Broadway Features and Reviews
The Miracle Worker: A Broadway Odyssey
By Meghan Ennes, Broadway Magazine
"The Miracle Worker," the story of Anne Sullivan's struggle to teach the young Helen Keller the power of communication, will be revived on Broadway this spring. The play itself is based on Keller's autobiography, The Story of My Life, focusing on the time period when she was growing up as a deaf-blind child in the deep south and her parents hired Sullivan as part-teacher, part-governess.
Incidentally the play's title originates from American author and humorist Mark Twain, who once referred to Sullivan as a miracle worker for all that she had done to teach Keller the meaning of words.
Theatergoers will be surprised to know that this celebrated, Tony-winning play first appeared as a made-for-TV film in 1957, on the anthology series "Playhouse 90." From there, William Gibson's brilliant screenplay was adapted to the stage at the Playhouse Theatre in 1959, where it met incredible success under the direction of Arthur Penn and put on 719 performances over the course of its 2-year run.
Part of wild success of "The Miracle Worker" can be attributed to its two leading ladies, who would later reprise their roles in the 1962 feature film; Anne Bancroft played the role of Annie, the teacher, while Patty Duke appeared as the wild, untamed Helen.
Both women gave award-winning performances. Duke was given a Theatre World Award for her portrayal of the deaf-blind American icon, while Bancroft won the production's fifth Tony when she was awarded Best Actress for the role of Annie in 1960. Although reviews at the time of the production's debut were mixed, most agreed that the actresses' touching and highly physical performances carried the show, and never disregarded the "brilliant" direction of Penn.
Time magazine reviewed the play just after its release in 1959, praising the high-power "Homeric tussles" which take place between teacher and student, a "battle that cannot be won until Helen, through her fingers, can signal her mind, can comprehend and communicate." Bancroft and Duke would later make the cover of Time in December of that year. Another contemporary review called it "fairly makeshift, at times clumsy," especially when the entire Keller family appeared onstage, scenes that were merely a "needed contrast" for the "blind-rage struggles toward the light that, in the hands of two remarkable actresses, constitute unforgettable theater."
In addition to Bancroft's Best Actress award, the play swept the 1960 Tony Awards, winning Best Play, Best Scenic Design, Best Direction, and Best Stage Technician. Two years later, the feature film received five academy award nominations, and Bancroft and Duke took home the Oscars for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.
This astonishing play returns to the stage this year at the Circle in the Square Theatre, where the amphitheatre setting is sure to amplify the production's high energy. The revival of the critically acclaimed "The Miracle Worker" will run from March 3rd to August 1st, 2010, with previews began February 12th. For ticketing and additional information, visit www.miracleworkeronbroadway.com.
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