By Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Assistant Stage Editor
“For the most part, I’ve found my ministers to be very human… All too human.” Elizabeth says to the Prime Minister John Major (Dylan Baker) in the opening scene. As she effortlessly sails through time she eventually becomes the Queen everyone knows her to
“I didn’t want one but the guards suggested it would be easier to track me on.” A current age Queen Elizabeth II stands center stage. She holds a new Samsung cell phone, whose ringtone is blaring and she doesn’t know how to silence. The Audience astounds at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre as audiences are transported through years of Great Britain’s history with the most influential and well-known monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
The Audience tells the incredible story of Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) and her storied friendships with her twelve Prime Ministers. The play chronicles close to 60 years of weekly audiences—discussions between the Queen and her Prime Minister—at Buckingham Palace. Both parties have an unspoken agreement never to repeat what is said during these twenty-minute meetings on Tuesday afternoons. The play allows audiences to step inside the mysterious world and imagine a series of pivotal meetings between the Prime Ministers and the Queen. From Churchill to Thatcher to Cameron, each Prime Minister has used these private meetings as a confessional for intimate and sometimes explosive conversations. The Queen in turn reveals items from her past as she advises, consoles and sometimes teases her closest colleagues.
Written by British playwright Peter Morgan, the writer behind movies such as The Queen and Frost/Nixon, The Audience peels back the layers of Queen Elizabeth II in a heartwarming and sometimes hilarious set of sequences. The play premiered on the West End in 2013 to rave reviews. Helen Mirren originated the role on the West End and even took home the 2013 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play. Now, she takes her award-winning performance to the States.
Helen Mirren shines as Queen Elizabeth II. No stranger to playing royalty, Mirren took home the 2006 Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. She is now channeling a different side of the Queen as she meets with twelve Prime Ministers over the course of her sixty-year reign. Mirren proves she is Broadway royalty as she effortlessly transforms from a young Elizabeth during her first day as Queen to the older, wiser monarch we see today. She even has conversations with a younger Elizabeth in moments of reflection. Mirren completely embodies Elizabeth and she delivers some heartwarming and hysterical lines. Although she rarely leaves the stage, there are two truly magnificent and standout moments where Mirren shines.
The first comes towards the beginning of The Audience during Elizabeth’s first ever audience with Winston Churchill (Dakin Matthews). Mirren effortlessly transforms into a young and somewhat naive Elizabeth as she tries to navigate her way through an audience with a historic political figure. Matthews delivers a stellar performance as Churchill and helps convey the difference between the veteran political figure and the new Queen of England. Helen Mirren’s second stand out moment of The Audience comes at the end of Act one. An older Elizabeth reflects on her coronation day and how it was not only her taking an oath before the people of Great Britain but in front of God. Mirren whips around and effortlessly transforms into a younger Elizabeth on the day of her coronation. The exquisite replica of her coronation dress flows flawlessly on Mirren as she recreates this historic and momentous occasion.
Richard McCabe as Prime Minister Harold Wilson delivers an amazing performance as Queen Elizabeth’s supposed favorite Prime Minister. McCabe effortlessly portrays Prime Minister who begins as a common man and grows into his role as one of the most powerful political figures in British history. McCabe and Mirren play off of each other perfectly as they deliver some of the funniest moments in The Audience. One of their standout scenes comes in the opening of Act two as Harold Wilson and Queen Elizabeth II meet in Balmoral Castle during a summer retreat. The two of them simply play cards, drink brandy and of course admire the Queen’s adorable Corgis. The two of them deliver some of the best quips in this scene.
Another character to note is Margaret Thatcher played by Judith Ivey. She is portrayed as a foil and villain-like character to Elizabeth, and Ivey brings the character to life. However, the scene gets shuffled into the background of some of the other audiences.
Besides the impeccable acting in The Audience, the costumes will take your breath away. Tony Award winner Bob Crowley acts as designer on this show and he does a splendid job. He brings the costumes and looks so iconic to Queen Elizabeth II to life right on stage in some of the most amazing ways. Mirren transforms into new costumes right before audiences’ eyes. The most stunning costume comes at the end of Act one when Mirren dons Queen Elizabeth’s coronation dress – as beautiful dress that takes audiences breath away.
The Audience astounds and brings the house to their feet as it gives us an inside look at Queen Elizabeth II’s private conversations with Prime Ministers. Helen Mirren delivers a Tony Award worthy performance and brings to life a monarch that has touched several generations.
The Audience is running until June 28, 2015 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in NYC.
For tickets visit http://theaudiencebroadway.com/