'On the Waterfront' is no contender as it bombs on stage
Saturday 06 May 1995
in New York
The show does not always go on. After a run of only a week, a $3m (£1.88m) stage production of the 1950s film classic On the Waterfront will close tomorrow, making it the costliest non-musical flop ever on Broadway.
Considered by most critics to have been ill-conceived, it was an attempt to transpose to the theatre the original Oscar-laden movie about crime, love and redemption on the Manhattan docks starring Marlon Brando as the longshoreman who challenges union corruption.
Written by the film's screenwriter, Budd Schulberg, the stage version has no notable stars. And the omens were bad. The director and two of lead actors left before the curtain went up, citing unspecified "artistic reasons". An actor in a minor role had a heart attack on stage in the final preview last weekend. It took the audience several minutes to realise his collapse was not part of the script.
Then came the last week's reviews. "Splash . . . gurgle . . . gurgle . . . gurgle", began the New York Post's critic. The New York Times likened it to "seeing what happens when a Rolex of a film is taken apart for no special aesthetic reason, then put back together with much of its mechanism missing". The production, "moves as if it feels hurt".
The clobbering of Waterfront has coincided with Vesuvian eruptions of praise for other newcomers to Broadway, including, from Britain, the Almeida's Hamlet, starring Ralph Fiennes, and the National Theatre's Les Parents Terribles (renamed Indiscretions here) with Kathleen Turner in the lead role alongside Eileen Atkins and Roger Rees.
The theatre critic for the New York Observer jokingly suggested that had Ms Turner been cast in the Brando role of Terry Malloy, then Waterfront might have survived. "The thing was ill-fated and an act of absolute folly", the Observer argued. "You can't budget a straight play at $3m. You will never get your money back unless you have at least one star."
The play's lead producer, Mitchell Maxwell, admitted he was "extremely disappointed" that feeble ticket sales had forced the early closure. Of his own future: "I'll spend more time with my kid. I'll go to the gym, lift weights - and when I drop them, I'll think of the critics they might be landing on."
For the investors, the curtain's fall represents a huge financial bust. The only chance for any return would be a touring version or a London run. But there are no such plans at present.
For Mr Schulberg, at least, consolation will be available at any self- respecting video store.
- 1 Crystal meth addict 'gouged out his eyes and ate them' while high on drug, Australian MP claims
- 2 As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
- 3 The ten most unequal developed countries in the world
- 4 Saudi Arabia 'seeking to head United Nations Human Rights Council'
- 5 Toddler throws a tantrum at the White House – in front of Barack Obama
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...