Craig, Jackman sell out on Broadway, critics mixed

NEW YORK, Sept 30 Wed Sep 30, 2009 3:58pm EDT

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NEW YORK, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig, best known for playing big screen action heroes Wolverine and James Bond, have drawn record ticket sales for their play "A Steady Rain," but it drew mixed reviews on Wednesday after opening night.

USA Today raved that the two actors put in "stellar turns," but The New York Times' verdict was "Big names, little show."

The producers said this week the play broke the record for the highest weekly box office gross for a non-musical production on Broadway, taking in $1.17 million in the week ending Sept. 20.

Craig and Jackman are among the big name stars producers hope will boost sales on Broadway at a time of recession.

The play, by playwright Keith Huff, was a hit in Chicago before being brought to Broadway, where Jackman and Craig portray two Windy City cops, Denny and Joey, offering different accounts of a harrowing event that changed their lives.

New York Times critic Ben Brantley wrote that the play "is probably best regarded as a small, wobbly pedestal on which two gods of the screen may stand in order to be worshiped."

He added that the woman he saw the play with likely expressed the feelings of many in the audience when she said: "If only ... the play had been set in a police station locker room, where the characters might frequently change clothes."

New York post critic Elisabeth Vincentelli said Jackman was "vastly appealing" but miscast as a self-destructive troublemaker.

"Craig, his upper lip swallowed whole by a police-issue mustache, fares better and single-handedly lifts up the show," Vincentelli wrote. "Craig and Jackman were clearly eager to appear on stage together. Too bad they picked a clunky squad car for a vehicle."

Daily News critic Joe Dziemianowicz said the British and Australian actors "ooze confidence and charisma" but the play "is a stark and modest work that's all talk and no action."

He said the play underlined a familiar lesson: "Megastars can turn reading the phone book into an event. But that doesn't guarantee a wholly satisfying experience."

Elysa Gardner of USA Today was more generous: "Huff's briskly absorbing script has its cliches and contrivances, but Denny and Joey are drawn with such earthy wit and non-patronizing compassion that Rain never rings false or superficial."

"It's hard to imagine a better vehicle for two actors who clearly don't need larger-than-life characters to deliver grand performances," she wrote.

Jackman, 40, an Australian who starred in Hollywood hits such as "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," has starred on stage in New York before, winning a Tony, Broadway's top honor, for his portrayal of singer/songwriter Peter Allen in "The Boy from Oz" in 2004.

Craig, 41, has a strong record on the London stage but is making his Broadway debut. He is best known for playing British super spy James Bond in recent movie box office hits, "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace."

"A Steady Rain" is scheduled to run until Dec. 6.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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