Take a close look at the smiling face to the left. Examine it very carefully. Because this is the exciting face of tomorrow's Broadway.
Actor Jon Michael Hill has been a Steppenwolf ensemble member for a mere three years, but as one of the estimable troupe's youngest actors, he's quickly become one of its most awe-inspiring contemporary stars. And now, Jon Michael Hill is heading to the Music Box Theatre for his Broadway debut. Watch out!
Earlier this afternoon, the full casting for Steppenwolf's Broadway transfer of Tracy Letts' Superior Donuts was announced. The best part of the announcement was that the entire Chicago cast, including Hill, will be reassembled under Tina Landau's brilliant direction.
I first witnessed Hill's star on ascent three years ago this month when Steppenwolf world premiered Bruce Norris' riveting and raucous four-star The Unmentionables, directed by Anna D. Shapiro and starring Amy Morton. At the time, I noted:
Even as the booming off-stage voice instructs the audience to silence their cell phones, a menacing, cocky young man named Etienne (Hill) saunters down the aisle looking as if he might not belong before finally calling out to the audience that they should not bother staying for this show. Of course, it's all a ruse, but it's clearly designed to set the stage for the play and challenge some pre-conceived notions about race and appearance even before the performance begins.
Next, Hill starred opposite Michael McKean of Superior Donuts last summer to tremendous effect. Giving the show four stars, I was effusive with praise:
McKean has clearly lost himself in this most unglamorous of roles, but the audience wins as a result. Equally excellent is Hill's Franco, whose tremendous zest for living is infectious, and whose woes make us actually give a damn.
Since last summer, Steppenwolf fans have had two additional opportunities to see Hill further burnish his credentials with seemingly little effort in Kafka on the Shore (2008) and earlier this year as he more than held his own alongside Frank Galati and Lois Smith in The Tempest, another Landau-helmed triumph.
Now, with the transfer of Superior Donuts, New Yorkers will get to know one of the Windy City's formerly best kept secrets. Now that the word is out that Jon Michael Hill is coming to Broadway, do yourself a favor and see him early to get those bragging rights for you'll be seeing a true star of tomorrow shine today.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).