Richard and I saw *The Front Page* on Broadway on 10/25.  It's a famous play from 1928 by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur about hard-boiled newspapermen in Chicago.  I'd never seen it before, and with such a starry cast, how could I pass it up?  Nathan Lane, John Slattery, John Goodman, Jefferson Mays, Holland Taylor, Sherie Rene Scott, and Robert Morse.  Directed by the great Jack O'Brien.

 

I think Charles Lederer did the play a big favor when he adapted it to become the movie *His Girl Friday* with Cary Grant and Roz Russell: he took the two central characters and made one of them a woman.  The original story of a newspaper writer trying to extract himself from his job and boss had the added element of the writer being the soon-to-be ex-wife and the boss the soon-to-be ex-husband.  The struggle between the two becomes more interesting, and the central character has more depth as a woman.

John Slattery played Hildy (the Roz Russell role) and he delivered, but it's the classic problem where the supporting characters have all the best business - - the lead just stands there while everyone gesticulates around him.  Though he does have my favorite line in the show: he's trying to quit the newspaper to get married and says to his boss on the phone, "I wouldn't cover the Last Supper if they staged it in the middle of Clark Street.  With the original cast!"

 

The boss was played by the priceless Nathan Lane.  The play has a much-needed lift when he comes onstage and he is working hard up there.  Bless his heart.  Goodman, Taylor, and Scott all gave strong performances but didn't really have much to do.  Morse was completely wasted in a tiny part with no impact.  Richard said it might be all he feels up for at the age of (gulp) 85, and he might be right.  The audience liked seeing him onstage, and where's the harm.  Jefferson Mays had the best moment, a wonderful bit of old school foolishness with an umbrella.  He got actual applause, in the middle of the show.

 

I have to give a quick special mention to Micah Stock, an adorable young man we last saw with Nathan Lane in *It's Only a Play.*  He walked away with that show as the coat check boy, and he gave a darling performance in *The Front Page* as a flat-footed dopey immigrant cop with the sweet nickname Wooden Shoes.  I look forward to his next Broadway outing, with or without Nathan Lane.

 

The play has plenty of zip but not really enough punch.  It's a little flabby.  I think audiences had a different sense of time in 1928, and the shock factor just isn't there all these years later.

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