Thursday, January 08, 2009

Frost/Nixon (The SOB Revisit)

Frost/Nixon (The SOB Revisit) - State Theatre, Minneapolis, Minnesota

*1/2 (out of ****)

You'd think that all the ongoing Oscar buzz generated by the film progeny of Broadway's Frost/Nixon would be enough to place everyone associated with the current national tour squarely on their "A" game.

With stage director Michael Grandage apparently phoning it in with a lackluster ineffectual cast, I'm sorry to say that you'd be very wrong.

Granted, I just saw the silver screen incarnation over the past two weeks, and yes, I thought it better than the original Broadway mounting (see my 2007 SOB Review here). But this touring production pales dramatically in every sense of the word and is likely to disappoint the throngs of filmgoers who have been inspired to seek out the source material. If ever I doubted the extraordinary ability of Frank Langella and Michael Sheen to rise above Peter Morgan's script, those doubts have forever been put to rest, even as the current cast sinks beneath it.

First and foremost, Stacy Keach is just plain wrong as Richard Nixon. Keach is a distinguished actor, to be sure, but he only rarely achieves any of the Nixonian cadences and posturing Langella effortlessly mastered. Sure, Langella may only bear a fleeting approximation to Nixon, but he had me believing. Even Bob Ari, the actor who portrays Robert Zelnick doing a Nixon impersonation is better (Ari also understudies Keach, after having understudied Langella on Broadway). The overly robust Keach, on the other hand, doesn't even seem to try, instead eerily coming off more like the personification of Peter Griffin of television's "Family Guy."

Speaking of cartoonish performances, Alan Cox as David Frost infuses his characterization with a mad dash of Austin Powers. Sadly, to say that he gives the best performance of the evening is not saying much.

Perhaps the worst is the laughably miscast Brian Sgambati as James Reston, a narrative role intended to provide an undercurrent of moral and righteous indigation. However, Sgambati's Reston is merely a boy scout, exhibiting an inappropriately earnest gee-whiz half smile that makes questioning of whether Frost should work with this "loose cannon" completely incongruous -- loose marble is more like it.

Do yourself a favor, save your loose change and go see the far superior film version of "Frost/Nixon" with Langella and Sheen in lieu of the impeachable tour. It's one of the few times I've ever recommended a silver screen incarnation over a live stage show.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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2 Comments:

At 08 January, 2009, Blogger Esther said...

Wow, how disappointing! I was very lukewarm about Frost/Nixon when I saw it on Broadway. But I thought Langella and Sheen were great. (I know Langella got most of the praise and the Tony but I especially loved Sheen's performance.) I guess in this case, the cast really made the play. It's too bad this is so miscast. The movie hasn't opened here yet but I'm looking forward to seeing it.

 
At 08 January, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I think you'll enjoy the movie.

 

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