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Orphans overcomes Shia LaBeouf exit drama to win over critics

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Apr 19, 2013 | 7:04am EDT

Alec Baldwin's Broadway play Orphans overcame the fallout following Shia Labeouf's dramatic exit from the production to win over critics on opening night. The drama hit headlines before the show hit the stage when LaBeouf left the line-up in February (13) amid a flurry of leaked emails which pointed towards a major clash between castmembers. The Transformers star was replaced by Ben Foster and the play opened at New York City's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre as planned on Thursday night (18Apr13). The show made a major comeback by winning positive reviews from the majority of theatre critics, with David Rooney of The Hollywood reporter hailing the play as "electrifying" and a "scorching display of ensemble acting". He adds, "Shia who? Just weeks ago the noisy departure of Shia LaBeouf during rehearsals... threatened to overshadow the arrival of Orphans on Broadway. But this dynamite production... needs no assist from offstage friction to galvanise attention." Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post singled out British actor Tom Sturridge for particular praise, writing, "What we remember is Sturridge's astonishing turn. The young British actor... is fearlessly physical... He's the one who keeps the show together." Elysa Gardner of USA Today also turned the spotlight on Sturridge, hailing his performance as "mesmerising" and "heartrending", while Baldwin brings a "delightful comic esprit to his role". However, not all the reviews were quite so good - famously biting New York Times critic Ben Brantley wasn't impressed with the production and he harangued Baldwin for putting on a "mutating cartoon of a performance". After leaving the play, LaBeouf suggested he had been fired from the production amid building tensions with Baldwin. However, he proved he had put the rumoured feud behind him by sitting in the front row during the show's first preview performance last month (Mar13).

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