Bryan Cranston is winning raves as wild-eyed anchorman Howard Beale in the stage adaptation of “Network” at London’s National Theatre.
The “Breaking Bad” star was a major box-office draw in Broadway’s 2014 “All the Way,” so it’s no surprise that plans are afoot to bring “Network” to New York.
But Cranston may need a little coaxing: His performance is so intense, I hear he’s reluctant to commit to the grind of eight shows a week.
“Network” is in rep at the National, so he only has to get “as mad as hell” twice a week.
Sources say a Broadway production of this slick theatrical roller coaster will cost at least $6 million. To make it profitable, Cranston would have to play at least seven shows a week for at least nine months.
He can do it. He played LBJ in the three-hour “All the Way” for nearly six months, and I don’t think he missed a show. But “Network,” staged by that Belgian dynamo Ivo van Hove, is a mountain.
The producer who can convince Cranston to climb it is Jeffrey Richards, who produced “All the Way” and forged a strong working relationship with the actor. The National and some British producers have the rights to “Network,” but sources say Cranston wouldn’t dream of doing it on Broadway without Richards’ involvement.
Richards seemed to be ducking my calls this week, which is unusual because when he was a press agent, he was always chatty.
Lee Hall adapted Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay, paring it down for the stage and turning Beale, played by Peter Finch in the 1976 movie, into the central character. The other characters are still in place, including Diana, the ambitious reality TV producer played by Faye Dunaway in the movie, and Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”) onstage. But Beale’s crack up drives the play.
Hall is a writer whose work I wish we’d see more of on Broadway. He won a Tony for his “Billy Elliot,” and his “The Pitmen Painters” was well-received. But that’s been it for Broadway.
Hove, on the other hand, is a New York critics’ darling, scoring with Broadway revivals of “The Crucible” and “A View From the Bridge,” plus several off-Broadway productions. He’s at work on a stage version of “All About Eve,” which will open in London later this year with Cate Blanchett as Margo Channing.
Hove staged “Network” with his designer (and partner) Jan Versweyveld. They’ve turned the stage into a television studio complete with cameras, sound booths, giant clocks and, in the center, the anchorman’s desk.
A savvy Broadway vet who saw the show last week says “it’s sensational and could be a real winner here if Cranston does it.”
The only criticism I hear is that, for all its bells and whistles, “Network” is essentially the movie on a stage. But that’s one hell of a movie, and with Cranston at the helm, it’s surely one hell of a show.
“Network” is sold out at the National through March.
So get on the phone, Jeffrey, and get Cranston to New York, then call me when you’ve sealed the deal. Operators are standing by!
Feinstein’s/54 Below is staging a reading of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s mystery musical “Curtains” for two performances only on Jan. 25. Original cast members Karen Ziemba and Noah Racey will be on hand, along with Richard Kind, Jim Walton and Jim Brochu. Rupert Holmes, who wrote the script, is hosting.
I’ll be playing Daryl Grady, the vicious, power-hungry critic, at the 7 p.m. show. Charles Isherwood — the Donna Murphy to my Bette Midler — will play the part at the 9:30 p.m. show.