Are Hollywood Stars Ruining Broadway?

Jessica Chastain

Who doesn’t love a Hollywood star? An entire tabloid industry has been built around them. They spearhead films that gross billions at the box office each year. Usually, their lives seem a little brighter than our own (unless you happen to be looking at Lindsay Lohan). Lately, we’ve witnessed a growing trend of Hollywood actors and actresses headlining Broadway productions. However, there is a growing concern in some fan circles that these Hollywood stars are starting to have a negative impact on the overall Broadway experience.

Supporters of the celebrities to Broadway migration point to the benefit of having huge stars in a Broadway shows offers — attracting audiences. It is a fact that is hard to deny. People are far more likely to see a Broadway performance featuring their favorite film actor as opposed to a relatively unknown stage performer, even if that given show does not particularly interest them because Hollywood stars carry with them a very loyal fanbase. Also, the crowd that attends a show featuring a well-known celebrity is far more diverse than your typical theatre crowd, and that is what producers like to see. Ultimately though, the more people interested in a show (because of those starring in it), the more people who will purchase tickets, and thus the more money the production stuffs in its investors pockets. Simple economics.

Yet, a major concern of utilizing Hollywood stars as stage actors is that it ultimately higher price tags on show tickets. This limits the availability of the general public to be able to see a live performance. In order to secure these big name stars, hefty sums have to be forked over to secure the commitment. This cost simply gets passed along to the consumer, many of whom will be left searching for cheaper options.

An additional area of worry relates to the Hollywood actors and actresses themselves. Some people wonder if the quality of a performance is being sacrificed for the sake of having a big name star. While many Hollywood actors are exceptional on the stage, there are certainly some who give less than stellar performances night in and night out. From time to time, a screen actor is not able to translate that talent into the live performance as the two are very different styles of acting. However, producers occasionally will forgo a more talented and lesser known actor just to have a celebrity play the role which again takes away from what many believe Broadway is all about — raw talent.

Another pressing concern is tied to how Broadway may be viewed. Some worry that the focus is shifting away from the experience of the art and craft of the production in favor of producing large profit margins which detracts from the feel of Broadway itself. Again, if talent is being sacrificed for the sake of the almighty dollar, then the productions themselves suffer. And though an individual may be attracted to a show because of a big name, the big price they have to pay to see that actor will be far less worth it if the overall show suffers as a result of a stars’ middling performance.

Then there are the claims about lack of originality when Broadway raids the cupboard of Hollywood’s hits. Rather than there being new original productions made for Broadway, producers seem to be relying largely on the crutch of Hollywood films for new show inspiration. A major reason for this is that “nervous investors in multi-million dollar theatrical productions say the kind of written material that used to translate well to stage just isn’t there. Or if it is, generations who have been raised on what they see on their screens just aren’t that into it,” according to Michele Willens, a journalist and Theater commentator for NPR station Robin Hood Radio WHDD, in a post written for The Daily Beast. Thus, it becomes safer for many investors to rely on productions based upon popular and high-selling films than to venture off and invest in a new production created just for Broadway.

Ultimately, those who have these seemingly legitimate concerns about Hollywood’s ties to Broadway can only hope that the trend soon fades. Perhaps sooner than later there will be a return back to original stage plays and the Broadway stage being used to launch the careers of brilliantly talented, yet unknown actors. Until then, the best thing to do is focus on the positives and embrace the new phase The Great White Way seems to be in. Hopefully some comfort can come from the knowledge that most trends revolve in a circular motion and just as it rolled in, it is probable that it will roll out down the line.

Author: Diamond Grant