In my Wall Street Journal drama column, I compare and contrast the original 1962 stage version and Mike Nichols’ 1966 screen adaptation of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Here’s an excerpt.
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When Hollywood filmed Broadway hits—something that it used to do as a matter of course—it was all too typically safe to assume that the quality of the screen version would vary in direct proportion to number of people involved in the adaptation who had also taken part in the original stage production. If the screenplay was knocked out by a studio veteran and none of the actors had previously played their roles onstage, you could almost always smell trouble.
That said, there have been certain glorious exceptions to this grim rule of thumb, among them Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” whose fourth Broadway revival was in previews when the coronavirus pandemic struck New York in March. On paper, Mike Nichols’ 1966 film version looked like a disaster in the making….
Yet against all odds, the film version of “Virginia Woolf” proved to be a wholly successful big-screen realization of Albee’s play….
Still, those lucky enough to see the Broadway production, which ran for a year and a half, unanimously regretted that the members of the original cast, directed by Alan Schneider, never got a chance to film their own distinctive performances. Fortunately for posterity, Columbia Records made a studio recording of the entire play four months after opening night. That four-LP set was reissued on CD in 2014 and can also be digitally downloaded. In addition, it has been uploaded to YouTube in its entirety.
To hear the original cast of “Virginia Woolf” is by no means to be disappointed in the extraordinary film version. Still, the performances of the stage cast are wholly absorbing in their own way….
* * *Read the whole thing here.
The original theatrical trailer for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: