So I Saw: 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' with Scarlett Johansson on Broadway

Enjoyed seeing this one alot.

It was a surprise for my 60th birthday. I was taken to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on West 46st only knowing we were going to see a play.

I must first say this was only the third live performance of the revival of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," directed by Rob Ashford, and called a preview performance, but still I loved it.

The talk in the papers so far centers around the Scarlett Johansson's portrayal of "Maggie," perhaps most prominently played by Elizabeth Taylor in the past.  Ms. Johansson does get the attention of the audience as she undresses into a slip in the first few minutes of the first act.

OK, lets set the stage here, it was cold outside so the audience, sans a coat check, were surrounded by big coats, sweaters, etc. so it was warm. Now I have been known to fall asleep during plays or even bad movies, yet the words of Tennessee Williams were so vibrant and interesting that I never left my seat, even during the two intermissions.  Ms. Johansson was smooth, and connecting with the crowd, which was surprisingly on the young side that night. But unlike Elizabeth Taylor, she was a softer "Maggie," and quite frankly Benjamin Walker, who played "Brick," was strong and deliberate, (I think better than Paul Newman was in the film, because Newman is always Newman first) and Ciaran Hinds was very connecting as Big Daddy, forceful, and even likable, more so then Burl Ives, who presented "Big Daddy" with a different dynamic.

The presentation this night was in three acts, whereas in the program it was listed to be in two acts, so it is still a work in progress. Yet I was focused in, like no other play I had even seen.

I am not sure why, but the stage actors connected with me, the story connected with me on the stage more so than on the silver screen. Now, make no doubt about it Scarlett Johansson's body was featured, and her attributes were well presented along with her acting, but they did not interfere with the sight lines of the dialogue and action. The sound has yet to be perfected, yet I didn't miss a single word, sitting 18 rows from the stage.

This play was not about Scarlett Johansson, it was about the genius of Tennessee Williams. Rob Ashford, the director, will over time move the players around the stage perhaps smoother than the performance I saw, yet he did have the lines coming out in a steady tempo that not only kept me awake, but actually leaning forward in my chair.

This play has different endings, so I won't say how this performance ended, but I had never seen this one before.

Lastly, Scarlett Johansson surprised me with her ability to connect with the crowd of all ages, and on the way out no one said she didn't deliver. And with the prices of today's tickets, that's amazing. Also no one ever left the theater during the play, and all the seats were still filled at the end. This play may only be running for a short time so do go see it because you leave the theatre feeling very "alive."

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T.J. Clemente December 24, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Thanks for reading Southampton Patch, Happy Holidays!
Patrice Dalton December 24, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Happy Holidays! Glad you saw such a memorable show!
highhatsize December 24, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Hard to imagine Scarlett Johansson as Maggie the Cat. Your indication that Ms. Johansson was a "softer" Maggie makes me wonder if she is capable of showing the hardness and brittleness that I think of as essential to Maggie's character (due to prior portrayals that I have seen.) But I would enjoy being surprised! The Brick character is always a tough part. His principle affect is languor and actors who can't evoke his inner torment make him seem inert. Your characterization of his performance as "strong and deliberate" makes me wonder if Benjamin Walker pulled it off successfully. I've never paid much attention to the rest of the characters, "Big Daddy" included. They're all rather stereotypical and easy. All the action is between Maggie and Brick. In the final analysis, it MUST have been a good show. A bad "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" is interminable and you said that nobody walked out. Thanks for the review & Merry Christmas!
Joe S January 04, 2013 at 06:34 PM
I wish I could agree with T.J. I took my 2 teenage daughters who were looking forward to seeing Ms. Johansson more than a great play. I was looking for both. We did not find our performance engaging, but rather flat, and people did leave during our performance. I am not very knowedgeable about plays, just a tourist from Alabama, but I was underwhelmed. I cannot easily put my finger on what was amiss, but I thought the quick repartee was odd. I don't know any southerners who talk that way. The constant movement of the cast around the set seemed odd. And why only one set? Everything "happens," not that much does, in the bedroom. Brick did not sell me. At best, he seemed aloof or maybe just disinterested in Maggie, but not in any kind of inner turmoil over his past or his current situation. Ms. Johansson was much better, but still something was missing. As a middle aged guy, I was quite taken by her, but not her character. I did not get a great deal of angst or desire. And if someone must bare their tush, must it be Brick?
T.J. Clemente January 05, 2013 at 12:23 AM
OK JOE, not going to ask how you found this blog but will answer you questions, but first did your daughters enjoy the show??? I hope so since you spent hard earned bucks on your daughters. You know I loved the words, Tennessee Williams words, now as for accents, well being someone who worked in Manhattan for 30 years, I figure actors create accents. So i guess being from Alabama you are more official on that than I. As for stage direction, perhaps you have a point , and as for the set, I thought it was OK to use the one large one. As for asses exposed, that flimsy night gown was also most revealing.


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