After a run of 694 performances on Broadway during the 1955-1956 season, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof made it to the big screen in 1958, just in time for Elizabeth Taylor to get her second Best Actress Oscar nomination in two years. The film was highly acclaimed by critics and audiences alike and it received five additional Oscar nominations: Best Picture; Best Actor (Paul Newman); Best Director (Richard Brooks); Best Writing; Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Richard Brooks and James Poe); and Best Cinematography – Color (William Daniels).
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is truly an actor’s movie, and it is one of those rare films where every single actor is perfect.
Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor are both brilliant as Brick and Maggie. Not very often is there a screen couple that have the same chemistry together that they do. And those eyes! It is hard to say which of them had the most captivating eyes. Taylor and Newman were more than extraordinarily beautiful. She was an amazing actress, and he is arguably one of the greatest actors of all time. The relationship between Brick and Maggie is fascinating; full of confusion, betrayal, honesty, dishonesty, love, desire, and trust.
As Big Daddy, Burl Ives gives one of the best performances of his exceptional career. Jack Carson, Madeleine Sherwood, and Judith Anderson round out the cast as Gooper, Mae (Sister Woman), and Big Momma, and all deliver performances that are astoundingly memorable.
Tennessee Williams was reportedly unhappy with the screenplay, which removed almost all of the homosexual themes and diminished the original play’s critique of homophobia and sexism. But it is important to remember that the play and the film are two separate entities. The film is an adaptation, and they are not meant to be the same. They should be judged each on their own merit!
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is one of the great pieces of 20th century American literature and cinema. It has some universal lessons we could all profit by in viewing it.
Managing Artistic Director
I love live theatre, especially musical theatre! I love getting to the final product and knowing all the weeks of hard work that were put into that performance. I love watching actors and singers learn, practice, grow, conquer, and create. I love working with musicians to build the musical foundation for the folks on stage. I love watching the collaboration between cast, crew, orchestra and audience. I love it all, because you need it all to bring a story to life.
All of this has happened at Waukesha Civic Theatre the past couple months to bring The Goodbye Girl to life on the stage. I am blessed to be the music director as well as one of the musicians in the pit. This show is orchestrated for 21 people, and we’re doing it with 8. That requires a lot of creativity with the instrument books and very talented and flexible players. Luckily, we’ve got all of that. The members of the orchestra have worked hard to create the proper blend to support the style of the music and give the performers and audience a full sound.
Add to the mix the fact that we’re playing in a room separate from the theatre space and you’ve got the recipe for an exciting adventure. Our 8-piece orchestra spends show time in a corner of the back studio. Each of us is mic’d and the sound is piped into the theatre. Monitors on stage help the actors hear what we’re playing, and monitors in our corner help us hear what’s happening on stage. In addition, our conductor has a video monitor to watch the action, as well as a head-set to communicate with our stage manager. The actors on stage get no visual cues from the conductor.
What makes a system like this work? TRUST, FOCUS, FLEXIBILITY. Every person has to trust that every other person will do his or her job. The actors, the orchestra, the stage manger, the sound technicians – we’ve all done our prep work to make the lines of trust work. Focus is also a huge piece. Because we can’t rely on visual cues when something goes wrong, we must stay focused on the present. Again, the key players in the game are aware of everything going on around them so that they’re ready to go at all times. And flexibility is a must. Every person has to be willing to adjust to anything and everything. Missed lines, set pieces that get stuck, a lengthy costume change, a dropped beat. Anything can happen. And it probably will, which just adds to the excitement.
It’s a bit crazy, I agree. But sooooo much fun! Knowing that we’re all invested in doing our part to give our audiences the very best we can makes it all work. We’re a great team, and we’re having the time of our lives! See you at the Theatre!
~Anne Van Deusen, Music Director