Page last updated at 12:52 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Reviews: Catherine Zeta-Jones makes Broadway debut

Catherine Zeta-Jones talks about her Broadway role

Oscar-winning Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones has made her Broadway debut in a revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical A Little Night Music.

The 40-year-old stars with Angela Lansbury in Sir Trevor Nunn's production, which originated at the Menier studio theatre in south London last year.

Set in a Swedish country house at the turn of the 20th Century, the show is inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night.

Zeta-Jones plays Desiree Armfeldt, a flamboyant actress who sings the show-stopping ballad Send in the Clowns.

The actress, who has two children with husband Michael Douglas, won an Oscar in 2003 for her work in film musical Chicago.

Here are what the critics made of the revival, currently running at the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York.


An elegiac darkness infuses this production, which stars Catherine Zeta-Jones, in a lively Broadway debut, and the indomitable Angela Lansbury.

But the behaviour of the characters who wander through a twilight labyrinth of passion in early 20th-Century Sweden has the exaggerated gusto of second-tier boulevard farce.

Ms Zeta-Jones brings a decent voice, a supple dancer's body and a vulpine self-possession to her first appearance on Broadway.

As Desiree's mother, the courtesan Madame Armfeldt, Ms Lansbury is quite delicious.


Bewitching, confident and utterly natural, the luminous Zeta-Jones breathes a refreshing earthiness and warm-blooded sensuality into fading actress and inveterate maneater Desiree Armfeldt.

Zeta-Jones is the star attraction, and she's mesmerising enough to explain why men would duel for Desiree's love.

But the production's real jewel is Angela Lansbury as her worldly mother.

The actress has sparkled in plays in recent seasons, but seeing her in a Sondheim musical is something quite special.


Zeta-Jones, younger than the performers who have traditionally played the role, is captivating as Desiree.

She has terrific stage presence, unlike so many movie stars who tread the boards, and she sings and moves beautifully.

Her rendition of the oh-so-familiar Send in the Clowns is a revelation, and she handles the poignant and comic aspects of her character with equal aplomb.

She also, as hardly comes as a surprise, looks absolutely gorgeous.


Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music played to mixed reviews in London.

However, the addition last night of two of Britain's most popular exports - Angela Lansbury and Zeta Jones — had the American audience enthralled.

Zeta Jones, 40, and Lansbury, 84, threw themselves with barely disguised glee into their roles as the touring actress Desiree Armfeldt and her formidable mother.

But while Lansbury and Zeta Jones shine, Trevor Nunn's effervescent production owes much to a pitch-perfect supporting cast who play it for maximum comic effect.


A Little Night Music, the biggest opening in New York this season, is a tough gig for a Broadway debut, even for a movie star who won an Oscar for Chicago.

And while Catherine Zeta-Jones can act and sing, she can't do both at once in this production - at least not in one take.

When Zeta-Jones steps on stage the anxiety of the audience is palpable. You feel bad for her.

At the opening bars of Send in the Clowns, she gets a look on her face like something terrible is about to happen, which it is.

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