Torn from the Headlines
BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE | “The Front Page” is a rollicking, screwball comedy in the classic tradition that seeks to do nothing but entertain. If it reminds you of the profit-driven sensationalism of today’s media, well, that’s probably a sign of how prescient this nearly century-old play was.
The lavish production, thanks in large measure to Douglas W. Schmidt’s fantastic set, now at the Broadhurst may also remind you of a time when producers could afford to have a cast of more than 25 and the world they could create with that.
The play is set in a newsroom as a convicted murderer is about to be executed. Hardly the stuff of contemporary comedy, yet through a series of twists and turns, the killer escapes and mayhem ensures. There’s also a subplot as ace reporter Hildy Johnson is about to leave the news business for an upwardly mobile marriage and a cushy job in PR.
The set-ups are obvious, but Ben Hecht and Charles Macarthur’s 1928 play is full of such rapid-fire repartee and outrageous characters that it doesn’t matter. Under Jack O’Brien’s sure-handed direction, the breakneck speed and slapstick comedy are consistently entertaining.
The cast features all kinds of Broadway royalty — Jefferson Mays, John Goodman, Holland Taylor, Sherie Rene Scott, Dylan Baker, and Robert Morse — all of whom are at the top of their comic games. Then there’s Nathan Lane as Walter Burns, the hardnosed publisher dedicated to nothing but scooping up profits, and John Slattery as Hildy. They are a flawless comedy team, playing perfectly off one another and, like the rest of the cast, seeming to have a marvelous time. As are we.
THE FRONT PAGE | Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W. 44th St. | Through Jan. 29: Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m.; Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. | $67-$167 at telecharge.comor 212-239-6200 | Two hrs., 45 mins., with intermission