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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
An unwelcome British invasion?
The early cast of The Producers
New York tabloids said Goodman had struggled
test hello test
By Tom Brook
From New York

Henry Goodman, the celebrated British stage actor, who just last month took over one of the top roles in the Broadway hit The Producers, has been abruptly replaced.

The move took many by surprise because Goodman had given only 30 performances after being given a reported nine-month contract to star in the role of Max Bialystock, a part that had been played to great critical acclaim by his predecessor Nathan Lane.

But the New York tabloids reported that it had been an open secret in the past week that Goodman was "struggling" with the role.

Henry Goodman
Henry Goodman did only 30 shows
The New York Post reported an un-named cast member who said, "Henry just isn't funny, he's a very good actor, but he's very serious. He's not a musical-comedy star."

In a statement, Susan Stroman, The Producers' director and choreographer, said: "Henry has been very well received by audiences nightly, but the producers have decided to pursue a different quality for the role."

Strong reputation

American actor Brad Oscar, a member of the cast and Lane's understudy, is to take on Goodman's role from Tuesday night.

Goodman has a strong reputation as an actor, having played musical comedy in London productions of Chicago and Guys and Dolls.

The impact of his ignominious departure from Broadway's top show was lessened slightly by Stroman.

Have the British lost their theatrical touch or just run up against a cultural divide they can't quite bridge?

Richard Zoglin
She added: "I have the utmost respect for Henry Goodman. He is a wonderful actor and I would happily work with him on another project."

The actor's hasty departure from an American musical could be viewed as just an isolated casting conflict but it comes on the heels of a less than rapturous reception for other British-steered works on Broadway.

Four major productions of American classics staged by top British theatre directors - The Crucible, The Sweet Smell of Success, Oklahoma! and The Graduate - have all arrived on the Great White Way in the past month.

Only The Crucible, Arthur Miller's celebrated play directed by Richard Eyre and starring Liam Neeson, has been judged a critical success.

Trevor Nunn's revival of the Royal National Theatre's Oklahoma! has been found wanting by several American critics who felt the production lacked the sparkling optimism that it deserves.

'Emotional lopsidedness'

The New Yorker's top theatre critic John Lahr thinks the problem stems from cultural chemistry.

He described Nunn's production as suffering from "emotional lopsidedness" because the British just can't fathom the American optimism that Oklahoma! celebrates.

Critics were also less than enthused by British director Nicholas Hytner's musical adaptation of the 1957 Hollywood classic The Sweet Smell of Success.

Director Richard Eyre and Actor Liam Neeson
The Crucible got favourable reviews
The original film starred Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis and exposed the dark side of New York nightlife.

But the New York Times critic complained that the creators of the stage show had "wound up stripping the zip" from the story.

Columnist Linda Winer, from Newsday, wrote that the production engaged in "a numbing attempt to flesh out the psychological corners of the characters".

When British director Terry Johnson's staging of The Graduate, a re-working of the famous 1967 movie, opened on Broadway earlier this month it also failed to wow critics.

Time's senior editor Richard Zoglin described it as a disaster and found it bereft of "its very comic American rhythms".

Cultural politics

He then posed the question: "Have the British lost their theatrical touch or just run up against a cultural divide they can't quite bridge?"

On closer examination it seems that cultural politics may have played a role in the lacklustre reception given to The Sweet Smell of Success, Oklahoma! and The Graduate.

They are all highly specific American works and critics may have found any adaptation of them challenging, perhaps even more so when the re-translation was shaped by a perceived outsider.

Jude Law, with his wife Sadie Frost
Jude Law will take Dr Faustus to Broadway
However, few think that British theatre talent has lost its allure on Broadway.

On Monday, the New York Times theatre critic was lavishing praise on British actor Rupert Graves who he wrote gave a remarkable performance in a revival of The Elephant Man that opened on Sunday.

The traditional British theatre invasions shows every signs that it will continue.

Two high profile British plays - The Mystery of Charles Dickens and Private Lives - will open before the end of the month and just last week it was announced that both Jude Law and Eddie Izzard will be reprising London stage roles in New York.

See also:

12 Sep 01 | Showbiz
US showbusiness shuts down
04 Jun 01 | Arts
Musical makes Broadway history
02 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Eyre calls for cheaper theatre
18 Mar 02 | Showbiz
Producers stars bow out
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