With Bryan Cranston following up “Breaking Bad” with a Broadway bow and Matt Smith moving from “Doctor Who” to the “American Psycho” musical in London, the stage is becoming an increasingly common stop for actors at the height of their screen careers.
Legit gigs used to be considered the purview of faded stars whose Hollywood opportunities had dried up, but as Cranton and Smith follow in the footsteps of Zachary Quinto — who shifted from his gig in blockbuster “Star Trek Into Darkness” to a well-reviewed perf in the recently opened Rialto revival of “The Glass Menagerie” — it’s becoming increasingly clear that for many stars, the stage isn’t the last-ditch option anymore.
Cranston will star on the Main Stem later this season as Lyndon B. Johnson in “All the Way,” the Robert Schenkkan bio-play in which he’s currently appearing at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. The transfer to Broadway was largely expected even before the production, directed by Bill Rauch, earned strong reviews for Cranston’s perf (if not always the play itself); now the only question for the production’s team of commercial producers, led by Jeffrey Richards (“Glass Menagerie”), is which theater the show will be able to claim in a crowded season.
Meanwhile, Matt Smith, who recently wrapped up his four-year stint in popular BBC skein “Doctor Who,” will take on the murderous lead role in the musical version of “American Psycho” with book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” “Glee”) and music by Duncan Sheik (“Spring Awakening”). Show will bow in December at London’s Almeida Theater, where a.d. Rupert Goold will direct the production.
Both Cranston and Smith hit the stage just at the height of their smallscreen fame, highlighting the fact that in recent years, stage gigs have become a common prestige stop for an actor’s actor looking to expand his or her range beyond the confines of the screen. Producers, meanwhile, have been more than willing to accommodate busy Hollywood thesps with limited-run productions, since a brief engagement of a star-driven play (often a revival of a familiar title) is considered one of the surest production models for turning a profit on Broadway.
This season the Rialto is already packed with big-name actors on the boards, including Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz (co-starring in “Betrayal”), Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart (both toplining a Pinter-Beckett double bill) and Denzel Washington (heading up a revival of “A Raisin in the Sun”).
Timeline for “All the Way” remains up in the air until it’s decided which Broadway theater the production will be able to score. At the Almeida, “American Psycho” runs Dec. 3-Jan. 25.