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Published on March 5th, 2013 | by Louis

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Broadway): Unfortunately Uneven

We had removed this review at the request of the producers of the show, as it reflected opinions of a preview showing and not the final thoughts. After four additional staff attended the play over two other performances, we’ve decided to re-publish this review as well as offer an alternate opinion from another writer.

Holly Golightly has returned to Broadway in a new production of Breakfast at Tiffany's, starring Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Cory Michael Smith (The Cockfight Play), with the first preview performance shown last night.

Rather than translating the iconic 1961 movie onto the stage, the show is based heavily on Truman Capote’s original 1958 novella, almost scene-for-scene and with much of the dialogue and narrative carried over. But while the source material is literary gold, the play never really takes off; the sets don’t evoke the romanticism of cafe society New York and the characters feel flat and two-dimensional.

The limitations of a stage production are glaringly apparent: Holly’s parties seem rather tame due to the small cast onstage, Fred’s fateful horse ride is a fiasco of a scene which completely fails to bring the words on page to life, and the multiple scene changes were clunky, tending to break the rhythm of the play. Granted, this was the first night of previews and we can expect a lot of the rough edges to be smoothed out by opening night, but last night’s showing gave immediate credence to the notion that the material is better suited to film than stage. Director Sean Mathias may have been nominated previously for a Tony Award, but fails to do more than work around the edges here.

The star of the show, our dear Miss Holiday Golightly, Travelling, doesn’t ever rise above her one-liners and casual putdowns. Even accepting that Audrey Hepburn casts a long shadow, Emilia Clarke fails to make the character her own. Reciting lines in a pained accent that swings between the high societies of New York and London rather than embodying the carefree, naive spirit that Capote has so carefully constructed, she appears scheming and disconnected and lacking the impulsiveness and genuine joie-de-vivre that Holly is supposed to represent.

The audience remains unconvinced by Holly’s philosophies and way of life, probably because Ms. Clarke isn’t either. (Editor’s Note: Game of Thrones fans, she’s lovely here, but there are sadly no dragons to be found). Perhaps she’s trying to portray a darker, more manipulative Holly, one that knows exactly what she’s doing and the effect she has on people, but if that’s the case, some changes to the dialogue would probably have been a good idea. Smith as Fred darling is a little better, and puts in a credible performance as the uncertain and somewhat timid writer enraptured by Holly. Unfortunately, the real star of the entire show was the unnamed cat, who elicited spontaneous applause for perfect stage timing and dramatic presence. Whether the little animal can continue to do so through every night’s performance will remain to be seen.

Ultimately, Breakfast at Tiffany’s probably has just about enough going for it – a good story, tight dialogue courtesy of its source material, and the draw of the name – that it will avoid complete disaster, but if improvements are not seen by opening night, don’t expect its original run to be extended.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is now in previews and opens March 20. Tickets run $37-$132 (limited rush tickets available), on sale now.

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