I only went to check out Nina Arianda, a new young actress who is very hot right now.
Stepping into Judy Holliday's shoes is no small feat and Arianda is very good. She does not have that adorable wide eyed innocence that Holliday used to kill with, but her timing is excellent and so is her physicality. At times I wished she was not so cartoony, but she makes Billie Dawn her own.
The play by Garson Kanin is both a little rusty around the edges but surprisingly timely, as it deals with the quintessential American problem of having cheaply bought political representatives and more importantly, an American people who chooses to be ignorant and uninformed and blinded by bling (or scandal or American Idol). This play has the right idea and the right feelings, but the production needs to be zipped along. It is not a farce, but a bit of fire in the pacing would help a lot.
I was actually pleasantly surprised by Jim Belushi (stepping into Broderick Crawford's shoes), perhaps because I expected the worst. Belushi is a bit of a screamer, but his Brock is truly a boor, a very dark character. I liked that in this production they emphasize the ugliness and don't try to make it cute.
However, what really pisses me off is people wooting and giving standing ovations to Robert Sean Leonard, a piece of wood whose only reason for the completely unjustified shower of adoration is that he happens to be in a popular TV show (which by the way, I don't get House, and I love Hugh Laurie). Meanwhile, Frank Wood, an excellent character actor, who nails it suavely and right on the nose without breaking a sweat, doesn't get enough love, 'cause people don't know him (he was in the excellent Flight of the Conchords, on HBO).
Stepping into William Holden's shoes is as impossible or more than Judy Holliday's and Robert Sean Leonard, probably the actor with less sexual charisma in the history of acting, is painful to watch. He is like watching dough rise. Actually, watching dough rise is more exciting. It is already a bit of a stretch that such a cultured radical as his character, Paul Verrell, would immediately fall for a ditz like Billie, but it can all happen through the magic of mutual attraction, which in this case seems to barely flow. The play doesn't make much sense in the romance department, but the direction and the actors could fill in the blanks. There were stretches when it seemed like Arianda and Leonard forgot they are supposed to be in love. When he first sees her, the moment doesn't register so when he later flirts with her it's like wha? Since when?
I kept thinking of William Holden. But him we can't bring back from the dead. So I was thinking, who could play this part with zing? Who could make Billie Dawn smolder? Liev Schreiber would be great. Even super ham Billy Crudup would be better.
I also thought that if for two hours we could all collectively forget about Tony Soprano (impossible, but we could try) James Gandolfini could be fun as Brock, as long as he used a different Jersey accent.
But if you sit in a Broadway show dreaming of an alternate cast, something is not quite right.