A new Broadway show based on the making of Jaws, co-written by and starring Robert Shaw’s son, is some of the most fun I’ve had at the theater in years.
Wearing my finest elasmo-swag to the theater
“Jaws” changed the world, with scientific, cultural, and political impacts that continue to this day. Jaws made the world terrified of sharks, contributing to the current ongoing shark conservation crisis. (Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws, was so troubled by this that he dedicated the last years of his life to saving sharks.) The Hooper character, the first time a scientist was the hero of a major movie, inspired a generation to become marine biologists. The public policy literature refers to “the Jaws effect,” which describes how fictional portrayal of real-world issues influences how citizens feel about those issues (and the mayor of Jaws is still used in political analogies about doing nothing in response to a crisis or prioritizing the economy over safety, with then-PM Boris Johnson calling that character his hero). In short, my professional world is very, very different because of this movie, and I think it’s fair to say that few other movies have had anywhere close to this level of broad and long-lasting impact.
Me in front of the set, the interior of the Orca.
(The barrel you can see poking out is one of the real ones used in the original film)
So when I heard that a show about the making of Jaws was coming to Broadway, I knew I had to get there. And that was before I learned that it was co-written by Jaws star Robert Shaw’s son Ian, who plays his father, and before it started getting stellar reviews.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actor so perfectly channel the character they were playing as
Ian Shaw playing Robert Shaw (playing Quint). Image courtesy Polk and Co.
Before I get to the play itself, I, as captain #SharksNearMe, need to comment on the experience of waiting in line for the doors to open. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a wide variety of dress code at the theater, except for possibly the Weird Al concert I went to at the Broward Center for Performing Arts. I saw Jaws t-shirts, a Jaws leather biker jacket, an Amity Island sheriff uniform, a mayor Larry Vaughn style anchor-print sport coat, more shark earrings and necklaces than I’ve ever seen outside of the closing banquet of the American Elasmobranch Society conference, several tattoos, and even a few shark ties that I don’t already own! I was in geek chic heaven.
The doors of the John Golden theater, image by me.
Once the doors opened, the #SharksNearMe extravaganza continued. The theater bar had some of the most clever themed drink names I’ve ever seen:
The menu, image by me.
As for the play itself, you people don’t come to me for theater reviews, but I gotta tell you that I’ve seen a lot of Broadway shows and I absolutely loved it. The cast was excellent, totally nailing their iconic roles. The play was sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartwarming, and covered far more serious topics than I expected, like Robert Shaw’s alcoholism and the various actor’s relationships with their fathers and sons. Given that I opened this review by commenting on Jaws’ lasting legacy, I loved how much the play focused on how the characters thought the movie would be forgotten in a year, and their uncertainty about the future of their own careers (or Spielberg’s). And seeing the famous Indianapolis speech performed live onstage will go down as one of my all-time favorite Broadway memories.
The cast on set, image courtesy Polk and Co
“The Shark is Broken” was the most fun I’ve had at the theater in a very, very long time, a worthy contribution to the vast and lasting legacy of Jaws. And if you, like me, hear “there’s a play based on the making of Jaws” and think “Oh I’d probably like this,” I can assure you that you will. But you better hurry, because it closes November 19th.
Ian Shaw (right) with his father, image courtesy Polk and Co.
Tickets for THE SHARK IS BROKEN are available at Telecharge.com (212.239.6200) and at the John Golden Theatre box office (252 West 45th Street). Ticketsrange from $59 – $175 (including $2 facility fee). The playing schedule for THE SHARK IS BROKEN is as follows: Tuesday – Friday at 7pm, Saturday at 8pm, with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm, and Sunday at 3pm. It runs through Sunday, November 19th. Thanks to the Polk and Co team for my comped media tickets!