Review: Opening Night


by Mike Matthaiakis

“Opening Night” is a production that offers audiences a unique glimpse behind the scenes of the theatrical world, courtesy of the masterful direction of Ivo van Hove. Based on John Cassavetes’s iconic film, this musical adaptation, crafted by Rufus Wainwright, brings a fresh perspective to the stage, offering a tantalizing exploration of fame, obsession, and the blurred lines between reality and illusion.

At the heart of the narrative is Sheridan Smith’s captivating portrayal of Myrtle, a Broadway star grappling with the pressures of celebrity. Smith’s performance is a tour de force, her portrayal infused with depth, vulnerability, and a hint of dark allure. As Myrtle becomes entangled in a web of intrigue and tragedy, Smith navigates the complexities of her character with skill and nuance, drawing the audience into her world with every breathless revelation.

The supporting cast shines as well, with standout performances from Nicola Hughes as Sarah, the writer of the play within the play, and Benjamin Walker as Maurice, Myrtle’s ex-husband and leading man. Each actor brings a distinct energy to their role, adding layers of complexity to the production and keeping viewers engaged from start to finish.

One of the production’s most striking elements is its smart use of multimedia, seamlessly blending live performance with projected imagery to create a dynamic and immersive theatrical experience. From the intimate moments backstage to the larger-than-life spectacle of the stage, every aspect of “Opening Night” is meticulously crafted to captivate and enthrall.

However, despite its many strengths, the production is not without its flaws. While Rufus Wainwright’s music is undeniably enjoyable, the lyrics at times feel lacking in depth and resonance, failing to fully capture the emotional complexity of the story. Similarly, some narrative threads feel underdeveloped, leaving certain plot points feeling unresolved or disjointed.

Yet, despite these minor shortcomings, “Opening Night” remains a captivating and thought-provoking exploration of fame, identity, and the cost of artistic ambition. Under Ivo van Hove’s visionary direction, this musical adaptation breathes new life into a classic tale, offering audiences a thrilling journey into the heart of the theatrical world. It’s the most bizarre production at the moment, but it’s recommended.

Gielgud theatre, until July 27.