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The Heiress is a Tony Award-winning Broadway play which was penned for the stage by Ruth and Augustus Goetz. The theatrical production has been critically acclaimed since its debut and has also been revived a number of times, each of which have also been well-received. The Heiress is now considered an early 20th century theatrical classic and has come to be loved by many people. The play is currently slated for yet another revival, amidst high anticipation among theatre enthusiasts. The production will feature some of the finest actors in Hollywood today and is sure to be one of the year’s theatrical highlights. It would come as no surprise, then, if the Heiress tickets become one of the most sought-after Broadway-related commodities this year.
An adaptation of a novel by the acclaimed writer Henry James, the story of the play is set in New York during the mid-19th century. At its center is a woman named Catherine Sloper, the sweet young daughter of a wealthy, authoritarian father – the brilliant, but austere Dr. Austin Sloper. The events of the plot begin to unfold when a young man named Morris Townsend attempts to court the shy and timid Catherine. Already harboring disdain for his own daughter, Dr. Sloper does not trust Townsend, believing him to be chasing her for her inheritance. He agrees to the union thinking that it will not last. Thereon, the story unfolds in the form of a tragicomedy, touching on such universal themes as greed, hatred, loss, the sincerity of love and the domineering nature of parents in a dysfunctional family.
The original production of The Heiress was directed by Jed Harris and featured such prominent actors as Basil Rathbone, Wendy Hiller and Peter Cookson in the main cast. It premiered on Broadway in September 1947 at the Biltmore Theatre in midtown-Manhattan, where it ran for a full year, playing more than four hundred shows.
The show received glowing reviews from critics. In his review of the play, Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times wrote “As things have been going on Broadway recently, ‘The Heiress’ is a refreshing excursion into intelligence and good taste.” He further commended Basil Rathbone’s performance, saying “As Dr. Sloper, Catherine’s keenly-inhuman parent, Mr. Rathbone has one of his most actable parts. He plays it perfectly with irony and arrogance.” The production was also nominated for a Tony Award in two separate categories, specifically Best Actor in a Play – for Basil Rathbone - and Best Costume Design.
Since its debut, the Heiress has been revived three times over the past six decades – in 1950, 1976 and 1995 - each time to universal critical praise. The 1976 production was nominated for two Drama Desk Awards, one for Outstanding Actor in a Play and the other for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play. Perhaps the most successful of all these revivals, however, was the 1995 production. The show was directed by Gerald Gutierrez and starred Cherry Jones, Jon Tenney, Frances Sternhagen and Philip Bosco in the central roles. It was nominated for two major awards, a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Play and a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. The show won both awards and made stars out of its cast. The Heiress was even adapted into an equally acclaimed feature-length film, which was nominated for several Academy Awards and was described by Bosley Crowther of the New York Times as a film that “crackles with allusive life and fire in its tender and agonized telling of an extraordinarily characterful tale.”
The Heiress is now being revived for the stage yet again, this time featuring such illustrious names as Oscar-nominee Jessica Chastain – known for her critically acclaimed performances in films like The Tree of Life, Take Shelter and The Doubt – in the role of Catherine Sloper. The cast also features Dan Stevens, of Downton Abbey fame, in the role of Morris Townsend. The role of Dr. Sloper will be played by Academy Award-nominee David Strathairn , who is recognized for his performances in films like Good Night and Good Luck, The Bourne Ultimatum, L.A Confidential and several others .
The Heiress is now considered a seminal piece of theatre, and is frequently listed by prominent critics as one of the best plays ever written. Its upcoming star-studded revival is sure to both sustain its reputation and draw audiences in droves. Theatre enthusiasts will be happy to know that The Heiress tickets are now widely available.
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