Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Great staging, Entertaining, Intelligent

About the show

Classic Stage Company presents a stage adaptation of the Oscar-nominated movie, with Jason Sudeikis in Robin Williams' inspirational teacher role. Directed by Tony Award winner John Doyle.

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At a rigorous all-boys preparatory school renowned for its ancient traditions, the unconventional Professor Keating inspires his students to defy conformity and to live passionately. Academy Award-winner Tom Schulman adapts his own screenplay for this world premiere production.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"Mr. Sudeikis has a natural stage presence, a baritone voice, and he’s charming...But when he’s exhorting everyone to find their singular selves, he often looks as if he’s aching to send up his lines...If the students switched roles midway through, I doubt you’d notice...Doyle's habitually ingenious, less-is-more staging yields fewer dividends than usual.'Dead Poets Society' needs the cinematic distractions of sets and camera work. Stripped naked, it comes across as blunt and bland." Full Review


"Sudeikis impressively steps out of the long shadow of Robin Williams in his gutsy portrayal...Schulman has smartly condensed his original screenplay, reassigning scenes to a smaller cast of characters and eliminating others altogether...Despite Doyle's breezy production and solid performances from the cast, the show doesn't make a very good argument for its necessity onstage. You can get the exact same story on-screen, much of the dialogue word for word." Full Review


"A crisp and engaging world premiere production...Jason Sudeikis is just terrific as John Keating...He plays the role with a winning combination of preppy playfulness and compassion....As with all rebellions, there are losses and tragedies, and 'Dead Poets Society' doesn't ignore the cost of nonconformity. Clocking in at a little over 90 minutes, the intimate production moves swiftly, aided by the sparse efficiency of designer Scott Pask's set." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"The play, by Tom Schulman is mostly holes, except when it’s goo...No extreme is extreme enough, especially no extreme of obviousness or cliché...At least for the first two-thirds of the 90-minute play, Doyle is almost completely successful in keeping the actors from falling into the pit of sentimentality. The boys are great...But once the story goes into overdrive, Doyle loses control; it’s as if the play were insisting on being bad despite his attempts to tame it." Full Review


"Doyle’s clever, simple-truths staging beguiles audiences much in the same way English teacher John Keating, portrayed here by Sudeikis in a remarkable performance, leaves a mark on his impressionistic students...Despite the colorful personalities this ensemble of young performers bring to their roles, the characters are fundamentally written as adjectives...Schulman doesn’t take the opportunity to expand his screenplay, deepen the characters, or explore the complexities of his story." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Let’s just say Classic Stage Company’s earnest but flat-footed adaptation inspires thoughts of Netflix streaming more than leaping up on one’s desk to cry, 'O Captain! My Captain!'...Tom Schulman has competently translated his screenplay to the stage, with scenes smoothly flowing in and out. And Doyle has assembled a solid ensemble of keen young actors as the boys...Sudeikis has a smooth, easygoing air...but he’s far too flip and contemporary to believe as a poetry-loving pedant circa 1959." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"One of the evening’s main difficulties is that the ghost of Robin Williams seems to hover over the whole damn thing...Mr. Sudeikis is fine and altogether convincing as Keating...The problem on display is not one of actors, but adaptation...Doyle does a good job of directing 'Dead Poets Society' on a visionary scale...But there is nothing onstage down at CSC that knocks the film version out of your mind." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"Sudeikis is superb – earnest and impish – but in the intervening decades, the substance of the piece now seems cheaply sentimental at best and morally suspect at worst...Keating’s ideology is not without its problems and the play’s argument for difference while erasing the experience of anyone who isn’t a middle- or upper-class man doesn’t sit well...Seize the day? Why not. Seize the ticket? Not so much." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"John Doyle has done a number of things right by 'Dead Poets Society'...Sudeikis' Keating is exactly the cheerful, trouble-making presence the script demands...The adaptation, by Tom Schulman (who wrote the screenplay), moves well, but, lacking the film's visual texture, is a thin and sentimental melodrama. There isn't a hint of character shading anywhere...Is this sort of warmed-over movie script really the best use of a major Off Broadway theatre?" Full Review

Front Row Center

"I am not a pushover. But this very fine production of ‘Dead Poets Society’ left me shattered and hopeful. In other words – a mess…This is a seamless production with every member of the cast inhabiting their characters with precision and grace...Every performance matches not only Sudeikis’ skill but the spirit of his character, John Keating, as well. It is a particularly poignant reminder that...the only hope is for us to remain vigilant and seize the day over and over again." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"Doyle brings his customary stripped-down elegance to the production, and elicits sensitive performances from the young actors playing Keating's students. But Schulman's thin adaptation of his screenplay exposes its contrivances and sentimentality, failing to make a strong case for its stage translation...Despite the classy production's strengths, its insurmountable shortcoming is that this drama remains an imitation, stuck in the shadow of its source." Full Review

AM New York

"There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the new stage version of the classic film...It’s just completely unnecessary...Tom Schulman’s script is essentially a rehash of his original screenplay, and the sentimental and solemn tone remains the same, which means that this stage adaptation brings almost nothing new to the underlying property...Sudeikis has a chummy ease and subtle quirkiness, but he lacks the sadness and warmth that made Williams so unforgettable." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"As good a piece of writing as 'Dead Poets Society' is, it's not immune to this production's highly variable direction and acting…Jason Sudeikis is utterly believable as both a crazy and a conservative…William Hochman is outstanding as Knox…But except for Francesca Carpanini, no one else is remotely as good…One does wish Schulman had imparted the adults with as much depth as he did the kids…But Schulman does his level best to ensure that, with 'Dead Poets Society,' you get everything else." Full Review


"Jason Sudeikis has enough mischief in his eyes to make John Keating a credible non-conformist hero in 'Dead Poets Society'...While there are some pleasures to be had in Sudeikis’ tweedy performance, they’re offset by the blandness of the others and some genuine weirdnesses in the script...The stage version has Sudeikis displaying his own charms, small-scale though they are. But no matter how many dead poets’ names are dragged in to class up the act, hokum is still hokum." Full Review

New York Daily News

"Unfortunately, promising potential doesn't materialize into much on stage, where the earnest play fails to get traction. Issues are drawn in such black and white terms — adults, bad; youth, good — there’s no room for tension or drama, just pushing your buttons. But it doesn't." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Heart-breaking, gorgeous stage adaptation...It’s a daring task he sets before himself, and in Keating’s words, Sudeikis does in fact ‘Seize the Day’ with all the gusto, power, and humor one could imagine...Each and every one of these young actors could be singled out for their delicate and intricate work, crafting unique portrayals of boys turning into men before our very eyes...The writing is poetic, not surprisingly, as is the direction (John Doyle) and the staging." Full Review


"Unfortunately, my hopes that Doyle could bring his flair for fresh new takes to familiar theater pieces didn't materialize in this instance; Neither did my wish that in adapting his film script for the stage, that Schulman would have found a way to tone down the from the get-go predictability and perhaps ratchet up the role of the teacher...If only the poetry didn't come off here, as it did in the movie, well chosen but a well-intentioned but contrived device." Full Review


"Masterful staging, impressive scenic design and pleasant performances aren’t enough to make this skillful stage adaptation of the classic film ‘Dead Poets Society’ more than a mildly entertaining 90 minutes…Mr. Schulman has adeptly reconfigured his film script for the theater…Though well-crafted and expertly presented, ‘Dead Poets Society’ with its quaint message and rehashed themes of the coming-of-age youth who must face painful truths, is amiably underwhelming." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"While there have been many films that were turned into successful musicals, adapting a movie for the stage without musicalizing it doesn’t seem to add any value...A Cliffs Notes version that came across to me as bland and pointless. Jason Sudeikis is fine...The six young men who play the students are also very good...Their valiant efforts were largely sunk by the play’s blandness. Even the ending misfires...All this effort seems misguided as the play itself has so little point to it." Full Review

The Wrap

"Sitting through Schulman’s play is a bore...Jason Sudeikis’ Keating isn’t entertaining. He’s a self-satisfied, full-of-himself professor...Sudeikis’ smugness never fails to be obnoxious. Keating is supposed to break through the boys’ repression to unleash their true talent and individuality. The problem is, Keating’s tactics are offensive...It doesn’t help that the father and headmaster are written (and performed) as though Charles Dickens were having a bad day." Full Review


"Penned by Schulman and directed with his trademark mixture of simplicity and ingenuity by Tony winner John Doyle...Sudeikis brings his rather unusual brand of gentle charisma and sharp-yet-loving sarcasm to the role. It’s a rather different take on Keating than his formidable screen predecessor Robin Williams, but it ultimately works quite well for Doyle’s lower-key, less sentimental interpretation." Full Review


"Sudeikis is compelling, endearing and utterly comfortable...For a story about releasing our free spirit, however, this turns out to be a very conventional play...Despite such directorial stylizations, the 100-minute script, adapted by Tom Schulman from his own Oscar-winning screenplay, is heartfelt but dishearteningly old-fashioned...The six classmates have character definitions that might have been picked according to a one-from-column A, one-from column B writing manual." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"'Dead Poets Society' is both often funny and moving in its salute to developing an independent mind and matching behavior…Sudeikis is very believable and enjoyable...In the confines of a small stage a variety of story threads come to life, sometimes amusingly, sometimes ultra dramatically. The entire cast is excellent, and Doyle, who has proved himself a master of directing on a small scale, furthers that reputation here." Full Review


"The drama plays like a reduced, highlights version of the movie. Left out is the connective tissue of characterization and motivation, leaving us to chew on the play’s ideas, which are as stale as month-old pumpernickel...None of this shorthand tragedy, unsubtly directed by John Doyle, makes a lick of dramatic sense. Sudeikis, meanwhile, works hard — you can see him working hard — at being charismatic and does get his character to likable." Full Review


"Jason Sudeikis makes a convincing stage debut...Director John Doyle, the CSC chief and respected Sondheim interpreter, has, as is his way, stripped down 'Dead Poets' to the essentials...Mann and Pais both bring sensitivity to the stage. Cody Kostro is equally on point as their rebellious classmate Charlie Dalton...'Dead Poets Society' stands on its own as an effective work of drama, even for a generation of audiences who may have no idea what preceded it." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Funny, Delightful, Great acting, Resonant, Entertaining

See it if you miss Robin Williams a lot, enjoy Jason Sudeikis, love literature with all your heart

Don't see it if you think literary appreciation is pretentious

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Romantic, Dated

See it if you are into intimate setting kind of theatre. And if you haven't seen the movie.

Don't see it if you love the original film. While the young actors were talented, the play felt bland at some points.

Funny, Quirky, Confusing

See it if you want to see something different. Interesting story, but not for everyone.

Don't see it if you are seeing it because of Jason Sudeikis.

Great acting, Profound, Resonant, Disappointing, Great staging

See it if you are a fan of the movie. It's definitely a show you see for the nostalgia rather than the show itself. It's still very well done, though

Don't see it if you're looking for an "amazing" play. It was enjoyable, with great actors/staging, but it wasn't the best script.

Great acting, Disappointing, Entertaining

See it if you saw the movie (I NEVER saw it–I know, right?) or if you like Jason Sudeikis. I felt he was just doing a serious Mitt Romney impression.

Don't see it if you want a fully staged production. Much like Mr. Doyle's Color Purple, this production is very bare bones.

Funny, Great acting, Dated

See it if enjoy a tight ensemble. The company of the students is particularly strong.

Don't see it if need a strong script. Like the film, the play coasts on the strength of its cast.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Must see, Great writing

See it if You like wonderful acting with something to think about.

Don't see it if You like musicals.

Ambitious, Great acting, Relevant, Disappointing, Great staging

See it if you don't mind a rushed-feeling story or you want to see a bunch of great, new actors kill it as the students

Don't see it if you expect it to closely resemble the movie or for Jason Sudeikis to emulate Robin Williams


See it if you have not seen the movie... while not terrible, the movie is much better. Some nice directorial touches by Doyle.

Don't see it if you expect to get a different take from the movie. This is pretty much a carbon copy of the screenplay into the stage (which does not work)

Also This show should be a lesson for future playwrights. It had so much po... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you are a fan of good writing and good acting.This is a real gem.Do NOT miss it. It's as good as the movie. Touching,thought provoking. GO!!

Don't see it if you are looking for a rom com. This show is as powerful as the movie. Because of the small space at CSC, it is really more powerful.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Must see, Entertaining

See it if you can forget the movie version. A great job with some young talent to boot.

Don't see it if you are not open to thinking "outside the box' and can handle a thrust stage.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Cliched, Well acted, Entertaining

See it if you recall the film with fondness and want to see how it was adapted for the stage.

Don't see it if you'd be happier seeing Robin Williams in the movie.

Pointless, Cliched, Dated, Well-acted, Bland

See it if are curious to see the result of a screenwriter adapting his own screenplay for the stage with John Doyle as the director.

Don't see it if expect some original insights from this Cliff Notes stage version.

Also The actors are fine, but the play is flat.

Resonant, Entertaining, Cleverly staged

See it if you want to see the stripped-down John Doyle style applied to an adaptation of a realistic film

Don't see it if you've seen the film. It's not an improvement.

Also Robin Williams, in the film, still owns the role of Keating. His inten... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Entertaining, Classic, Great staging

See it if You are a fan of the movie. It is a faithful adaptation. Jason Sudeikis gives an admirable performance in an iconic role.

Don't see it if You are looking for something new from the story. It is merely a stage adaptation of the film. But as one of my favorites, I didn't mind!

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy a creative setting, intelligent dialog and being taken back to the enjoyment of the movie. Captain, my captain

Don't see it if You expect a lively story or setting or want to see a fluff story

Great acting, Intelligent, Must see

See it if you appreciate excellent writing, acting and direction. You want a new interpretation of what was in the movie. you want to see a great cast

Don't see it if Zero reasons not to see this. It is 100 engrossing, entertaining, thought-provoking, moving minutes of wonderful theater.

Funny, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if Jason Sudeikis does a fine job as John Keating. It is a great transfer of the film to the stage. The cast of young men are superb. Poignant.

Don't see it if Excessive amounts of books, repetitive humming of the same tune and breaking of the wall between actor & audience makes you nervous.

Funny, Clever, Relevant, Great staging

See it if You're a fan of Jason Sudeikis or John Doyle. Sudeikis shines in his stage debut. Doyle strips the play down to its essence.

Don't see it if You're looking for a show with depth because this is fairly light. The play just kind of ends without much resolution so watch out there.

Also While Sudeikis is amazing, the rest of the cast isn't quite up to his ... Read more Read less

Delightful, Great acting, Resonant, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if literate, poetic writing with an enchanting story. Sudeikas is charismatic and a natural on stage.

Don't see it if expect as much depth as the film

Ambitious, Disappointing, Entertaining, Great staging, It's not the movie

See it if you have never seen the film with Robin Williams. This production will give you a sketchy version of the movie. Rent the film.

Don't see it if you think Jason Sudeikis is a great actor. He really disappoints here. Hard to see him as an influence over the boys.

Also Nicely staged by John Doyle. The boys are all terrific. This was an in... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant, Entertaining

See it if you want to see excellent comedy and tragedy. The first half was incredibly funny, the second more serious. The humorous moments were golden

Don't see it if you want a new story or to be invested enough in the characters for the tragic moments to have deep meaning

Also I haven't seen the movie for many years and didn't remember the story ... Read more Read less

Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You're familiar with the story - it doesn't surpass the film in excellence, but it's a great production.

Don't see it if You're expecting the film. Sudeikis is great, but he's obviously no Robin Williams.

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Dated, Inspiring

See it if seeking inspiration. I'm an English teacher/writer and loved the literary references and the play's entire milieu. Artists will be at home.

Don't see it if pursuing something incredibly moving or different. This is a well-staged play that feels dated but the young men/students are exceptional.

Indulgent, Banal, Disappointing, Cliched, Great staging

See it if you're a fan of the film or Jason Sudekis, like stories about boys' schools & coming of age tales or father-son relations

Don't see it if you expect deeper character development & more feel for a private school, don't like unresolved issues or rushed conclusions

Cast & Creatives (17)