Scarlett Johansson had been off sick for a couple of days and the first night she returned to play the smouldering Maggie in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof there was Meryl Streep sitting in the front of the stalls.
Jessica Lange was on an aisle; Anna Wintour and Kelly Reilly were close by. But that’s New York for you. I often spot Oscar and Tony winners, or famous writers and directors, in the audience at plays in New York
Now I think about it, though, it’s mostly Meryl. I like the way she stays in her seat during intervals, so as not to attract too much attention. And I love it when something makes her laugh.
Sizzling: Scarlett Johansson has returned to the stage as a smouldering Maggie in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
She was certainly tickled when Scarlett’s Maggie kept referring to some off-stage brats as ‘no-neck monsters’. Scarlett delivered the line with such delicious relish that I, too, was amused.
And Meryl was riveted by the on-stage confrontations between Scarlett and Benjamin Walker (as Maggie’s ‘crippled’ husband Brick) and the Act 2 session between Brick and Big Daddy, played by Ciaran Hinds.
The Tennessee Williams play is previewing at the Richard Rodgers Theatre and was still being trimmed before critics get to see it over the weekend and early next week.
Maggie the Cat is such a great role. I remember seeing Elizabeth Taylor in the film when I was a kid and I could never fathom why Paul Newman, as the drunken Brick, didn’t desire her.
Of course, I know the answer now and as the play’s director Rob Ashford noted: ‘There are no happy endings for those two.’
But as played by Scarlett and Benjamin Walker, both good lookin’, you can see why Maggie desperately clings to the hope Brick might stay off the booze just for one night so they can hook up.
The heartbreak is that Scarlett’s Maggie knows, deep down, the truth of that situation.
Walker, by the way, is Meryl’s son-in-law. He’s married to her daughter Mamie Gummer.
She was in the stalls, too, on Tuesday night, along with dad Don Gummer and other family members and friends.
They all met up afterwards at a theatre hang-out on 46th Street.
Now it’s Judi Dench in Wonderland
Judi Dench has always been a big West End draw, but with the billion-dollar global success of Bond film Skyfall, she’s hotter than ever.
She stars with Skyfall colleague Ben Whishaw in Peter And Alice, a new play by John Logan (who was one of the writers on Skyfall), which begins rehearsals on January 28 and performances at the Noel Coward Theatre on March 9.
‘Judi’s a hot, hot star. But she’s up for doing a play and loves being part of a company,’ said Michael Grandage, who will direct her in Peter And Alice.
Dame Judi Dench, pictured in Skyfall, will star in a new play about Alice Liddell Hargreaves who inspired Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland
The play is about when Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, met Peter Llewelyn Davies, who was the basis for J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, at the opening of a Lewis Carroll exhibition in London in 1932.
‘Judi’s over the moon about doing the play, and looking forward to meeting the rest of the cast,’ Grandage said.
Peter And Alice, the second offering in the Michael Grandage Company’s inaugural season, is being produced by Grandage along with partner James Bierman.
The first — the rollicking Privates On Parade, starring Simon Russell Beale — is still on at the Noel Coward, where it garnered five-star reviews.
Grandage explained that Llewelyn Davies organised the 1932 event and knew that he was going to meet the 80-year-old woman who was partly responsible for one of the most famous characters in literature.
There was a period of time where they waited together for the exhibition to begin, and John Logan wondered what they talkedaout. He has come up with a conversation where they explore two characters who are part of the collective imagination of most people who have read those books.
‘It’s about what happened to their lives when they grew up, and what part of them gets left in childhood and what part comes with them,’ Grandage told me.
He has cast up-and-coming actors Olly Alexander as Peter Pan and Ruby Bentall as Alice In Wonderland.
‘It’s about how the real Peter and Alice dealt with the public adoration, because neither of them asked to become Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland,’ Grandage said.
Nicholas Farrell will portray Carroll, and Derek Riddell will portray Barrie. Stefano Braschi will play a variety of roles.
We’ve been expecting you, Mr Mendes
Sam Mendes is discussing with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, keepers of the 007 film flame, the possibility of directing Bond 24.
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The Oscar winning film-maker directed the hit Skyfall and had been wavering as to whether he wanted to make another one.
I’m hearing that Broccoli and Wilson offered to set a start date for Bond 24 in 2014, rather than later this year, as intended.
Sam Mendes, who directed the hit film Skyfall starring Daniel Craig, may direct 2014
The 2014 shoot appeals to Mendes because he can devote this year to directing the musical Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, which is now in pre-production.
Douglas Hodge is playing Willy Wonka. Nigel Planer and Myra Sands have been cast as Grandpa Joe and Grandma Georgina. Jack Shalloo and Alex Clatworthy have signed on to play Charlie’s parents.
Paul J. Medford will play Mr Beauregarde, father of champion gum-cracker Violet. And Jasna Ivir will play Mrs Gloop, mother of the gluttonous Augustus.Mendes and choreographer Peter Darling have also cast some powerhouse dancers to play the Oompa Loompas.
Previews for Charlie And The Chocolate Factory start on May 18 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Opening night is June 25. The decision to shoot Bond 24 next year also gives the producers more time to find high calibre actors to work alongside Daniel Craig and Ralph Fiennes.