×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Critics and Stars Collide at ‘The Front Page’ Broadway Opening

The crowd at the Oct. 20 performance of Broadway’s “The Front Page” included some faces you don’t see every day at a Broadway opening: Critics, hunched in aisle seats with their notebooks at the ready.

In recent decades, it’s become standard operating procedure on Broadway to invite critics to a pre-opening preview performance, in order to give the journos time to write in advance. But in the old days — that is, the days of “Front Page,” Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s legendary newspaper comedy from 1928 — critics mingled with opening-nighters, rushing up the aisles before the curtain came down in order to bang out reviews for the next day’s paper.

For his starry production of “The Front Page,” with a cast led by John Slattery and Nathan Lane, producer Scott Rudin reinstituted the first-night tradition as a throwback to the era. That’s why you could look across the audience to see ink-stained wretches sitting alongside the likes of Jon Hamm, Sarah Paulson, Jeffrey Tambor, Chris Rock, Jason Sudeikis, Steve Martin and Diane Sawyer.

There had been some grumbling among the writers about the change in protocol, but at the opening night performance, most critics seemed sanguine about it.  “I kind of like the purity of this,” said Joe Dziemianowicz of the Daily News.  “Besides, if you write for the web, you’ve already got to write fast.”

Several of the critics in the house remembered the days of rushing out of an opening night to bang out a review in 45 minutes. Marilyn Stasio, who reviewed “Front Page” for Variety, recalled fighting for cabs, and then fighting for an unoccupied typewriter back in the newsroom, during her years at the New York Post in the 1970s.

“There was a door in the newsroom where the printers would come out and stare at us, waiting for the copy,” she remembered.

Critics bolted from “Front Page” before the curtain call, just like in the old days, although they had to push through the photographers charging down the aisle. Over the applause you could hear a publicist bellow, “Let the critics through!”

In keeping with Golden Age traditions, the production’s opening night party was held at that theater-district bastion Sardi’s, where Hamm and Slattery had a mini-“Mad Men” reunion with Robert Morse, who has a scene-stealing role in “Front Page.”

Morse gained an understanding of journalism early, thanks to a grandfather who was a sports editor at a Boston paper. “I got my first review in Barnstable, Mass., when I was 15 years old,” he said at the party. “I played Ko-Ko in ‘The Mikado’ to wonderful Cape Cod reviews. And  that started me on my road to perdition.”

Back at the theater, one of the earliest laughs of the night also brought “Mad Men” to mind. In “Front Page,” Slattery plays a veteran hack who intends to chuck his newspaper career for a cushy gig in New York. In what industry? “Advertising,” he deadpanned.

 

More Legit

  • Hadestown review

    Broadway Review: 'Hadestown'

    “Hadestown” triggered a lot of buzz when this wholly American show (which came to the stage by way of a concept album) premiered at Off Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop in 2016. Arriving on Broadway with its earthly delights more or less intact, this perfectly heavenly musical — with book, music and lyrics by Anaïs [...]

  • Burn This review

    Broadway Review: Adam Driver, Keri Russell in 'Burn This'

    The ache for an absent artist permeates Lanford Wilson’s “Burn This,” now receiving a finely-tuned Broadway revival that features incendiary performances by Adam Driver and Keri Russell, playing two lost souls in a powerful and passionate dance of denial. AIDS is never mentioned in this 1987 play, yet the epidemic and the profound grief that [...]

  • White Noise Suzan-Lori Parks

    Listen: The 'Dumb Joke' Hidden in 'White Noise'

    Suzan-Lori Parks’ new play “White Noise” tackles a host of urgent, hot-button topics, including racism and slavery — but, according to the playwright, there’s also a “dumb joke” buried in it. Listen to this week’s podcast below: Appearing with “White Noise” director Oskar Eustis on “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast, Parks revealed that the inspiration for [...]

  • Adam Driver appears at the curtain

    Adam Driver on Starring in 'Burn This' for a Second Time

    The Hudson Theatre’s new production of “Burn This” marks its first Broadway revival since it premiered on the Great White Way in 1987, but Adam Driver is no stranger to the work. He starred as Pale in a Juilliard production of the Lanford Wilson drama when he was still a student — and only now, [...]

  • Alan Wasser

    Alan Wasser, Tony-Winning Broadway General Manager, Dies at 70

    Alan Wasser, a veteran Broadway general manager who received an honorary Tony Award, died from complications from Parkinson’s disease in New York on Sunday. He was 70. Wasser founded Alan Wasser Associates and general managed “Les Misérables,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Miss Saigon,” three of the most successful productions of all time. He [...]

  • Aretha Franklin Clinton inauguration

    Pulitzer Prizes: Aretha Franklin, Trump Tax Cheating Story Honored

    Donald Trump will have something to hate tweet about this afternoon. The Pulitzer Prizes awarded two hard-hitting investigations into the 45th president during its annual ceremony on Monday. The New York Times earned a prize in explanatory reporting for an 18-month investigation into the elaborate steps that Trump and his family went to in an [...]

  • A German Life review

    London Theater Review: Maggie Smith in 'A German Life'

    How helpful are warnings from history? Two years ago, in February 2017, Amazon briefly sold out its entire stock of Hannah Arendt’s 500-page treatise, “The Origins of Totalitarianism.” In it, the German-born philosopher surveys the conditions that gave rise to Nazi rule, charting fascism’s incremental creep. Social shifts are slow, sometimes too slow to spot, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content