Mark Hellinger Theatre, (4/21/1988 - 6/26/1988)

First Preview: Apr 13, 1988
Opening Date: Apr 21, 1988
Closing Date: Jun 26, 1988
Total Previews: 8
Total Performances: 77

Category: Play, Tragedy, Revival, Broadway
Setting: Scotland and England.

Opening Night Production Staff

Theatre Owned / Operated by The Nederlander Organization (James M. Nederlander: Chairman; Robert E. Nederlander: President; Arthur Rubin: Vice-President)

Produced by Barry & Fran Weissler and Garth H. Drabinsky; Produced by arrangement with The Baltimore Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.; Associate Producer: Melinda Howard

Written by William Shakespeare; Incidental music by William Penn and Louis Applebaum

Original Direction by Kenneth Frankel; Additional Direction by Zoe Caldwell

Scenic Design by Daphne Dare; Costume Design by Patricia Zipprodt; Lighting Design by Marc B. Weiss; Sound Design by Otts Munderloh; Hair Design by Patrik D. Moreton; Make-Up Design by Brad Scott; Assistant Lighting Design: Susan A. White

General Manager: Alecia Parker and Kevmar Productions, Inc.; Company Manager: Michael Gill

Production Stage Manager: James Harker; Stage Manager: Amy Pell; Technical Supervisor: Theatre Services, Inc.

Special Effects by Bran Ferren

Casting: Pat McCorkle; General Press Representative: Solters / Roskin / Friedman, Inc.; Fight Captain: Thomas Schall; Assistant to the Fight Captain: Bruce Gooch; Advertising: Serino, Coyne & Nappi; Photographer: Henry Grossman and Robert C. Ragsdale; Fight direction by David S. Leong

Opening Night Cast

Glenda JacksonLady Macbeth
Christopher PlummerMacbeth
a general of the Scottish army
Randle MellMalcolm
son of Duncan
Alan ScarfeMacduff
a nobleman of Scotland
Paul ShenarBanquo
a general of the Scottish army
Richard H. BlakeMacduff's Son
Gary BradfordEnsemble
Robert BurkeSeyton
an officer attending on Macbeth
Michael ButlerFleance
son of Banquo
David DeBesseEnsemble
Bill FerrellEnsemble
Bruce GoochCaithness
a nobleman
Michael Alan GregoryEnsemble
Jack GwillimDuncan
King of Scotland
Jack HannibalSiward
Annette HeldeWitch
Thomas HillLennox
a nobleman
Todd JamiesonEnsemble
Cherry JonesLady Macduff
Philip KerrRoss
a nobleman
Conan McCartyDonalbain
son of Duncan
Tanny McDonaldWitch
Gordon PaddisonEnsemble
Thomas SchallMurderer
Paul SolesDoctor
Jeff WeissWitch
Gregory ZaragozaEnsemble

Standby: Sarah-Jane Gwillim (Lady Macbeth)

Understudies: Robert Burke (Banquo), Michael Butler (Siward), Bruce Gooch (Macduff, Malcolm), Jack Hannibal (Donalbain, Fleance, Macduff's Son), Annette Helde (Lady Macduff), Thomas Hill (Duncan), Edwin J. McDonough (Doctor, Messenger, Seyton, Siward), Gordon Paddison (Caithness, Murderer, Ross), Marcell Rosenblatt (Gentlewoman, Witch), Paul Shenar (Macbeth) and Paul Soles (Lennox, Murderer, Porter)

Awards and Nominations

Tony Award®

 1988 Best Actress in a Play [nominee] 

Glenda Jackson

Drama Desk Award

 1988 Outstanding Actress in a Play [nominee] 

Glenda Jackson


New York Daily News: "Mild About 'Macbeth'"

Christmas, we know, comes once a year. But "Macbeth" comes to town so seldom we are likely to greet each appearance with unreasonably high expectations.

Shakespeare's tragedy about unrestrained ambition is a play in which the only fertile thing is blood, which begets more blood uncontrollably. Every other image is of Nature ravaged. Even trees, symbols of fertility, become devices of war. One woman sees her child murdered, another talks remorselessly of murdering a child. This is clearly a vision of Hell.

The current production occasionally gives us a vision of the world turned Inferno. More often than not, however, it's no more wrenching than Limbo.

Christopher Plummer and Glenda Jackson give performances full of ideas and strength. Some of the others are also strong, but there is no stylistic consistency. Perhaps in an effort to avoid the overblown style of which Shakespearean actors are often guilty, the general tone is understated. As if in a play in which body piled upon body must be done with an eye to decorum and good taste.

The closest the production comes to the wildness of Shakespeare's vision is the performance of Glenda Jackson, whose first entrance is not that of a stately matron or even a potential villain, but that of a young woman full of almost girlish enthusiasm.

Once she has resolved to spur her husband's ambition, she moves with a catlike decisiveness and the sinuous grace of some ancient priestess - a high-class sister to the crones who also further Macbeth's "career."

Only in the sleepwalking scene does her lean body suddenly seem limp and broken. Jackson brings great power to the scene by crouching, plaintively comforting her imaginary, equally broken husband.

Plummer's Macbeth is a gruff, honest-spoken man, clearly decent and thus clearly anguished at what he does. Until the very end, when even the news of his wife's death cannot bring out any emotion.

Jackson's steely voice is a perfect instrument to portray a grasping, ruthless woman. It's like a shot of gin compared to the brandy of Plummer's mellow, grave intoning.

He has passed the point where anything can rouse him. There is no anger, no sorrow in his calling life "a tale told by an idiot." It is not a cry of outrage, but a statement of fact made so soberly, so coldly it seems to come from some other planet, one as bleak and forlorn as Macbeth has made Scotland.

There is solid work by Paul Shenar as Banquo, Jack Gwillim as Duncan, Randle Mell as Malcolm and Alan Scarfe as Macduff, though Scarfe is the only actor whose style is distinctly English. Cherry Jones is moving as the hapless Lady Macduff. Jeff Weiss is funny as the Porter, though his is the humor of a genial barkeep, not of the sardonic gatekeeper of Hell.

I have seen this star-crossed production in earlier incarnations, a useful education for a critic. The progress it has made since Pittsburgh is astonishing. But though it has more humor and sharpness, it lacks the drive it had in Toronto, particularly in the final scenes, where what should seem a juggernaut is more like a static pageant.

The set is simple, laying stress where it should be, on the words. The lighting is similarly geared toward clarity. (Did it seem more dramatic in Toronto?) For all its faults, it's better Shakespeare than we're used to seeing in these parts.

The overall lesson is that a classic play, particularly one as tricky as "Macbeth," should be done only when a director has a clear, vital idea of how to do it, not because stars are available.

New York Daily News

New York Post: "Mixed brew of 'Macbeth'"

It is said that one of the more eminent of those Eminent Victorians, on seeing a performance of Shakespeare's "Macbeth," was heard to murmur, somewhat shocked: "So different from the home life of our own dear Queen."

For some reason I was reminded of this doubtless apocryphal story by the more stylized than animated production of "Macbeth," starring Christopher Plummer and Glenda Jackson which opened in its somewhat stately fashion at the Mark Hellinger Theater last night.

Of course, we all know what too many cooks can proverbially do to the best of witches' brews, and this "Macbeth" did perhaps have a somewhat overcooked look. It was dry and lacked juice.

As all gossip-reading critics know, the show has been in what is tactfully called "trouble on the road," and it is Zoe Caldwell, who has actually given her final imprimatur to the staging - which is now described as having "Original Direction by Kenneth Frankel" and "Additional Direction by Zoe Caldwell."

Only Caldwell gets a potted biography in the playbill, and as for the Third Man, the distinguished Shakespearean director Robin Phillips, who was brought in after Frankel left ship and before Caldwell came aboard, he seems to have been sunk without trace.

Whether all these shenaningans - there were changes with the set designs and the cast and other minor matters that need not concern us - affected the final result, who truly knows? Probably not even the producers, for sure.

However, this "Macbeth" does have something of the air of a work conceivably produced by the consensus of a committee rather than the vision of an individual. The setting by Daphne Dare and the dusky costuming by Patricia Zipprodt is as Spartan as one could imagine. It looks as though no economy has been spared.

Yet this platform-like approach, well lit by Marc B. Weiss, makes up something in clarity what it lacks in glamor. There may be nothing fancy, but there is nothing fussy either.

"Macbeth" is a frighteningly difficult play to present even adequately - much more so than that recognized bane of stagecraft, "King Lear." And the main problem is provided by Macbeth, the original anti-hero, a man of quality destroyed not even by random fate but by the mechanics of his own oe'erweening ambition.

How is one to convey the essential nobility of a singularly ruthless murderer and a politician who will stop at nothing to have his own way? Yet, at the same time, a man who has the scruples of a soul far more decent than his own.

Plummer shows us the soldier, the man of action with restraint and dignity. He is cerebral and reflective, a Cassius among Thanes. He is even capable of ironic humor, as witnessed by his dry, humorless chuckle when in his final balletic-like battle in silhouette with Macduff, he finds that his adversary is "not of woman born," and that his fate is thus sealed.

But here, as he did when he once played Antony, by chance with Caldwell as his Cleopatra, Plummer lacks some element of fire, of a man destined for hell. Partly as the result of Caldwell's excessively staid staging, Plummer looks destined for little more than his dressing room, preceded by a well-deserved curtain call.

No one could here call Jackson staid, and she plays Lady Macbeth as though she were expecting a larger part, which leads either her, or her director, to offer us such seemingly extraneous business as an attack of nausea for a first act curtain, and a letter-reading scene accompanied by such hand-trembling that it seems to have been caught in the wind.

Nor is she free of certain vocal mannerisms, such as a booming bleat on the word "clean" in a sleepwalking scene that takes spastic somnambulism to almost pathological lengths - there are times when the performance suggests it needs a psychiatrist almost more than a director.

Since her Artaud experiments with Peter Brook in London, even before the Charlotte Corday in Brook's staging of "Marat/Sade," which made her international reputation, I have been among Jackson's fondest admirers, and have the notices to prove it.

But this unsexed Lady Macbeth goes too far, and in the wrong direction, and when matched with Plummer's thoughtful, almost disdainful, underplaying, the two interpretations scarcely match and mingle. They could be in two different views of the play.

The supporting cast is very much that - supporting. It is certainly not bad enough to have satisfied the odd but exacting needs of Sir Donald Wolfit (who demanded little more of a production than an indifferently adequate cast and a good spotlight), but it is one of those Shakespearean stagings where the words seem to have more spears than there are spear-carriers.

I liked Alan Scarfe's vigorous Macduff, and there was a certain interestingly truculent quality to Randle Mell's Malcolm, but Jeff Weiss was not as garrulously good as one might expected in Hazlitt's all-important role of the Porter, and Paul Shenar's Banquo seemed more ghostly than strictly necessary.

The courage of putting a Shakespeare tragedy on Broadway for an extended run is itself to be commended, and from the healthy box-office advance - at the final matinee preview which I attended, as I left I spotted an encouraging line at the box-office - I sincerely hope this courage will at least pay off, if not win rewards.

New York Post

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