The craft of acting is to be taken seriously for those who can only dream of one thorough role a year, or every couple years – it is the difference, for example, between the original Millennium Series in Swedish and the Hollywood re-make.
It is talent and stamina. Mind and body – putting one’s energy into an exhausting role for that one “take” versus putting yourself into that one role over and over for weeks and months (even years) on end.
A “starlet” on Broadway is like reality television – except we don’t often spend an ungodly amount to watch those train wrecks.
Imagine for a (very) brief, unrealistic moment that Kim Khardashian decided to call herself an actor and found herself thrust upon a stage to do whatever it is that she does. Ticket sales would likely be through the roof if not sold out – but for how long before she and the audience wanted out. I don’t mean to diminish the actual work of Hollywood actors who have attempted to make a way for themselves among the greats of Broadway, but it might seem as ill a match as the above mentioned Ms.(...er Mrs… er…) Khardashian on the stage.
Hollywood doesn’t fit well in a place as honest as New York – where you can see imperfection on the stage – we like flaws here. New York also likes perfection… over and over again, something you only have to do in Hollywood once.
Elaine Stritch said it well on her “retirement”, “I’m just sick of the competition in New York, the feeling that I always have to rehearse to keep up my performance. […]” (Patrick Healey).
The starlets who flock here are maybe looking for a notch in their belt. The runs are usually limited because neither their stamina nor their persona could handle it for more than a few weeks. That “perfection” that Ms. Stritch spoke of achieving and being expected to achieve on a more than regular basis.
Unfortunately, Broadway is often about making money – New Yorker’s know that. While it may often be the tourists’ playground, as the box offices from many of the shows Isherwood mentioned demonstrated, even they tire of the letdown of seeing their favorite movie heroine up close and personal in a play they only came to see because he or she was in it.
I think casting Starlets or Hollywood actors is common because of the money the theatre community hopes to make. Plays are only so popular these days when everyone’s attention span is less than a macro-second. The theatre is not what it was and stars bring a boost. If we see a boost in “big names”, it might signal that the “money people” are looking to make a few more dollars or are low in the first place. Either way, it’s a money problem.
On the other hand, what Isherwood (and many of the comments) have shown is that this boost is only temporary because no one is really fooled and the shows close (even before originally being scheduled to end).
So Hollywood – Back to The Hill and “The Method” you go!