Angels in America review at Neil Simon Theatre, New York – ‘a perfect fit for Broadway’
After a sell-out run at the National Theatre in London, where it became the fastest selling show in the venue’s history, Marianne Elliott’s stirring and spectacular version of Tony Kushner’s seminal 1990s double bill transfers to Broadway, with most of its London principals in place.
This is a bit like taking coals to Newcastle – the equivalent of an American company bringing a David Hare state-of-the-nation play to the West End – but this is a production of Broadway-style scale and ambition. “Very Steven Spielberg!”, says a dying young man at the end of the first part, as an angel arrives in his dreams.
Though it’s playing in a theatre that usually hosts musicals – and was last home to a Broadway revival of Cats – it feels completely at home.
Angels in America is a highly politicised story, but also a deeply personal one. The performances of the cast are beautifully nuanced and have only grown in stature and distress since the London run.
Andrew Garfield and James McArdle, as a gay couple who split up, are heartbreaking in their anguish and separation. Nathan Lane is ferocious as the venal real-life lawyer Roy Cohn – the triumph of Kushner’s writing is in the way it creates compassion for him, something beautifully articulated by Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Cohn’s nurse.
The main change to the cast is that Lee Pace now plays the closeted Mormon lawyer Joseph Pitt, replacing Russell Tovey. He brings grace and grit to the role, alongside the stunning Denise Gough who reprises her role as his pill-popping wife.