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EQUUS - Opening Night on Broadway

Thanks to a generous fairy godmother, I was able to attend the opening night of Equus at the Broadhurst Theater. Most of what follows is for people who have already seen the play, and it may not make sense if you haven't. If you want to read some more review-y type comments of mine about the play, I posted a pretty lengthy review here. It's part of a larger post in a larger series about my trip to London last year, so just scroll down until you get to the scan of the program. :)

The short version of my perspective on tonight is that it was incredible opening night. There were glitches, obviously, as it's the first performance, but everyone I heard on the way out was completely wowed. There was a standing ovation - a very loud one, but perhaps that was because the theater is relatively small.

A few caveats:
* It has been over a year since I saw Equus at the Gielgud, so my memory of details you might want to know are less than stirling.
* I tried to look for things that I remember were important to people, but there are going to be things I forgot to look for or forgot to include here. Still, if there's something you're curious about that I haven't detailed, leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer.
* This was a first performance of several 'preview' performances, and there will probably be some tweaks before the play officially opens in a few weeks. So some of what I observed might be obsolete by that time.
* There was an article/interview with Dan and Richard in the Playbill. I am not near my scanner right now, but I will scan and upload it as soon as possible. There's not much that we haven't heard, but there is SOME new stuff - like Richard saying that Alan is oddly the one person Dysart feels he could take to Greece who would understand.

* The stage is set up exactly as it was at the Gielgud in London. No curtain, the cross-shaped stage on the circle, the blocks, the 'stables' at the back, the horse heads hanging on the wall, and the arc of seats above the stage.

* The audience was well-behaved. No giggles or anything when Dan came out.

* The music is, I think, exactly the same as it was in London. I remember stifling a giggle when I first saw it last year, because there was this 'choir of angels' moment when Alan came out. I think they've staged it slightly different, though, so it feels less like a cherubim cry for Dan. And of course I was pleased that the generic porn music was kept in for the 'skin flick' scene.

* No changes that I could perceive to the play itself. There were some things that I couldn't remember, but I will have to look at the text again (which is at home, not here where I'm posting from) to be more sure, though.

* Okay, here's a bugaboo (for me, but perhaps it will grow on me). The choreography for the horses, particularly in the first scene at Dalton's, is different, and I was not too fond of it. It seemed a little too showy and ... dance-y.

* I can see what Dan meant by drawing from Alex in Clockwork Orange, but it's not something you'd pick up on if you didn't know he'd said that. It really just affects those initial scenes between him and Dysart, where he's shouting the jingles.

* Speaking of Dan ... I can't wait for you all to see how he's grown with this part and where he's taking Alan. It's not wildly different, but if you saw it in London, you'll definitely see a difference.

* Dysart is Griffith's Dysart from the West End. Lurking in the shadows during the climaxes and not all animated like Simon Callow apparently was in the tour.

* The climax of the play is presented just as it was last spring. Shown, not just told.

* Kate Mulgrew was a *touch* overdramatic at first, but she seemed to realize it and backed off a bit. I like her Hesther better than both Jenny Agutter and Eileen Atkins (the only two Hesthers I've seen). She is definitely more tactile and far less stand-offish than Jenny Agutter was. Mulgrew plays her kind of like a Sexy Broad, which suits Mulgrew, of course. I'm pretty certain it's not in the original version, but she even swears at one point in Act 2. She has a great chemistry with Griffiths, and I really felt like their characters were close friends, which I didn't feel with either Agutter or Atkins. Well, maybe Atkins a bit, but definitely not Agutter.

* The choreography during the blinding scene *is* a bit different, but not much. My recollection of the scene (which, again, is now over a year old and very possibly wrong) is that Alan was standing and facing the back of the stage as he was shouting "Find me! Kill me!" and the horses surrounded him before he broke down in Dysart's arms. Now, he does stand, but when he gets to "Find me! Kill me!" he's curled up in a ball, lying on his side, on the four blocks while the horses surround him. So he actually sits up when he breaks down in Dysart's arms. I think this ended up being more effective than the West End version, in no small part because someone figured out that with all the 'Equus noise' at the end, you couldn't hear what Alan was screaming. So either the sound cuts out sooner, or Dan yells a little longer. Either way, you can actually hear what he's saying, and it works a little better, I think.

* I liked Frank. Dora, I felt, was a little overdone. Like Mulgrew, she got better as the play went on, but she was borderline hysterical for almost all of Act One. Lots of great tactile stuff with them. In the beach scene, when Frank and Dora are splashing each other, Frank is much more playful with Alan, play-tussling with him at the front of the stage. They really feel like they're his parents (partially because they seem older than the West End Strangs) and that they were happy, once upon a time.

* Griffiths was, once again, a great ring-leader. He did the best at reading the audience. There was a LOT of audience response throughout, especially at funny lines, and it took a bit for everyone to get the hang of waiting for it to die down.

* There were a few technical difficulties, mostly to do with sound. There were a handful of occasions when you'd hear ... I don't know what it's called, but it's the Morse-code-sounding beep-be-beep-be-eeeep that happens when something is wrong with the electronics. Most of the times it happened it was just a passing annoyance, but it had some rather unfortunate timing in Act 2 and inserted itself into one of Alan's and Jill's kisses, which caused the audience to giggle during what should have been a fairly intimate moment.

* OH! I know all of you West End attendees will wonder, and I made a point to look for it. Now ... don't kill me, because I'm not 100% certain, but I'm ALMOST positive that Alan doesn't breath in Nugget's breath. I *could* have just missed it, because it should have happened when I was a bit distracted by the new horse movements that I didn't really care for. But I'm pretty sure it didn't happen.

* Another thing I was disappointed not to see: at the very beginning of the play, when Alan brings Nugget out and the two of them nuzzle together at center stage, Nugget doesn't really nuzzle back. I loved the way Will Kemp turned his head in the mask in the West End production, and the new Nugget doesn't really move at all. At least, not in that moment. There's a bit more movement at the beginning of Act 2, but I missed it in the beginning.

* Also - and I could kick myself for not bringing the play with me so that I could check as I posted this - but I certainly don't *remember* this from when I saw it in London. When Alan is doing the whole "It was sexy" speech, he brings Nugget out to the center of the stage and strokes him. I could be wrong and that was in there the whole time, but I didn't remember it, and it certainly gives a lot more tangibility to what he's telling Dysart in that moment.

* The, err, disrobing just before the climax took WAY too long, and I suspect they'll fix that over the next couple of weeks. Jill was the one who took a long time, because she had a tank top on under the checkered shirt, in addition to the bra. So Dan was just kind of standing there in his boxers for a while until she got further along. :P

* And as for the Maple Memorial Scratch ... he was a tad itchy tonight, mostly due to facial hair. And there was one occasion where he scratched his left leg through his jeans. If you'd like more detail, errr, comment and I'll do my best. ;-)

Okay, shocolate, you can breathe now. :)



( 43 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 6th, 2008 04:49 am (UTC)

This is exactly what I needed - well, more than anything I needed Dysart in the shadows - and I rather like the idea of Alan bringing Nugget out on stage for the speaking into the recorder scene - you are right - in London he just jumped from block to block...

..but no Nugget tipping his head down and nuzzling back???

Thank you for a more tactile Hester - and happy parents.

London previews started off with a bra, too - you'd have thought they'd learnt their lesson!


Now, be careful getting home - take a taxi!

I don't want to link dr.com to anything on LJ - but can I quote you??? And under what name?

*pssst* it's Simon Callow...
Sep. 6th, 2008 04:53 am (UTC)
*pssst* it's Simon Callow...

LOL, I forgot to include that in my comment. I was wondering why the hell Simon Cowell was in Equus!
Sep. 6th, 2008 04:54 am (UTC)
a very easy mistake for fast fingers to make - she knows who it was!!
Sep. 6th, 2008 05:47 am (UTC)
Sure! 'Connielane' is fine.

*corrects Cowell/Callow*
Sep. 6th, 2008 10:25 am (UTC)
*is seriously contemplating jumping on a plane from England to spend just two nights in NY to see Equus. Is quite possibly mental*

What a great post! I didn't get to see the London run of Equus (I was still resisting the Dan Love at that point), and it's highly unlikely that I'll get to see the NY run either, so I have to live vicariously through reports like this.

I hope Dan gets absolutely fantastic reviews for this run. He's really developed as an actor over the years, and I think people are finally starting to realise that he's not just the cute little kid from HP anymore - he's turned into an actor in his own right.
Sep. 6th, 2008 04:51 am (UTC)
Kate Mulgrew, eh? That's cool. I was a fan of hers way before "Star Trek Voyager" -- she used to be on a soap opera, "Ryan's Hope". A long long time ago.
Sep. 7th, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
Oh, I remember Ryan's Hope! I've always been a fan of hers, too and am glad to hear that she did well in this.
Sep. 6th, 2008 05:12 am (UTC)
Oh, you are precious! Well done! *g*

I'm so excited. For one - to actually get to see Richard this time! Ugh.

You noted his scratching! Hehehehe. Thank you. Yes, he slips into 'Dan' every so often. awww.

Two of my favorite moments from the West End were when he does the 'flash back' and plays as child!Alan. His little face! And then the bus stop scene. How did you feel about those?

Thank you for the report! :)
Sep. 6th, 2008 05:35 am (UTC)
The poor serious theatre goer - remembering to look out for scratching!
Sep. 6th, 2008 05:46 am (UTC)
Flashback scene was wonderful, just as it was in London. I particularly loved the beach scene, though. Much better interaction between Alan and his parents, I thought.

Loved the bus stop scene. "THE BUS WOULDN'T COME!" always got a laugh in London, and it did here as well. One difference I noted, though. Joanna Christie, as Jill, was much more obviously amused at the bus stop than Anna Camp was tonight.
Sep. 6th, 2008 05:52 am (UTC)
ooh - ooh - ooh - everyone did English accents, yes/yes??
Sep. 6th, 2008 05:53 am (UTC)
YES! All English accents!
Sep. 6th, 2008 05:15 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Sep. 6th, 2008 05:21 am (UTC)
You probably had a regular scene (in the audience), so I had to ask: did you notice the people sitting on stage (since that's where I'll be in a couple of weeks), and is it kind of difficult to see the majority of what's going on (especially the facial expressions and such), from a back view?
Sep. 6th, 2008 05:52 am (UTC)
The stage seats are pretty high up, so they're not a distraction. Occasionally Dysart will turn and address the stage audience, and I noticed them then. You *will* miss some facial expressions, especially if you're in the center seats. But you will get a very unique and enviable view of other things that you'll miss from the audience, such as the flagellation scene, and Alan twitching during Dysart's final monologue.
Sep. 9th, 2008 01:16 am (UTC)
Scratching and flagellation.want to know more
Hi Connielane - I've read every word on-line about Equus, but I've not read the book or seen the play. As a rabid Dan fan, PLEASE fill me in about a flagellation scene. Who whips who and is it painfully uncomfortable to watch? Plus, I've noticed in about every video of a Dan interview, he is scratching himself. During an interview on Rachel Ray, he scratched so much that she started scratching,too! Do you know more than I've ever read about some nervous reaction to interviews or some allergy? I read EVERYTHING I can about Dan, but you are the first one I've read who seems to "know" more about these two things. Please fill me it ...pretty please! Jennia
Sep. 9th, 2008 02:04 am (UTC)
Re: Scratching and flagellation.want to know more
As regards the flagellation...
There is a scene where we witness Alan (Dan) conducting his own personal religious ritual to Equus, a god he has invented that lives in every horse. Alan's father is describing this ritual to the psychiatrist Dysart (Richard Griffiths), and we see Alan reenacting it behind them. Part of the ritual is Alan beating himself on the back with a wooden coathanger. There is not an actual coathanger (props and set decoration in this play are very minimal), so Dan is miming it. It's not hard to watch in a physical sense, in that it's not bloody or anything like that. But it's very intense and emotional, especially if you see it from the stage seats and see his anguished face.

As regards the scratching...
I don't know anymore about it than anyone else. It was something that a friend of mine used to note last year in the several times she went to see the play, and knowing that she was likely to link her friends to my entry last week, I thought it would be neat to make a reference to it. But I don't have any inside info on his allergies or anything. Obviously, the face-scratching is probably because of the beard he's grown for the play.

Or (*looks at the comment you were responding to*) did you mean the twitching at the end of the play?
If so, that's a part of his performance.
Sep. 6th, 2008 05:28 am (UTC)
Ooh, thanks so much for the preview! Three weeks from tonight...!!!
Sep. 6th, 2008 05:52 am (UTC)
I have a ticket for that night, too! We must meet up!
Sep. 6th, 2008 05:59 am (UTC)
Sep. 6th, 2008 07:56 am (UTC)
alan and jill chemistry
Thanks so much for such a timely review!!! I have to wait until January....unfortunately. I was wondering if Dan and Anna Camp have good chemistry going on? I thought he and Joanna Christie were great together in London. This Camp girl seems a bit lackluster. Yes? Also, has Dan...ummm...grown? LOL!
Sep. 6th, 2008 12:56 pm (UTC)
Re: alan and jill chemistry
In my opinion, the chemistry was not as good with Anna Camp. But that could very well change over the course of the run. One good thing, though, is that she's shorter than Joanna. :P
Sep. 6th, 2008 08:35 am (UTC)
Thanks for your review, and thank you for being the first to get one up. :)

Sep. 6th, 2008 09:17 am (UTC)
Thank you from me as well! A wonderful review for those of us who'll never get to see the play. :-)
Sep. 6th, 2008 09:52 am (UTC)
thankyou so much!

your good faery did us all a favour.

I really felt like their characters were close friends, that was my one real ::thing::. so yay. their relationship was always my favourite aspect of the play.

also, no breathing in breath or turning to nuzzle back. that is such a shame. perhaps that was a 'chemistry' thing.

thanks for all the rest of your observations.

i'm not going to see it this time *kicks ocean* so i'm really pleased to have such informed eyes for the vicarious viewing!
Sep. 6th, 2008 11:48 am (UTC)
I stayed up until after 11:00 pm to see if you'd post your review :P But I must have just missed it.

Thanks for the lovely review and all the details. Can't wait to see it :D
Sep. 6th, 2008 12:51 pm (UTC)
I think the time stamp reflects when I *started* the post, because the show didn't end until a little after 10:30. It took a while to get out of the theater, and then there was the sidewalk traffic - the Times Square area is crowded at the best of times, but 44th Street has five theaters that let out around the same time - and I had to find the closest wireless spot.

Okay, that was more info than you needed, but I know I was still typing my fingers off at 12:30. :P
Sep. 6th, 2008 01:19 pm (UTC)
Oh ok :D, I thought I'd stayed up longer than that but was confused by your timestamp.

Now I remember, I was watching The Colbert Report when I finally shut off my computer.
Sep. 6th, 2008 12:46 pm (UTC)
Thankyou for your wonderful review. From someone who will never see the play, I really appreciate it. (And I laughed, and am happy that the Maple Memorial Scratch was included)
Sep. 6th, 2008 12:52 pm (UTC)
After all those posts last spring, I couldn't help noticing the scratches! :D
Sep. 6th, 2008 02:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks for a thorough comparison of the two productions. I knew exactly what you were talking about.

I'm so relieved to hear the parents are much better. The more I thought about it, the more I detested the mother. I'm pleased that there's more familial warmth in the beach scene.

I adore Kate Mulgrew and I'm almost as excited about seeing her as I am about seeing Dan. Okay, it's not even close but still....anyone has got to be better than Agutter.

I just read in the NYT that they raised the stage seats by 2 meters to keep hysterical fans from flinging themselves on Dan. *rolls eyes*
Sep. 6th, 2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
You lucky lucky woman. I am DYING to see this show, since I am an absolutely rabid Dan fangirl. Is there an age limit? I am 14 (and very mature for my age) and I would love to see my soul mate completely naked. Also I want to see him act in a non-HP/My Boy Jack type performance.
Sep. 6th, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC)
The age limit is 18 and over.
Sep. 7th, 2008 12:30 am (UTC)
Somebody said there wasn't an age limit, someone says it's 16 and older, now 18 and older? Which one is true, dammit? I wanna see some of that sexyback!
Sep. 7th, 2008 01:54 am (UTC)
No one under 17 for stage seating. No child under 4 years old period.

And ... please don't call it sexyback.
Sep. 6th, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm so glad it went well! Thanks for your report!

One question - aside from the lack of movement in the opening, how was this actor's Nugget compared to Will Kemp? (I am such a Will Kemp fangirl.) Does he do that rotating stage scene at the end of Act 1 the same way, and is it as effective? Did the horses wear the same brown costumes? (Okay, that was more than one question.)
Sep. 7th, 2008 11:19 pm (UTC)
There were a couple of times that the Young Horseman was clearly stalling until he could remember a line, but otherwise he did very well. Yes, they did the revolving stage thing at the end of Act 1, and it's just as effective.

The costumes are the same, but it seemed to me that there might have been some new, subtle detailing on the tops - nothing much, just a little bit of shading.
Sep. 6th, 2008 05:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for posting this! I can't make it up to NYC until the 17th, but was ever so curious how things went.

The beach scene was one of my favorites when I saw it last year, I'm glad to hear it's even better this time around. Also good to hear the audience was well-behaved. :)

Yay, I can't wait to see this play again!!
Sep. 6th, 2008 06:35 pm (UTC)
Here via shocolate, thank you very much for the review, so happy that things went well for Daniel :)
Sep. 6th, 2008 07:52 pm (UTC)
I'm also here via Shocolate,'s LJ (Sorry, I can't ever do the tags right in comments :-P)... Thanks so much for going to the trouble of typing up all this. I am soooo looking forward to seeing this wonderful production next month. Thanks again for the effort and sharing it with everyone :-)
Sep. 7th, 2008 06:59 am (UTC)
Thanks for the review. I'm still contemplating getting tix to see the play; I really want to, but it will involve some traveling and expense that I'm not so sure I can spare over the next few months. On the other hand, it's a once in a lifetime thing, so I should probably just do it...
Sep. 7th, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC)
great review! i found it from a link at danradcliffe.com.. i went to the friday night preview also and agree with everything you said! it was my first time seeing the play and i was not disappointed at all, it was excellent -- radcliffe and griffiths were great together.

i agree that mulgrew started out a bit over the top and then found her way after a while. i would assume that most stage actors need to be a bit exaggerated due to the medium. i also agree that dora was a bit shrill and frank was perfect.

the static from the electronics throughout the play was a bit annoying. i think it happened whenever their microphones got too close to each other.. which explains why it was especially horrendous when radcliffe and camp went to kiss. i didn't think it was too bad when the audience laughed, though. it was amusing because it seemed almost appropriate -- as if their chemistry was audible.

as far as all the hype about the nude scene, i honestly did not find it gratuitous at all. both actors seemed very comfortable. i didn't think camp took too long taking her clothes off. that's how it is in real life, right?

also, i'd like to note, regarding radcliffe's performance, that he did not need to "warm up" to get into his role. i thought that he would be quite nervous as this was his first performance in new york, but he was "in character" from the moment he stepped onto the stage and i was very impressed with that.

all in all, i had a great time and would highly recommend this to anyone interested in watching a good quality show. (sorry for the novel length comment, but i am excited to that you saw the play on the same night as i did! btw, what's "maple memorial scratch"?)
Sep. 7th, 2008 09:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for the review! Not sure if I will get to see it in MY, but I really enjoyed reading about it - especially about Kate Mulgrew (and about how Dan continues to grow into his part). Hopefully Carolyn McCormick will work out her shrillness.
( 43 comments — Leave a comment )

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