the stage craft which was impeccable and truly well done, I don’t want to get into the specifics because they would be HUGE spoilers. I also thought the set was brilliant, which sometimes is my code for they play was a flop, but not so much here. To craft a full house on stage, on a turntable and structure the house so the entrances and exits and the rooms all functioned like an actual house was refreshing.

I would recommend seeing this production not only for Ms. Metcalf’s outstanding performance (come to think of it I haven’t seen her in a bad turn on stage yet) but to experience something on stage that isn’t rapping or tapping you into a frenzy.