Jaws stage play aims to create splash on Broadway

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A stage play about the making of blockbuster movie Jaws will soon take a huge bite out of Broadway.

The Shark Is Broken — co-written and starring the son of one of the film’s actors, the late Robert Shaw — will land on The Great White Way this summer, fitting for a play about a Great White Shark.

“It is a comedy mostly. We dip into the serious elements but our intention is to entertain,” said English actor Ian Shaw, who will play his father and whose theatre credits include War Horse and Common at the National Theatre and Much Ado About Nothing in the West End.

The play is a behind-the-scenes look at the three main actors in the Steven Spielberg movie — Shaw as shark hunter Quint, Roy Scheider as the police chief and Richard Dreyfuss as an oceanographer.

“It was a gruelling, difficult shoot,” said Ian Shaw. “And there was a clash of personalities, particularly between my father and Richard Dreyfuss. But it’s complicated because they were friends as well at times.”

Shaw said the play — which has been on at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and in London — has been edited and re-edited ahead of its Broadway bow, which will also be his Broadway debut. He has his family’s blessing in exploring a messy time for the three actors.

“In the play, they’re all facing up to their demons and they don’t always do it brilliantly,” he said. “To some extent, I was facing up to the demon of my relationship with my father and, for me, that’s been a good process.”

Jaws has been credited with creating Hollywood’s blockbuster culture after it hit cinemas in June 1975 and became the highest-grossing film of all time until Star Wars came out two years later. It also gave us the classic line “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!” and frightened a lot of people from going swimming.

“One of the things I love about that film is the way you don’t know where it’s going to go next,” said Shaw. “It lurches from comedy to horror in a heartbeat. And we tried to do that with the play.”

The Shark is Broken — co-written by Shaw and Joseph Nixon, based on interviews and Shaw family stories — was nominated for best comedy at the 2022 Olivier Awards. It begins performances in New York on July 25 at the John Golden Theatre under Guy Masterson’s direction.

It comes to America on the heels of a stage musical also about the making of Jaws. Bruce, based on Jaws screenwriter Carl Gottlieb’s 1975 memoir, The Jaws Log, made its premiere at Seattle Rep in 2022.

That musical — named after the nickname for the mechanical shark — centres on a young Spielberg facing poor weather, dangerous water, hostile locals, an exploding budget, endless delays and a highly dysfunctional Bruce.

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