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‘Death of a Salesman’: The Show Nearing Its Final Moments


Written by American Playwright Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman has been wowing fans since it first premiered on Broadway back in February 10, 1949. The show would run at the Morosco Theatre near Times Square for a total of 742 performances. For the next 73 years, Death of a Salesman would go on to make several revivals on Broadway, from the 1975 revival, to the latest revival in October 2022. So, why has Death of a Salesman had such an impact on Broadway, and why do you need to watch it before it leaves for good on January 15? Let’s take a look and discuss it.

The Birth of Death of a Salesman

To understand the play and its true significance, one must first understand the man who wrote it. Born in 1915, Arthur Miller has had amazing successes when it comes to his life as a playwright. Starting at an early age, Miller would go on to have several hit plays, including his first big success, 1947s All My Children, a play which also focused on the life of a salesman. Many of his earlier plays had gone on to win him some awards, but it wasn’t until Death of a Salesman that Miller would begin to see the recognition and fame he has received. 

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Death of a Salesman: A Storied History

Death of a Salesman has had a rather storied history. From the many stages of Broadway, to stages in schools, and many national tours. But, where did it all get started? In 1949, the once grandiose Morosco Theatre built in 1917 sat at 217 W. 45th St., New York, NY, and it would hold just shy of 1,000 guests. The theatre was built by the Shuberts and would change hands many times. It closed down and ultimately was demolished in 1982. 

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Khris Davis, Wendell Pierce, Sharon D Clarke, McKinley Belcher III./ CREDIT: Photo by Joan Marcus

After the show closed in 1950, the show would go on to find new life in Hollywood with the feature film starring Fredric March as Willy Loman, and the original Broadway show star Mildred Dunnock as Linda Loman. This wouldn’t be the last time that audiences at home would get a chance to see the show. In 1966, Lee J. Cobb and Mildred Dunnock would once again reprise their roles as Willy and Linda for the abridged television adaptation of the show. In 1975 the show had its first of 5 revivals. The next 4 came in 1984, 1999, 2012, and most recently in November 2022. 

The Many Faces of William “Willy” Lohman

While Death of a Salesman has featured many stars of stage and screen, no role has seen bigger stars than then the titular role of Willy. It all started with Lee J. Cobb, who got his start on stage with Crime and Punishment and would end with his role in 1969s King Lear. The next big star to take on the role would be Fredric March, who would take on the role in the 1951 feature film.

In 1966 Cobb would reprise his role on television, followed by George C. Scott in the 1975 revival, and Dustin Hoffman in the 1984 Broadway revival and the 1985 TV movie adaptation. 1996 would find Warren Mitchell would take up the mantle in yet another outstanding TV movie, followed closely by Brian Denehey in the revival at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. 2012 would see the talented Philip Seymour Hoffman take on the role, which would be his last before his tragic death in 2014. 

Wendell Edward Pierce changes the scope of the show

The list of actors to have taken on the iconic role of Willy Loman are vast. However, none can compare to the latest man to take on the role. Wendell Edward Pierce is an American actor who has starred in several shows on and off Broadway since 1985. He is a classically trained actor who studied at the famed Juilliard school in New York.

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Wendell Pierce./ CREDIT: Photo by Joan Marcus

He would become a household name until 2002 when he starred as Detective Bunk Moreland in HBO’s The Wire. In 2019, Pierce wold go to London to take on the role of Willy Loman in the West End revival of Death of a Salesman, a show he would go on to win a Laurence Olivier award for. Now, Wendell Pierce can be seen once again playing the titular character one last time at its new home, the Hudson Theatre.

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Death of a Salesman: One Last Viewing

There you have it, the incredible history of one of the greatest shows in American theatre history. The show’s message proves just as powerful today as it was when the show first opened in 1949. Everyday we get up and go to work with one thing in mind. We want to own a piece of the American Dream. This show takes that desire and exposes the dark underbelly of that dream.

In today’s climate, we all seek equality and the same opportunities that everyone else gets. With every past adaptation of this incredible show, we have seen the same version of the Loman family. They are a middle class white family with a patriarch that is desperately trying to his life. Be sure to head out to the Hudson Theatre before Jan 15, 2023 for your chance to see this incredible show before it hits the streets and until the next revival.

Final thoughts

As a thespian and a lover of all that the theatre has to offer, Death of a Salesman is a show that many actors turn to when looking for audition pieces, and for good reason. The characters in the show are full of heart and are very easy for any audience to connect to. They are people we can easily see ourselves in, as we all have had a time in our lives when we struggled to see if we were really making a difference in the world. For Willy Loman, that crisis comes from the constant struggle to make it as a traveling salesman. Simultaneously, he wants to ensure his family has everything they need and want. It’s a feeling every American can relate to in one way or another. 

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Death of a Salesman./ CREDIT: Photo by Joan Marcus

As a staple of the American theatre culture, Death of a Salesman works hard to show us all that no matter how hard life gets, being surrounded by family is all you need to ensure your happiness. The American dream is one we all seek. However, it’s important to understand that that isn’t all there is to life.

This latest version of the hit Broadway starring the versatile actor Wendell Pierce, brings audiences a brand new take on this 74 year-old masterpiece by legendary playwright Arthur Miller. Death of a Salesman is going to be the show to beat all shows, and if you want to be a part of history, then head on down to the Hudson Theatre for your last chance. Death of a Salesman will conclude its run on Broadway Jan 15, 2023.


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