It's almost common now for actors in New York to jump into the audience and roam about the aisles, as if the stage can't contain them. Douglas Hodge has them all beat: The theater itself can't contain him.
A new Roundabout Theatre Company production of "Cyrano de Bergerac" is just getting started when the doors along 43rd Street are rattled and from outside comes Hodge, a plume in his wide hat, a sword at his side and a blue streak coming out of his mouth. A ripple of nervousness comes across the audience as the shadowy Cyrano storms about in darkness.
It's a brilliant touch of unsettling stagecraft from director Jamie Lloyd and Hodge, a Tony Award winner for "La Cage aux Folles" who pours a great deal of energy and defaces his own attractiveness to play the grotesquely nosed hero in the show that opened Thursday at the American Airlines Theatre.
Alas, there's not enough of such startling touches to keep this production vibrant. Despite a wonderfully yeasty Hodge, an always welcome Patrick Page and a lovely Clemence Poesy as Roxane, this "Cyrano" often lumbers over its 2 hours and 45 minutes, tending to get bogged down in the florid, repetitive verse.
This production features a translation of Edmond Rostand's original French by Ranjit Bolt entirely in rhyming couplets, which sounds like it might be like a children's book. Not to worry: The rhymes sneak up on you and never announce themselves garishly.
Of that famous nose, Bolt writes, "You see it and you can't help crying out: 'Jumping Jehoshaphat! What's that about?'" And Cyrano's balcony scene is unabashedly romantic: "My wildest dreams never encompassed this!/All that remains now is to die of bliss!" our hero tells his beloved. The content of the writing isn't the problem, it's just there's so much of it that it often drags down the swashbuckling tale.
Lloyd and the creative team have boldly created a messy world for Cyrano, one that's bawdy and smoky and where food gets tossed around. The sword fights are serious and there's quite a bit of sticks rhythmically hitting furniture.
Hodge gives his all to a man who is an arrogant swordsman and overcompensating braggart, but one who gets tongue-tied and mousey when it comes to actually telling Roxane how he feels. His Cyrano is cartoonish but he manages to keep him from becoming camp. It's clear that this boisterous Cyrano has been created from the ruins of a scarred and hurt man, which Hodge reveals over time.
Cyrano's love, of course, loves another, so Cyrano becomes the ventriloquist to a good-looking dummy, Christian, played with increasing pathos by Kyle Soller. Another rival, Page, is perfectly cast -- his voice, his size, his sonorous delivery are of a man who is self-consciously noble amid a group of rougher souls.
"Cyrano" needs a knockout for Roxane -- the character is, after all, the object of so much love -- and Poesy, making her Broadway debut, fits the bill in an understated way. She's luminous and strong at the same time, with a natural French accent and a show-me-or-shut-up irritation when being wooed.
Soutra Gilmour has created both the sets and costumes and emerges with bulky, heavy outfits for the gentlemen -- Page unfortunately begins to resemble Puss in Boots -- that seem lived-in and worn. Her balconies, wooden doors, stone castles and arched walkways look similarly ancient.
Japhy Weideman's lighting alternates from trying to make things look like a Renaissance painting to everything looking quite dim, except for a moment toward the end at a convent when rows of bulbs on stage suddenly become visible and the backlit effect is ruined.
One is reminded while watching this "Cyrano" that it is a valentine to the theater itself. It starts with a scene outside a theater and its hero basically feeds lines to an actor. It is a play about the importance of words, but too many can also kill momentum.
This production may be a tad overdone, overstuffed and overwrought at times, but it has something that Cyrano himself considered one of the most important things in the world. It has panache.
He’s got the soul of a poet, the nose of a monster and an express pass to Broadway.
The hero of Edmond Rostand’s swashbuckling romance, “Cyrano de Bergerac,” has paraded his panache 14 times on the Great White Way between the 1898 premiere and the revival headlined by Kevin Kline just five years ago.
The production that opened last night at the American Airlines Theatre boosts the tote board to 15.
The Roundabout Theatre Company looked to London for its key actor, fresh translation and direction for a story set in 17th-century Paris. Enjoyable enough but uneven, the new take doesn’t present a compelling reason for revisiting the material so soon.
The show’s greatest asset is its man with the beak, Douglas Hodge. An appealing British actor with a resume spanning cloudy Pinter plays and sunny musicals, Hodge jousts literally and verbally and delivers a robust and ebullient Cyrano.
Hodge’s silver-tongued talent comes through in the famous scene in which Cyrano, who loves language a lot and Roxane more, helps Christian, his rival for her heart, woo the beauty by saying all the right things. A surrogate seducer, Cyrano doesn’t win Roxane (not then, anyway), but he has his say and feels its effects.
The performance plants another showy feather in Hodge’s cap, following his 2010 role in “La Cage aux Folles.” Playing a sparkly cross-dresser in that musical, he belted “I Am What I Am” to a Best Actor Tony.
Brit director Jamie Lloyd’s staging has its own sort of duality. Soutra Gilmour’s textured costumes and rough-edged scenery set the story in its period. Ranjit Bolt’s fresh verse translation, with its anachronistic references, such as the word “humongous,” bursts out as far more modern. The back and forth situates things in a no-man’s land.
Key supporting performances aren’t all on the nose. Clemence Poesy, a French actress whose ripe beauty recalls Nastassja Kinski, brings little juice to the underwritten Roxane. Same goes for Kyle Soller as easy-on-the-eyes but empty-in-the-head Christian.
On the plus side, Patrick Page, most recently seen as the villain in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” adds heft to his scenes and nimbly talks the talk with a velvety boom.
Page provides a fine foil for Hodge, who has slid gracefully behind the wheel of a star vehicle. When all is said and done, it’s easier to admire the driver than his ride.
The title character in Edmond Rostand’s swashbuckling romance of a play, “Cyrano de Bergerac,” has a big nose. Make that a huge nose.
But don’t mention it to Cyrano, because he’ll cut ya — first with ferocious quips, then with his blade. This guy has a serious chip on his face.
Instead of the usual long, pointy prosthesis — think of Steve Martin in the movie adaptation “Roxanne” — the schnoz that Douglas Hodge sports here is rounded and squat. It looks like a blunt instrument, a quality shared with this new Roundabout revival as a whole.
Indeed, while Jamie Lloyd’s production excels at the comedy, it misses the target when it comes to the play’s somber side. Lackluster supporting turns further undermine the show.
It’s easy to see what drew Hodge, a British star who won a Tony for “La Cage aux Folles,” to this flamboyant role.
Cyrano is a soldier of noble extraction in 17thcentury France, one equally adept at wordplay and swordplay. The part demands an extravagant swagger underlined by crippling insecurity. Kevin Kline achieved that tricky balance in the 2007 revival. Here, Hodge proves to be brilliant at slapstick, but for too much of the show he favors Cyrano’s clownish facade over his fragile soul.
Basically, Cyrano wrecks his own life because, despite his many qualities, he has what a therapist would call low self-esteem.
He certainly can’t imagine the beautiful Roxane (Clémence Poésy) could ever love him. When she falls for his fellow cadet, Christian de Neuvillette (Kyle Soller), the gallant Cyrano volunteers to act as go-between.
And Christian needs help: He’s handsome as heck but readily acknowledges that he’s “quite devoid of wit.” Like a man-size puppet, he voices Cyrano’s love messages to their common flame.
Hodge exerts himself mightily to bring Cyrano to life, and he’s at his finest when lunging and parrying, both physically and verbally — and Ranjit Bolt’s brisk but overly vulgar new translation requires maximum dexterity.
“Our hilts clash with a pleasant ring,” Cyrano says, taunting an opponent. “Drawn to you like a fly to s - - t.” Pardon his French.
Hodge must work hard to sell this and make up for his overly timid counterparts.
Perhaps unwilling to repeat his entertaining excess as the Green Goblin in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” Patrick Page so underplays Roxane’s nefarious suitor, the foppish Comte de Guiche, that he barely registers.
The lovebirds don’t fare much better. Soller lacks the requisite touch of dash — the guy may be tongue-tied but he should still have some sex appeal — and Poésy is largely ineffective as a particularly girlish Roxane. The one thing the French-born actress brings to the table is a perfect pronunciation — unshared by the rest of the cast — of the characters’ names.
When Hodge finally dials it down at the very end, the emotion lacking in the rest of the show comes flooding in. If only there had been more foreshadowing. By then it’s a lot, too late.
Five or 10 minutes into the new revival of "Cyrano de Bergerac," at the American Airlines Theater, something like a hurricane whooshes through the house. It’s the kind of wind that makes jaded theatergoers widen their eyes and hold tight to their seats as it sweeps away cobwebs, preconceptions and dank mustiness.
This gale force has a name, Douglas Hodge, and it is inhabiting, enlivening and almost exploding the title character of Edmond Rostand’s beloved chestnut of a play from 1897, which opened on Thursday night in a Roundabout Theater Company production.
Mr. Hodge — last seen in sequins and high heels for his Tony-winning turn as the cross-dressed, hyperemotional chanteuse of “La Cage aux Folles” — has returned to Broadway wearing a swashbuckler’s cape and a two-ton nose. But don’t worry about these new accessories weighing him down. From the moment he makes his truly startling entrance (and no, I won’t tell you how), Mr. Hodge is as light and oxygenating as air, even as the pure physical impact of his performance sets you reeling.
That blast of freshness is essential to any new production of “Cyrano,” vigorously staged here by the rising young London director Jamie Lloyd. After all, Broadway had a perfectly charming production of Rostand’s much-revived classic, starring Kevin Kline, only 5 years ago, and I’ve always felt that one Cyrano every 10 years is quite enough, if not too much.
I could have sworn I heard moss growing during the opening minutes of this “Cyrano.” True, it has one of those handsome period sets, with costumes to match (both by the gifted Soutra Gilmour), that has become a Roundabout trademark. This one has a promisingly (and atypically) dark and unsanitary look, evoking the dingy, smelly Paris of the 17th century.
But my heart started to sink as soon as those first rhymed lines (per Ranjit Bolt’s translation) came clomping out of the actors’ mouths. (A cavalier describing himself in relation to the woman he adores: “A simple soldier, quite devoid of wit/I find I’m in her presence, and that’s it.”)
And, oh, all that buildup to the arrival of the title character, who is expected to show up any minute in a courtyard theater. Cyrano — we are told by his gossipy friends and admirers — is a mythic hero, a “rare being” who’s a poet, duelist, soldier and gourmet par excellence. His outsize talents are matched only by the size of his nose, about which he is most sensitive. Yeah, yeah, bring him on already.
Then, suddenly, he’s here, there and everywhere. Mr. Hodge doesn’t so much take the stage as the whole theater. And it turns out that his entrance has been perfectly set up — not by the inflated descriptions of him but by the hideously mannered performance of a court actor (Andy Grotelueschen), which Cyrano loudly interrupts.
This banishing of a hokey actor has special resonance here, for Mr. Hodge will proceed to transform the florid hamminess we often associate with Cyrano. The play, which tells the story of how its title character becomes the voice of the handsome, tongue-tied man who courts the woman Cyrano loves, remains a rankly sentimental tear-jerker; that is its nature and its purpose.
But in exploring Cyrano’s self-sacrifice for Roxane (Clémence Poésy), the beautiful cousin he adores, and Christian (Kyle Soller), the young man she thinks she loves, Mr. Hodge finds opalescent shimmer in a marble character. There are even moments when he makes Cyrano seem like a figure of Shakespearean grandeur.
Mr. Hodge has played Shakespeare heroes (including the title role of “Titus Andronicus”); he has also played a shaky stand-up comic (in Joe Penhall’s “Dumb Show”). And there are vestiges of both in his Cyrano. Like the archetypal unhappy clown, this Cyrano seems truly at ease only in performance, willing himself into larger-than-life stances that both exaggerate and disguise his insecurities.
Composing an envoi while fighting a duel, or reciting the famed catalog of rhetorical styles for insulting his nose, Mr. Hodge’s Cyrano is a man of brilliant bombast and many voices. Confessing his love for Roxane to a poeticizing baker (Bill Buell), he looks shriveled and sounds almost preverbal. Without his armor of grandstanding eloquence and valor, he is left naked and shivering.
This allows Mr. Hodge and his director to turn the play’s best-known scene — in which Cyrano, pretending to be Christian, woos Roxane beneath her balcony — into a thrilling process of self-discovery. Standing in the shadows, this Cyrano radiates the excitement of a man who has finally found his natural part to play.
“Shall I make you, and you make me complete?” he has asked Christian earlier, when first proposing the courtship by proxy of Roxane. Now under the balcony, when Cyrano says, as Christian, “Somehow I’ve never spoken from the heart till now,” his blissed-out self-astonishment lets us know that he’s speaking as himself, as well.
Mr. Soller, by the way, is just fine in the thankless role of Christian. The lovely Ms. Poésy (of Harry Potter movies and “Birdsong” on television) brings a welcome touch of Gallic perfectionism and craftiness to a woman who insists that her men be exquisitely spoken. And Patrick Page (the original Green Goblin in, and savior of, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”) is a perfect villainous aristocrat, as silkily sinister as Claude Rains in Errol Flynn costume movies.
And, yes, an ideal “Cyrano” must have some of the dash and splendor of such adventure films. Mr. Lloyd, who directed a dazzling “Duchess of Malfi” at the Old Vic last summer, doesn’t stint on the derring-do factor and heightens the play’s appeal to the inner Robin Hoods of bookish boys. (Cyrano, remember, is a fighter and a poet, who doesn’t actually have to kiss the girl.)
So we have rattling, minuet-perfect sword fights (staged by Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum); swelling cinematic music (by Charlie Rosen); and band-of-brothers battlefield tableaus guaranteed to bring a lump into the throats of hawks and doves alike. The entire mise-en-scène, including an inspired patisserie vignette that keeps the flour flying, suggests a Platonic frat house for rowdy lads with chivalric dreams.
Still, though I hate to say it, that old ennui crept up on me whenever Mr. Hodge wasn’t onstage. Mercifully, that’s only a small fraction of the production. And I defy anyone not to shiver when this Cyrano, in the play’s penultimate scene, stands tall amid cannon and musket smoke, his arms raised to the heavens. “Roxane!” he yells, and his voice quakes with the ultimate masochist-hero’s agony of a love lost forever.
Despite the famous fellow in the title, "Cyrano de Bergerac" is really a three-sided romantic tragedy.
Of course, Edmond Rostand's big, old-fashioned 19th century heartbreaker is most beloved for its depiction of a beautiful soul trapped behind Cyrano's giant nose. For the full effect, however, this needs to be a genuine trio of love, with a heroine, Roxane, who deserves such adoration, and an inarticulate young rival, Christian, whose great looks can almost charm a girl into not missing the pretty talk.
The revival at the American Airlines Theatre has just one of the three requisites -- Douglas Hodge as a kind and rather rough-hewn Cyrano. Alas, in most other ways, this is a busy, generic production with a Roxane (Clémence Poésy, imported from France) and a Christian (Kyle Soller, an American working in London) who hardly register onstage with all the swashbuckling Gascons, pastry cooks and ruffians.
Hodge, the multilayered British actor who won a Tony in 2010 as the aging drag queen in "La Cage aux Folles," makes a sweet, tender knockabout of a Cyrano. Unlike Kevin Kline, so stylishly heartsick with Jennifer Garner in the superior 2007 Broadway revival, Hodge goes more for a scruffy spaniel facade -- a tears-of-a-clown portrayal of the nobility behind literature's classic homely face.
The lopsided production, staged by British director Jamie Lloyd with standard-issue sets and costumes, does have another attribute on the side. Patrick Page, whose sophisticatedly evil Green Goblin was the only clever part of "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark," brings both menace and surprising poignancy to the imperious selfish letch, Comte de Guiche. With a voice that seems to slither up from the bottom of a dark mine and classical experience beyond his Grinch and evil Uncle Scar in "The Lion King," Page goes so far beyond the cardboard outlines of this villain that we wish the play were about Cyrano and him.
The translation by Ranjit Bolt is unpleasantly fixed on exclamations of excrement. For a play about loving words and a hero for whom bad poetry is a fighting offense, this just feels wrong.
The first and last time that the marvelous British actor Douglas Hodge graced a Broadway stage, he wore sequins and mascara. As drag queen Albin in a 2010 staging of La Cage Aux Folles, Hodge captured both the charisma and the aching vulnerability of a flamboyant personality with a fragile heart, earning a Tony Award in the process.
In the Roundabout Theatre Company's thrilling new revival of Cyrano de Bergerac (* * * * out of four), Hodge turns up as a very different character, but one possessing a similar duality. And it's a safe bet, even at this early stage, that he'll collect another Tony nod for his effort.
The title role of Edmond Rostand's 1897 play has attracted many formidable talents through the years, among them Ralph Richardson, Christopher Plummer, Derek Jacobi and Broadway's most recent Cyrano, Kevin Kline. But in this production, which opened Thursday at the American Airlines Theatre, Hodge manages to breathe new fire into the brave, brilliant hero with the Achilles nose.
Mind you, the leading man benefits from a superb supporting cast, directed with blazing vigor by Hodge's fellow Brit Jamie Lloyd, and from Ranjit Bolt's witty, earthy translation, also a U.K. import.
When this Cyrano expounds on the virtues of his proboscis, shortly after making his first entrance, his verse is at once lyrical and hilariously profane. When, later, he stands beneath his adored Roxane's balcony, pouring seductive words into the mouth of Christian -- the simple soldier whom Cyrano allows to woo his lovely cousin with his own letters -- the bittersweet ache beneath his poetry is painfully accessible.
Lloyd, likewise, proves adept at mining the play's pathos and humor, its romantic ardor and its swashbuckling action. From Cyrano's early duel with a foolish challenger to the climactic battle in which he and Christian risk their lives, there are scenes as gripping and exhilarating as any you're likely to see on stage this season.
Hodge, equally convincing as a dazzling wordsmith and a fearless fighter, a passionate (if unrequited) lover and a wounded, haunted soul, is well matched by the other principals. It would be hard to imagine a more ideal Roxane, in form or execution, than the gorgeous French actress Clemence Poesy, who brings both a playful intelligence and an effortless sensuality to the part.
Kyle Soller's Christian is neither a bland pretty boy nor a total dimwit; his forthright earnestness makes him credible as Cyrano's unlikely ally. Conversely, Patrick Page -- last seen in Times Square as cartoon villain the Green Goblin in Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark -- is masterfully dastardly as Comte de Guiche, who also covets Roxane's affection, though his arrogance repels her far more than Cyrano's looks.
These assets add up to the most exciting Broadway production of a pre-20th century classic since 2010's The Merchant of Venice -- a winner by more than a nose.
Credit helmer Jamie Lloyd with an original concept for staging Rostand's 19th-century romantic drama. Ditching the affected manners, elaborate court dress, and elegant verse readings associated with classic presentations of this French masterpiece, the Brit director portrays Cyrano as a swashbuckling military leader with the same lusty appetites as his soldiers -- who happen to enjoy a good poetry contest as much as a tavern brawl. But a lack of restraint spoils the fun, making it all seem too big (Cyrano's honker), too much (stomping on tables), and over the top (Douglas Hodge's star turn).
Lloyd's big achievement is to remind us that France is at war with Spain, so there are troops everywhere waiting to be shipped off to the battlefield. Lloyd's production doesn't open as usual, with tout le monde in attendance at a fine theater to enjoy a fashionable play, but in the dirt courtyard of a common inn filled with boisterous soldiers. The new social milieu is further established by Soutra Gilmour's rough setting and scruffy costumes -- no fancy duds around here.
These uncouth men, with their filthy clothes and ratted hair (designed by Amanda Miller), apparently love a verse drama as much as any court dandy does. They're more excited, though, about the fight brewing between Cyrano de Bergerac (Hodge), a hot-blooded Guardsman, and the classical actor he drove from the stage for overacting. Getting into the spirit for a good brawl, the soldiers drink themselves blind, and pound their boot heels on the wooden tavern furniture -- which is quite fun until, after much repetition, it isn't.
In the same way, Hodge's dynamic interpretation of Cyrano is initially thrilling. This sensitive poet and graceful duelist has been reborn as a blunt soldier and a man of action, much admired by other blunt soldiers and men of action. Hodge (returning to Broadway after his much-lauded debut in "La Cage aux Folles") sustains this interesting characterization throughout the wooing scenes he plays with Christian (Kyle Soller, who is pretty enough, but a wooden performer), the young cadet who wins Roxane's heart by mouthing Cyrano's poems of love.
This more robust Cyrano also allows Hodge to play to the heightened vulnerability of manly men who find themselves in love. For all his verbal eloquence, this bluff warrior with the grotesque nose is pitifully unnerved by his feelings for the lovely Roxane, portrayed here in a gem of a performance by Clemence Poesy, a young French actress with a true taste for Rostand's witty poetry.
Clever as it seemed in the opening scenes, the concept soon overwhelms Rostand's high classical style and soaring poetry. Hodge is undone by the sheer athleticism of the production style, and the vulgarized courtiers have no more taste for poetry than the soldiers.
Poesy, however, never for an instant allows Roxane to lose her wit and intelligence. Patrick Page (out of costume at last after his gig as the Goblin in "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark") also rises above it all with his beautifully articulated perf as the despicable Count de Guiche. Funny enough, de Guiche is the only character in the play to wear the traditional French lace collar -- but on Page it looks anything but effete. Truly manly men, it seems, can get away with wearing lace collars and speaking in rhyming couplets.