Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, some Hollywood It-Girls should stick to the screen. That’s not exactly how the song goes, but it might be my new motto after hearing that Katie Holmes has been cast in next season’s revival of Arthur Miller’s 1947 play, All My Sons. Holmes will be starring alongside the legendary John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest and Patrick Wilson. Sure, all three of the aforementioned actors have excelled in roles both on screen and on stage, but I’m just not convinced Holmes has the same aptitude for both venues (and have we even seen said aptitude on screen yet?)
I’m not one to care about celebrities and their professional pursuits, but I do care about the integrity of live theatre. And I also know a whole lot of women with the chops to act this role on Broadway who would kill for the chance to do so. I completely understand why producers like to cast “names” in their shows, it definitely helps sell tickets. But let’s be honest, a Katie Holmes fan is probably not an Arthur Miller fan (we can compare and contrast The Crucible and Dawson's Creek in another post). A New York theatre-goer who purposely buys a ticket to All My Sons to see Katie Holmes would probably be much happier at at performance of, let’s say, Mamma Mia.
I must admit that I knew Katie Holmes way back in the day when we danced at the same studio in Toledo, Ohio. I witnessed the blossoming of her career, from when she was discovered at a modeling competition to when she flew to North Carolina to film the pilot for Dawson’s Creek. I saw her play Lola in the St. John’s High School performance of Damn Yankees when she was seventeen. Holmes has that undefinable “it factor” and always has; after dance performances my parents were known to say things like, “Molly, your dancing was great, but we couldn’t stop watching Katie.” In light of some sketchy personal and religious decisions, she’s certainly deserving of a successful entertainment career. But she’s going to have to do some serious craft-honing to pull this off.
Acting on Broadway is different than acting in film. Although the intention is the same, nuances in the delivery and environment make for distinct variations in technique. It’s kind of like asking a painter who works with watercolors to spraypaint a mural; even if the work is of the same thing, it’s not the same medium. Just because you can do one does not mean you can do the other.
I hate to be so pessimistic about Holmes’ potential, but the recent celebs to grace the Great White Way haven’t achieved much success. Julianne Moore stared in David Hare’s The Vertical Hour in 2006. Elyse Gardner from USA Today wrote “Julianne Moore, the luminous leading lady known for her vibrant work in The Hours and many other films, isn't a stranger to the stage. But in this Broadway debut, she can seem strained and self-conscious.”
Julia Roberts starred in Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain in 2007. Ben Brantley of the New York Times, a self-described Juliaholic wrote “the only emotion that this production generates arises not from any interaction onstage, but from the relationship between Ms. Roberts and her fans.” He goes on to say “she does not do well — at least not by any conventional standards of theatrical art.” And we're talking about America's Sweetheart here.
It’s only fair to note that Jennifer Garner was actually somewhat well-received in this past season’s Cyrano de Bergerac, although she a long history on stage. And Claire Danes received mixed reviews in last season’s revival of Pygmalion, although the show itself was pretty much panned. All I’m saying is that Holmes has her work cut out for her.
I’m confident that this revival of All My Sons will be something to see; Lithgow, Wiest and Wilson make for a tremendous cast and the play itself is incredibly well-written. And maybe Holmes will figure it out and really shine on stage. Or maybe she’ll just be another pretty Hollywood diva who is better cut out for a camera on the West coast. Prove me wrong, Miss Holmes, or I may have to release that video of us tap dancing to “Hand Jive.”