Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, but some It girls should stick to acting in front of a camera. That’s not exactly how the song goes, but it might be my new motto after hearing that Katie Holmes (Dawson’s Creek, Batman Begins) has been cast in next season’s revival of Arthur Miller’s 1947 play All My Sons; she’ll be starring alongside the legendary John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, and Patrick Wilson. Sure, all three of the aforementioned actors have excelled in roles both on-screen and onstage, but I’m just not convinced Holmes has the same aptitude for both mediums (and have we even seen said aptitude on-screen yet?). I’m not one to care about celebrities and their professional pursuits, but I do care about the integrity of live theatre, and I know a whole lot of actresses with the chops to play Holmes’s role in All My Sons who would kill for the chance to do so.

I completely understand why producers like to cast “names” in their shows; it definitely helps sell tickets. But let’s be honest — a Katie Holmes fan is probably not an Arthur Miller fan (we can compare and contrast The Crucible and Dawson’s Creek in another post). A New York theatergoer who purposely buys a ticket to All My Sons to see Katie Holmes would probably be much happier at a performance of, let’s say, Mamma Mia!

In the interest of full disclosure, I knew Katie Holmes way back in the day when we danced at the same studio in Toledo, Ohio. I witnessed the blossoming of her career, from when she was discovered at a modeling competition to when she flew to North Carolina to film the pilot for Dawson’s Creek. I saw her play Lola in the St. John’s High School performance of Damn Yankees when she was 17. Holmes has that undefinable “it factor” and always has; after dance performances my parents were known to say things like, “Molly, your dancing was great, but we couldn’t stop watching Katie.” In light of some sketchy personal and religious decisions, she’s certainly deserving of a successful entertainment career. But she’s going to have to do some serious craft-honing to pull off acting on Broadway.

For one thing, it’s different than acting on film. Although the intention is the same, nuances in the delivery and environment make for distinct variations in technique. It’s kind of like asking a painter who works with watercolors to spray-paint a mural; even if he or she is working toward the same goal with either tool, it’s not the same medium. Just because you can do one does not mean you can do the other.

I hate to be so pessimistic about Holmes’s potential, but the recent celebs who’ve graced the Great White Way haven’t achieved much success. When Julianne Moore appeared in David Hare’s The Vertical Hour in 2006, Elyse Gardner wrote in USA Today that “Moore, the luminous leading lady known for her vibrant work in The Hours and many other films, isn’t a stranger to the stage. But in this Broadway debut, she can seem strained and self-conscious.” Last year Julia Roberts starred in Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain; the New York Times‘s Ben Brantley, a self-described Juliaholic, wrote, “The only emotion that this production generates arises not from any interaction onstage, but from the relationship between Ms. Roberts and her fans.” He went on to say, “She does not do well — at least not by any conventional standards of theatrical art.” And we’re talking about America’s Sweetheart here.

It’s only fair to note that Jennifer Garner was actually somewhat well received in this past season’s Cyrano de Bergerac, although she does have a long history onstage. And Claire Danes received mixed reviews in last season’s revival of Pygmalion, but the show itself was pretty much panned. All I’m saying is that Holmes has her work cut out for her.

I’m confident that this revival of All My Sons will be something to see; Lithgow, Wiest, and Wilson are tremendous actors, and the play itself is incredibly well written. Maybe Holmes will figure it out and really shine onstage, or maybe she’ll just be another pretty Hollywood diva who’s better suited for adoring close-ups. Prove me wrong, Mrs. Cruise, or I may have to release that video of us tap dancing to “Hand Jive.”

About the Author

Molly Marinik

Molly Marinik is a dramaturg and a director with a dance background. She is also passionate about developing new audiences of theatergoers. Molly is the founder and editor of Theatre Is Easy (theasy.com) a comprehensive website dedicated to providing accessible information about the New York theatre scene. BS in Visual Communication from Ohio University; currently pursuing a MA in Theatre History and Criticism at Brooklyn College. She's also sassier than her bio would lead you to believe.

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