The Broadway play to see last year was The Pillowman, so much so that I made sure that I got to the Booth Theater a couple of times; also, Doubt was worthy of all the Tony awards that it received. This year the one you've got to run to see -- and don't you dare miss it because it is going to sweep the Tonys -- is The History Boys, the hilarious, poignant, and often touching smash hit from London's National Theater of Great Britain. It was written by Alan Bennett, and it is one of the delights of this Broadway season. I saw it today at the Saturday matinee, and I think that it one of the great ensemble casts ever assembled on Broadway.
It is not often that this happens, but Actor's Equity has allowed the original British cast, which will be here for only a limited run, to perform the play in America. It is a rare chance to see the kind of work that goes on in London right here in Times Square.
The play is about a small group of British high school seniors who are getting ready to take a series of difficult exams which will determine if they will receive an "Oxbridge" education at the nation's two elite universities. But it is also about the deep relationships that develop between students, between teachers, and more importantly between teachers and students, For anyone who is or has been a teacher it is required viewing. It is the most thought provoking play about a school since Robert Morosco's chilling Child's Play. I am sure that as you watch the play thoughts of your high school days will creep in. Perhaps you will recognize in the boys a former version of yourself, or perhaps someone you know. More than likely, you will find one of your former teachers in the excellent array of adult characters that populate the drama.
It is such a tight ensemble that it is unfair to signal one actor without mentioning the others. Allow me to be unfair for a moment and signal out Richard Griffiths as the English teacher Hector and Samuel Barnett (pictured above), who plays the shy sensitive student named Posner. Both stand out in a cast which also includes the delightful Frances de La Tour (she played tall headmistress Madame Maxine in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), British character actor Clive Merrison (who has recorded the entire Sherlock Holmes canon for BBC radio), and Stephen Campbell Moore, who can be seen currently in AMC's smash hit Hustle.
Here is the official site of The History Boys. Click to get more information about this play.
In short, one of the most delightful plays Broadway has seen in many seasons, made even more special by the fact that it is currently being performed by the original British cast: don't miss it!