A Streetcar Named Desire

Stage productions

Original Broadway production

The original Broadway production was produced by Irene Mayer Selznick.[2] It opened at the Shubert in New Haven shortly before moving to the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on December 3, 1947.[2] Selznick originally wanted to cast Margaret Sullavan and John Garfield, but settled on Jessica Tandy and Marlon Brando, who were virtual unknowns at the time. The opening night cast also included Kim Hunter as Stella and Karl Malden as Mitch.[2] Tandy was cast after Williams saw her performance in a West Coast production of his one-act play Portrait of a Madonna. Williams believed that casting Brando, who was young for the part as it was originally conceived, would evolve Kowalski from being a vicious older man to someone whose unintentional cruelty can be attributed to youthful ignorance. Despite its shocking scenes and gritty dialogue, the audience applauded for half an hour after the debut performance ended.[3] Brooks Atkinson, reviewing the opening in The New York Times, described Tandy's "superb performance" as "almost incredibly true," concluding that Williams "has spun a poignant and luminous story."[4] Later in the run, Uta Hagen replaced Tandy, Carmelita Pope replaced Hunter, and Anthony Quinn replaced Brando. Hagen and Quinn took the show on a national tour and then returned to Broadway for additional performances. Early on, when Brando broke his nose, Jack Palance took over his role. Ralph Meeker also took on the part of Stanley both in the Broadway and touring companies. Tandy received a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play in 1948, sharing the honor with Judith Anderson's portrayal of Medea and with Katharine Cornell.

Uta Hagen's Blanche on the national tour was directed not by Elia Kazan, who had directed the Broadway production, but by Harold Clurman, and it has been reported, both in interviews by Hagen and observations by contemporary critics, that the Clurman-directed interpretation shifted the focus of audience sympathy back to Blanche and away from Stanley (where the Kazan version had located it). This was the original conception of the play, and has been reflected in subsequent revivals.

The original Broadway production closed, after 855 performances, in 1949.

Original cast

  • Jessica Tandy as Blanche DuBois
  • Karl Malden as Harold "Mitch" Mitchell
  • Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski
  • Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski
  • Rudy Bond as Steve Hubbell
  • Nick Dennis as Pablo Gonzales
  • Peg Hillias as Eunice Hubbell
  • Vito Christi as Young Collector
  • Richard Garrick as Doctor
  • Ann Dere as Nurse
  • Gee Gee James as Negro Woman
  • Edna Thomas as Mexican Woman

Original London production

The London production, directed by Laurence Olivier, opened at the Aldwych Theatre on October 12, 1949. It starred Bonar Colleano as Stanley, Vivien Leigh as Blanche, Renee Asherson as Stella, and Bernard Braden as Mitch.[1][5]

Belle Reprieve

Bette Bourne and Paul Shaw of the British gay theater company, Bloolips, and Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver of the American lesbian theater company, Split Britches, collaborated and performed a gender-bent production of Belle Reprieve, a twisted adaption of Streetcar. “This theatrical piece creates a Brechtian,” “epic drama” that relies on the reflective rather than emotional involvement of the audience—a “commentary on the sexual roles and games in Williams’s text.” Blanche was played by Bette Bourne as “man in a dress," Stanley was played by Peggy Shaw as a “butch lesbian,” Mitch was played by Paul Shaw as a “fairy disguised as a man,” and Stella was played by Lois Weaver as a “woman disguised as a woman.”[6]

Revivals

The first all-black production of Streetcar was likely performed by the Summer Theatre Company at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, in August 1953 and directed by one of Williams's former classmates at Iowa, Thomas D. Pawley, as noted in the Streetcar edition of the "Plays in Production" series published by Cambridge University Press. The black and cross-gendered productions of Streetcar since the mid-1950s are too numerous to list here.

Tallulah Bankhead, for whom Williams had originally written the role of Blanche, starred in a 1956 New York City Center Company production directed by Herbert Machiz.

The first Broadway revival of the play was in 1973. It was produced by the Lincoln Center, at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, and starred Rosemary Harris as Blanche, James Farentino as Stanley and Patricia Conolly as Stella.[7]

The Simpsons did an episode, A Streetcar Named Marge, in which "Streetcar!", a musical version of the play, was featured. Ned Flanders and Marge took the leading roles as Stanley and Blanche, respectively.

The Spring 1988 revival at the Circle in the Square Theatre starred Aidan Quinn opposite Blythe Danner as Blanche and Frances McDormand as Stella.[8]

A highly publicized revival in 1992 starred Alec Baldwin as Stanley and Jessica Lange as Blanche. It was staged at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, the same theatre that the original production was staged in. This production proved so successful that it was filmed for television. It featured Timothy Carhart as Mitch and Amy Madigan as Stella, as well as future Sopranos stars James Gandolfini and Aida Turturro. Gandolfini was Carhart's understudy.[9]

In 1997, Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre in New Orleans mounted a 50th Anniversary production, with music by the Marsalis family, starring Michael Arata and Shelly Poncy. In 2009, the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, where the original pre-Broadway tryout occurred, began a production of the play for its 200th anniversary season.

The 2005 Broadway revival was directed by Edward Hall and produced by The Roundabout Theater Company. It starred John C. Reilly as Stanley, Amy Ryan as Stella, and Natasha Richardson as Blanche.[10] The production would mark Natasha Richardson's final appearance on Broadway prior to her death in 2009 following a skiing accident.

The Sydney Theatre Company production of A Streetcar Named Desire premiered on September 5 and ran until October 17, 2009. This production, directed by Liv Ullmann, starred Cate Blanchett as Blanche, Joel Edgerton as Stanley, Robin McLeavy as Stella and Tim Richards as Mitch.[11]

From July 2009 until October 2009, Rachel Weisz and Ruth Wilson starred in a highly acclaimed revival of the play in London's West End at the Donmar Warehouse directed by Rob Ashford.

In November 2010, a student production by the Oxford University Dramatic Society was staged at the Oxford Playhouse which sold out and was critically acclaimed.[12]

In April 2012, Blair Underwood, Nicole Ari Parker, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Wood Harris starred in a multiracial adaptation at the Broadhurst Theatre.[13] Theatre review aggregator Curtain Critic gave the production a score of 61 out of 100 based on the opinions of 17 critics.[14]

A production at the Young Vic, London, opened on July 23, 2014, and closed on September 19, 2014. Directed by Benedict Andrews and starring Gillian Anderson, Ben Foster, Vanessa Kirby and Corey Johnson; this production garnered critical acclaim and is the fastest selling show ever produced by the Young Vic.[15] On September 16, 2014, the performance was relayed live to over one thousand cinemas in the UK as part of the National Theatre Live project to broadcast the best of British theatre live from the London stage to cinemas across the UK and around the world.[16] Thus far, the production has been screened in over 2000 venues.[17] From April 23, 2016 till June 4, 2016, the production was reprised at the new St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York City.[18]

In 2016 Sarah Frankcom directed a production at the Royal Exchange in Manchester starring Maxine Peake, Ben Batt, Sharon Duncan Brewster and Youssef Kerkour. It opened on 8 September and closed on 15 October. It was critically well received with Peake's performance in particular singled out for praise.[19]

In 2018, it headlined the third annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis at the Grandel Theatre. Carrie Houk, the Festival's Executive Artistic Director, and Tim Ocel, the director of the play, chose to cast the play with actors whose ages were close to Tennessee Williams' original intentions. (The birthday party is for Blanche's 30th birthday.) Sophia Brown starred as Blanche, with Nick Narcisi as Stanley, Lana Dvorak as Stella, and Spencer Sickmann as Mitch. Henry Polkes composed the original score, and James Wolk designed the set. The critics were unanimous in their praise. [20][21]


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