×
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.

 

Popular on Variety

More Legit

  • The Lightning Thief review musical

    Broadway Review: 'The Lightning Thief,' The Musical

    “It’s a lot to take in right now,” says Percy Jackson, the teen hero of “The Lightning Thief,” the kid-centric fantasy musical (based on the popular Y.A. novel) that’s now on Broadway after touring the country and playing an Off Broadway run. You could say that’s a bit of an understatement from contemporary teen Percy [...]

  • The Rose Tattoo review

    Broadway Review: 'The Rose Tattoo' Starring Marisa Tomei

    “The Rose Tattoo” is what happens when a poet writes a comedy — something strange, but kind of lovely. The same might be said of director Trip Cullman’s production: Strange, if not exactly lovely. Even Marisa Tomei, so physically delicate and expressively refined, seems an odd choice to play the lusty and passionate protagonist, Serafina [...]

  • Obit-Roy-B

    Former NATO President Roy B. White Dies at 93

    Roy B. White, former president and chairman of the National Association of Theater Owners, died of natural causes Oct. 11 in Naples, Fla. He was 93. White ran the 100-screen independent theater circuit, Mid–States Theaters Inc. In addition to his career, he did extensive work on behalf of charities and non-profits. He was vice president [...]

  • Soft Power review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Soft Power'

    The “culture-clash musical” is a familiar template, in which a white American protagonist — waving the flag of individuality, optimism and freedom — trumps and tramps over the complexities of that which is foreign, challenging or “other.” David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori’s “Soft Power,” the new “play with a musical” at Off Broadway’s Public [...]

  • Jagged Little Pill Business of Broadway

    Listen: How 'Jagged Little Pill' Will Rock Broadway

    “Jagged Little Pill” wasn’t originally written with Broadway in mind — but the songs on Alanis Morissette’s smash-hit 1995 album do exactly what good musical theater songs should do, according to the upcoming show’s creators and producers. Listen to this week’s podcast below: The team explained why on Variety‘s theater podcast, “Stagecraft,” in an episode [...]

  • Stephen Moore

    Stephen Moore, 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' Android, 'Doctor Who' Actor, Dies at 81

    Stephen Moore, best known for his roles as the paranoid android Marvin in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” radio series and the Silurian Eldane in “Doctor Who,” has died. He was 81. “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” producer Dirk Maggs confirmed Moore’s death Saturday on Twitter, writing, “Our dear friend Stephen Moore has [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content