In 1964, long before theater producers started to experiment with nontraditional casting, one of America's greatest caricaturists did a series of brilliant sketches entitled "Unlikely Casting." Among Al Hirschfeld's hilarious drawings were:
- Jimmy Durante as Professor Higgins.
- Zero Mostel as Peter Pan.
- Carol Channing as Lady Macbeth.
- Barbra Streisand as St. Joan.
- Jason Robards, Jr. as Puck.
- Carol Burnett as Blanche Du Bois.
- Peter Ustinov and Boris Karloff in The Odd Couple.
- Buddy Hackett as Hamlet.
- Bea Lillie as Ophelia.
- Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine in Noel Coward's Private Lives.
- Barry Goldwater and Lyndon B. Johnson in Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot.
- Bert Lahr as King Lear.
- Sammy Davis, Jr. and Robert Preston as the Dromio Twins in the 1938 Rodgers & Hart musical, The Boys From Syracuse.
Since then, theatre geeks have often found great sport in indulging their casting fantasies (the most elaborate of which usually revolve around who should appear in the next production of Stephen Sondheim's Follies). Some ideas indicate solid, albeit wishful thinking:
- A production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? starring Bette Midler as Martha, David Hyde-Pierce as George, Neal Patrick Harris as Nick and Robin de Jesus as Honey.
- Allison Janney as Auntie Mame.
- A movie musical of 1962's Little Me starring Ben Stiller and Christina Hendricks.
Others could only take place in a galaxy far, far away:
- A revival of William Gibson's The Miracle Worker starring Ethel Merman as Annie Sullivan and Carol Channing as Helen Keller.
- Carmen Miranda starring in a revival of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
- The late, great Marion Lorne as Dolly Levi.
Here are some unlikely casting ideas I doubt we'll ever get to see:
- A revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Kristen Chenowith as Maggie, Peter Dinklage as Brick, Harvey Fierstein as Big Daddy and Kirstie Alley as Big Mama.
- Bruce Vilanch as King Lear.
- Joan and Melissa Rivers in The Glass Menagerie.
- Chris Rock's Professor Harold Hill wooing Audra McDonald's Marion Paroo in The Music Man.
- Rosie O'Donnell as Rosina Daintymouth (the witch in Engelbert Humperdinck's opera, Hansel und Gretel).
- Dame Edna as Blanche Du Bois.
- A revival of Fiddler on the Roof starring Gilbert Gottfried as Tevye and Liza Minelli as Golde (with Seth Rudetsky as Yente the Matchmaker).
- A production of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew with Jim Parsons as Petruchio and Lisa Lampanelli as Kate.
- Stephen Colbert as Mary Poppins.
- A remake of Lust in the Dust starring Kathy Griffin, Sarah Palin, and Mario Cantone.
- A revival of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion starring Lewis Black as Professor Henry Higgins and Snooki as Eliza Doolittle.
- A production of Peter Shaffer's Equus starring Mike Daisey and Nick Adams.
- Bernadette Peters headlining a revival of Arthur Kopit's Oh, Dad, Poor Dad, Momma's Hung You In The Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad.
There's no harm in dreaming impossible dreams.
To read more of George Heymont go to My Cultural Landscape