Broadway Features and Reviews
The Miracle Worker Finds Broadway Voice
By Meghan Ennes, Broadway Magazine
The inspiring story of American icon Helen Keller will be revived on Broadway when "The Miracle Worker" officially opens this week. Celebrating fifty years on the stage, the production will star Alison Pill as Anne Sullivan and Abigail Breslin makes her Broadway debut as the wild, deafblind Helen.
The play is directed by Kate Whoriskey, who is thrilled to stage the performance in an amphitheatre setting at the Circle in the Square Theatre. "As an audience member you'll be able to see both the action and the other audience members, so there's a real intimacy and a kind of pulse where everything's really alive." This will undoubtedly electrify the play's highly physical struggles between Annie and Helen, as the young teacher attempts to tame Helen's near-animalistic manners and teach her the power of communication.
The screenplay by the late William Gibson was first adapted to the stage in 1959, with Anne Bancroft as Annie and Patty Duke as Helen. This high-power duo carried the production to win 5 Tony awards, including Best Play, Best Direction, and a Best Actress award for Bancroft. Though the bar has been set high, the impressive cast of this year's revival looks to rekindle the intense energy of the original.
Pill, a celebrated stage actress, expressed excitement over playing the title character, "It feels incredible and terrifying and I can't wait to really begin to get to the heart of it." "The Miracle Worker" also stars Matthew Modine (And the Band Played On) as the hard, headstrong Captain Keller, and Jennifer Morrison (House) makes her Broadway debut as Kate Keller, Helen's mother.
The 13-year-old Breslin, best known for her roles on the big screen in Little Miss Sunshine and My Sister's Keeper, gushed in preliminary rehearsals about playing her "hero," Helen Keller, "She never gave up on herself and nobody ever gave up on her."
The young actress herself had to work through some awkward press when she was cast in the role of Helen back in October. Advocacy groups for blind and deaf actors roared across the pages of The New York Times, objecting to the producers' choice of casting a hearing actress in the role of Helen: "There are other, larger human and artistic issues at stake here," said one representative from the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts.
Aside from the controversial buzz, the production hired a vision impaired photographer to capture the play's imagery. John Dugdale, who specializes in early twentieth century-inspired, blue-tinted photography, artfully captured the breathtaking photo of Pill and Breslin that we can see on the production's poster, regardless of his vision impairment.
In a similar vein, both blind and deaf patrons have full access to "The Miracle Worker," with the availability of D-Scriptive for the blind and I-Caption hand-held captioning for the deaf – and at no extra cost.
Director Whoriskey describes how one is blown away by the powerful story of Helen and Annie: "I was really overwhelmed by the meaning in it... there's something wonderful about a family that was willing to galvanize, to do anything, to get this child to learn how to speak." You can watch – or rather, experience – "The Miracle Worker" during its run on Broadway opening officially on March 3rd to August 1st, 2010, at the Circle in the Square Theatre.
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