Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Holy Family Retreat

bronx tale webNick Cordero, Hudson Loverro and the cast of "A Bronx Tale" at the Longacre Theatre in New York. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

NEW YORK – In Los Angeles in 1988, unknown actor Chazz Palminteri wrote a solo play, “A Bronx Tale,” about his memories of growing up in the Italian section of the Bronx.

carragher front page 0404 webJohn Slattery and Nathan Lane in “The Front Page” (Photo by Julieta Cervantes)NEW YORK – Because of Nathan Lane’s presence in the cast,  the revival of “The Front Page” has attracted attention and stirred anticipation and has delivered record audiences.

This dusty and often still-funny 88-year-old play by Charles Mac-Arthur and Ben Hecht has been tallying over $1 million a week in ticket sales at the Broadhurst Theatre on West 44th Street, and a lot of it is because of Mr. Lane, who is held in admiration and affection.

Mr. Lane made his Broadway debut in a small role in a revival of Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter” back in 1982, but it was playing Max Bialystock in the 2001 musical stage version of Mel Brooks’s movie “The Producers” that made him a favorite with playgoers. He won a Tony award as Max, and has been filling theaters with laughter since then. People like him not merely because he is a star, but because he has created a good image and is a first-rate actor.

“The Front Page” is set in the Douglas W. Schmidt’s authentically designed dingy, lackluster press room in the Chicago Criminal Courts Building on a Friday night in 1927. The period clothes are by Ann Roth.

MacArthur and Hecht, who were reporters before they became playwrights, give us the first important and realistic look at what went on among ink-stained newspaper denizens eons ago in their era. It tries to cover lots of areas, such as political corruption, social ills and the incompetence of some of the hard-headed reporters. In the end, what it turns out to be is a heartfelt valentine of melodrama to the good old days when newspaperdom was a joy and full of comic human chicaneries.

Under the direction of Jack O’Brien, the show seems sluggish in its first two acts. The actors perform well, so it’s difficult to tell whether it’s the show’s old-fashioned tale or if it’s the pacing of the play that’s off.

The plot of “The Front Page” starts off when Hildy Johnson (John Slattery), The Herald Examiner’s foremost reporter, is ready to depart the paper and marry the girl of his dreams, Peggy Grant (Halley Feiffer). Meanwhile, Chicago’s Sheriff Hartman (John Goodman) accidentally allows the escape of an anarchist who is supposed to be hanged at dawn.

When Hildy visits the crew at the criminal courts building, he gets wind of the escape, a good story, and he is hooked.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lane, as snarly Walter Burns, the newspaper’s editor, doesn’t join the ensemble on stage until the end of the second act of the play’s three acts. We have heard plenty about the ruthless Mr. Burns and we have even heard his voice over the phone, but we haven’t seen him yet.

He is furious that his top writer is marrying and leaving Chicago. You know Mr. Burns will never let Hildy leave town. When Mr. Lane arrives on the stage in his proper Hamburg hat, three-piece suit and perky mustache, he finally sets the play on a spinning roar. The catalyst has arrived.

Mr. Lane has played these bluff characters before in an offhand, casual style to the point where he seems artless. His naturalness requires an unnatural amount of skill. The notion that he is “just being himself” in his best roles is nonsense. He is an expert technician who obviously knows what he is doing moment by moment. In “The Producers,” he created the crookedness of the character Max Bialystock on his own. He made Bialystock far more credible than any conventional leading man could and gave Mr. Brooks’s slender script the benefit of his great comic gifts. Now, he is leaving his inimitable mark on the “The Front Page” through January.

The motley crew of local newspaper writers are all familiar and talented New York actors: Jefferson Mays (Bensinger), Dylan Baker (McCue), Lewis J. Stadlen (Endicott) and David Pittu (Schwartz).

They are surrounded by an array of supporting characters – the cast of “The Front Page” is huge and totals about 26 actors. They also include dense Policeman Woodenshoes Eichorn (Micha Stock); the fiancee’s mother, Mrs. Grant (Holland Taylor); a scrubwoman, Jennie (Patricia Connoly); a soft-hearted, gum-chewing hussy, Mollie Malloy (Sherie Rene Scott); and a messenger, Mr. Pincus (Robert Morse). And yes, it is that Robert Morse, now 85, who was the lead in the original 1962 “How to Succeed” and the more recent “Tru.” He delivers a last-minute reprieve for the prisoner, which the Sheriff and the Mayor (Dann Forek) try to cover up until the election is over.

The first “Front Page” I saw on Broadway in 1969 as a kid starred Robert Ryan, Peggy Cass and Bert Convy, and it was directed by Harold J. Kennedy. It was a wonder. Quite a few years later, I saw it again at Lincoln Center Theater with John Lithgow and Richard Thomas and it worked fine, though not as well as Mr. Ryan’s production.

Bernard Carragher lives in New York and covers arts and entertainment.

carragher 0252 HOLIDAY INN 2016 webBryce Pinkham and company in “Holiday Inn” at the Studio 54 Theatre. The production was launched at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam in 2014. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

NEW YORK – The Christmas season has arrived early on Broadway this year with the opening of “Holiday Inn” at Roundabout’s Studio 54 Theatre on West 54th Street near Broadway.

carragher CATS webThe cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats.” The musical is back on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theater on West 52nd Street. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

NEW YORK – After a 16-year hiatus, “Cats,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s now and forever musical, is back on Broadway and at the Neil Simon Theater on West 52nd Street. The revival is a fairly accurate replica of the original that played 7,485 performances, between 1982 and 2000, and was one of Broadway’s longest-running hits until another of Webber’s musicals, “The Phantom of the Opera,” took its place.

carragher theater oslo webDaniel Oreskes, Anthony Azizi, Daniel Jenkins and Dariush Kashini in a scene from Lincoln Center Theater’s production of “Oslo,” a new play by J.T. Rogers (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

NEW YORK – This summer, Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater presented a play of substance and stature, “Oslo,” by J.T. Rogers. It is brilliantly acted by its two extraordinary leading players, Jennifer Ehle and Jefferson Mays, and a large, fine supporting cast, and staged with understanding and forceful direction by the experienced hand of Bartlett Sher.

Zorba3 webThomas Camm appears in the title role in the Clay and Wattles Theater Company production of “Zorba,” opening Saturday, July 30, and running through Sunday, August 14, at The Gary-The Olivia Theater in Bethlehem.

BETHLEHEM – Niko would have brought an umbrella to the rainy opening night of “Zorba” at the open-air The Gary-The Olivia Theater at the Abbey of Regina Laudis. Zorba would have danced in the puddles.

carragher CAGNEY cast webRobert Creighton, center, and others in the cast of “Cagney” at the off-Broadway Westside Theater on West 43rd Street and 9th Avenue in New York. (Photo by Carol Rosegg)

NEW YORK – Robert Creighton is giving a fine performance as the great film actor James Cagney in a musical bio that is appropriately titled “Cagney” at off-Broadway’s Westside Theater on West 43rd Street and 9th Avenue. Cagney was one of those rare Hollywood performers who were gifted with a dazzling protean acting talent.

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