May 25, 2011

Tracking Broadway's Great Migration to TV

It's looking more and more like a good thing that Hollywood actors are coming to Broadway because someone has to fill the stages here. And as the American Theatre Wing’s Howard Sherman recently blogged, more and more Broadway stars are heading to TV. In fact, the big-four television networks released their new fall schedules last week and they read like the call sheet for a Tony's reunion.  

Laura Benanti will be playing the head Bunny on “The Playboy Club,” a new drama about the ‘60s-era nightclubs that NBC clearly hopes will cash in on the cachet of “Mad Men.”

Kristin Chenoweth will co-star as one of the frenemies in “Good Christian Belles,” ABC’s new “Desperate Housewives"-style soap about women in an affluent Dallas suburb. While Katie Finneran has signed on to be a single mom on the Fox sitcom “I Hate My Teenage Daughter.”

Cherry Jones, who won an Emmy for playing the President on the thriller “24,” and B.D. Wong, who had a longtime role on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” are already TV vets but will add to their screen credits by playing shrinks on “Awake,” a paranormal drama for NBC.

Jone's old Doubt co-star Brian O’Byrne will appear as a detective on “Prime Suspect,” NBC’s adaptation of the British cop show about a female detective that first made Helen Mirren a household name, at least in discerning households.

CBS has high hopes for the new paranormal medical drama “A Gifted Man,” in which Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Ehle play a doctor and the ghost of his dead wife. The network has also picked up “The 2-2,” a procedural about rookie cops, whose flatfoots will include Terry Kinney and Stark Sands. 

Meanwhile, Alison Pill and Jeff Daniels have signed up for the new pilot that Aaron Sorkin is writing for HBO. It sounds kind of like a fictionalized behind-the-scenes version of Keith Olbermann's old news show on MSNBC and is tentatively titled “More as This Story Develops.”

Then, there’s “Smash,” the show about the making of a Broadway musical that NBC plans to put on as a mid-season replacement—and that those of us who love Broadway can't wait to see. Christian Borle and “Will & Grace’s” Debra Messing play the songwriting team (Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman will supply the real music for the show). Brian D’Arcy James is Messing’s husband and Megan Hilty is one of the actresses trying out for the lead. 

And this roll call doesn't even include all the folks popping up on "Glee" and "The Good Wife." Of course no one should begrudge any of these actors.  TV pays a helluva lot more than Broadway and, hey, theater folks deserve to eat—and to do it as high off the hog as they like too.

The Wing's Sherman has tried to console us with the reminder that there’s plenty of talent left in New York to satisfy avid theater lovers.  Which is true. And who knows, maybe a few stars-in-the-making will get more cracks at the big roles and a better chance to break out.  

Or maybe, just maybe, we’ll move to the British model where there’s no separation between stage and screen (so that Judi Dench can play a housewife on the sitcom "As Time Goes By," M in the James Bond movies and The Seagull's Arkadina at the National Theater, all during the same time period) which should mean that actors can appear anywhere there’s a good role for them to play and us to enjoy.


queer heaven said...

Another enjoyable post! One thing though... not every actor is Dame Judi

jan@broadwayandme said...

Hey Queer Heaven, you obviously speak truth about the uniqueness of Dame Judi. But I'm going to keep hoping that the walls between stage and screen continue to fall. In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment and I hope you'll come back again to continue the conversation. Cheers, jan