×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hot U.K. ‘Macbeth’ Faces Scottish Logjam in New York

Will Alan Cumming and Ethan Hawke keep Kenneth Branagh's revival away from Gotham?

If two “Macbeths” is company, is three a crowd?

That’s a question Broadway types have started to wonder in the wake of glowing reviews for the Kenneth Branagh-toplined revival of “Macbeth,” now in the midst of a brief, buzzmagnet run as part of the U.K.’s Manchester Intl. Festival.

With Branagh returning to the Shakespearean canon that made him famous, this “Macbeth” — in which the thesp stars in a production he co-directs with American helmer Rob Ashford (“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”) — was already acknowledged in the industry as a strong candidate for a Stateside transfer. The reviews earned by the fast-paced, atmospheric production, including a big thumbs-up in the New York Times, only makes the show look like an even hotter property.

But if it did make it to Gotham, it’d be following in the footsteps of not one but two Broadway incarnations of the Scottish play: Alan Cumming’s solo interpretation, now playing the final perfs of its limited run at the Barrymore Theater, and Lincoln Center Theater’s upcoming revival starring Ethan Hawke, set to open Nov. 21.

A third grasping thane to hit New York could add up to too many productions of the same play to be sustained by the Gotham playgoing audience, generally understood to be much smaller and more local than the broad swaths of theatergoers that turn out for Broadway tuners.

For a New York run of the Branagh “Macbeth” to materialize, there are a number of other questions that would need to be resolved including availability windows for the lead thesp and in what sort of venue the production, performed in a 300-seat deconsecrated church in Manchester, would find a berth in New York. But with stagings of “Macbeth” proving so frequent these days they’re downright trendy, the third-in-line dilemma also looms large.

There’s no exact science for determining how soon is too soon to bring back a familiar legit title. This fall, Broadway sported four shows that had hit the Rialto in the last eight years, including one, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” that had been done twice in the last decade.

The fall 2012 success of Al Pacino starrer “Glengarry Glen Ross” proved that a star with enough box office clout could overcome any ticketbuyer reluctance to shell out for a show that had been seen on the Rialto in 2005. The autumn production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” also seen on Broadway in a separate 2005 incarnation, didn’t recoup but it did score three Tonys, while “Cyrano de Bergerac,” returning to the Rialto after a 2007 outing, didn’t have to worry much about commercial viability because it was a nonprofit staging.

As for “Cat,” which closed in the red in March, it’s impossible to say whether the production’s box office fadeout was due to the mixed reviews, to the fact that two other productions of the title had recently played Broadway (one in 2003 and one in 2008), or to some combination of the two.

From a silver lining perspective, a cluster of different stagings of the same play can add compare-and-contrast buzz, as happened with the concurrent summer 2012 productions of “Uncle Vanya,” one a Lincoln Center Festival run of a version toplined by Cate Blanchett and the other a hyper-intimate downtown outing featuring Michael Shannon.

For now, there are no definite plans for any future life for the Branagh “Macbeth,” much less one that would bring it to New York. So it remains to be seen whether a third “Macbeth,” in not much more than a year, would become a must-see event or would turn out to be, like the play’s title character, a trifle overambitious.

More Legit

  • Audra McDonald Frankie and Johnny

    Listen: How Audra McDonald Faced Her Fear in 'Frankie and Johnny'

    When producers offered Audra McDonald a role in “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” opposite Michael Shannon, she immediately said yes. Then she remembered the nude scene. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “Hell, yes, there was trepidation,” the Tony-winning actress said on the new episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. “I was [...]

  • A Strange Loop review

    Off Broadway Review: 'A Strange Loop'

    “No one cares about a writer who is struggling to write,” sings the anxiety-ridden lead character in Michael R. Jackson’s sometimes exhilarating, sometimes exasperating new musical, “A Strange Loop,” at Playwrights Horizons. The abundantly talented Jackson takes the otherwise tired trope of the young, poor and sensitive artist trying to discover his true self and [...]

  • Richard E Grant Everybody's Talking About

    Richard E. Grant to Play Former Drag Queen in 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie'

    Oscar-nominated actor Richard E. Grant will portray a former drag queen and mentor in “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” the movie adaptation of the British stage musical. “Catastrophe” co-creator and star Sharon Horgan and “Happy Valley” star Sarah Lancashire have also joined the film. Max Harwood will play the titular role of Jamie, a role inspired [...]

  • The Secret Life of Bees review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Secret Life of Bees'

    There’s a sweet sense of sisterhood that’s simply divine in “The Secret Life of Bees,” the heartwarming new musical at the Atlantic Theater Company based on Sue Monk Kidd’s bestselling 2002 coming-of-age novel, set in South Carolina in 1964 amid Civil Rights struggles. (A 2008 film adaptation starred Dakota Fanning and Queen Latifah.) The feeling [...]

  • 10 Comics to Watch

    Variety Announces 10 Comics to Watch for 2019

    Variety has chosen its 10 Comics to Watch for 2019. The honorees will be profiled in the July 18 issue of Variety and at the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal at a cocktail party on Thursday, July 25, followed by a panel and showcase on Friday, July 26. The events are sponsored by Cohen & Gardner LLP. The [...]

  • Vanessa Hudgens So You Think You

    Vanessa Hudgens, Hailey Kilgore to Star in Reading of 'The Notebook' Musical

    Vanessa Hudgens and Tony-nominee Hailey Kilgore are joining an upcoming reading of Ingrid Michaelson’s stage adaptation of “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks. Tony nominee Michael Greif is set to direct the reading, which will open June 23 at Vassar College’s Martel Theater as part of their Powerhouse Theater season. Kilgore will star as the younger [...]

  • Moulin Rouge director Alex Timbers

    'Beetlejuice,' 'Moulin Rouge!' Director Alex Timbers on Creating Worlds on Broadway

    In the past year, Alex Timbers has directed the Tony-nominated “Beetlejuice” and the stage adaptation of “Moulin Rouge!” (which begins previews June 28 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre). Here, he reflects on his most recent projects and the challenges of bringing two iconic movie musicals to Broadway within a year.  Both your musicals live in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content