Theater Critics Grapple With an Unfamiliar Routine: Opening Night

The Front Page debuts at the Broadhurst Theatre.

FrontPageBroadhurst‘You know nobody works at that pace anymore, right?’

So emailed one theater critic a few weeks ago when informed that Scott Rudin, producer of the Broadway revival of The Front Page, had decided to forego the usual preview routine for critics and force them to attend opening night. And now, here we are, with the production starring Nathan Lane and John Slattery having debuted Thursday at New York’s Broadhurst Theatre.

At the end of a mixed review, Deadline’s Jeremy Gerard notes:

I believe Rudin hoped to recapture the spirit of a lost era, when we ink-stained kvetches tore up the aisle the moment the curtain came down, beating the paying customers to the Checker cabs lined up outside, to pound out our reviews in time for the early edition. There are no more Checker cabs, no more early editions, barely any newspapers to speak of. But there’s still us, and if anyone thinks we can’t turn it out on a dime and a prayer, you haven’t been paying attention to the world of the 24/7 news cycle.

Others proving they could handle the Rudin hard-court press include TheWrap’s Robert Hofler, who contrasts the way things used to be written with the way he filed his piece:

I now know why plays used to be written in three acts: The critics wrote their reviews during the intermissions. If that’s the way producers want their multi-million-dollar shows to be reviewed, so be it. One thing Brooks Atkinson and other golden-age critics never experienced is filing their review on a laptop at the Sardi’s opening night party, across the street from the Broadhurst. It had the closest internet connection.

Finally, it seems only fitting to also include the first review piped over to Chicago, the city where The Front Page is set. For the Tribune, Chris Jones wryly reminds of a New York Times wrinkle in the 1928 play that still seems relevant today and explains how he managed the opening-night crunch:

The premiere started late. The likes of Jon Hamm, Chris Rock and Matthew Broderick had to be coaxed into their seats. So everything you are reading here had to be written in less than an hour. Feeling panicked at the second intermission of this long three-act play, I begged Chicago for more time. One critical wag from a certain East Coast daily with more time suggested it might be funny if the review ended in the middle. Funny to you, the reader, maybe.

Previously on FishbowlNY:
Nathan Lane Recalls Rough Interview Experience
John Slattery: From Spotlight to The Front Page