The Front Page, Broadhurst Theatre, New York

Do you long for the glory days of hot-metal typesetting and clattering typewriters, when journalists have been “crummy hobos complete of dandruff” who wore hats indoors whilst barking “exclusives” into candlestick telephones? Do you miss the elemental frisson of a good hanging (preferably by 5 o’clock, in time for the early edition)?

Then Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s screwball comedy The Front Web page is the show for you. Initially performed in 1928, the play requires location entirely in the press area of a Chicago courthouse among a group of newspapermen awaiting the execution of a cop-killing revolutionary.

Issues start slowly as the hacks and numerous hangers-on struggle to invest significantly life into their dated wisecracks. Patience can be a journalistic virtue, but director Jack O’Brien might nevertheless have shaved ten or 15 minutes off the first act. The pace quickens with the introduction of star reporter Hildy Johnson, played by John Slattery with the exact same arch panache he brought to the part of Roger Sterling in television’s Mad Males.

Hildy says he’s via with the news racket and on his way to New York to take up a effectively-paid job in — wait for it — advertising. But then his editor Walter Burns (Nathan Lane) shows up and, properly, who could say no to Nathan Lane? His arrival transforms what had been a humdrum affair into a farcical tour de force. Like a theatrical centaur, Lane charges about with brawny comic power, hauling the rest of the cast up to a larger plane of funniness.

John Goodman, initially lacklustre as the sheriff, evolves into a magnificently hulking embodiment of all-American stupidity although Holland Taylor similarly requires time to unearth the sublime zaniness in Hildy’s putative mother-in-law.

Lane also succeeds in generating us stop thinking about Cary Grant, who played the identical portion in the 1940 film adaptation His Girl Friday. Pairing Grant with Rosalind Russell as Hildy added an further dimension to the story, and The Front Web page could certainly do with an added woman’s touch at times. But Lane and Slattery still operate up a captivating bromance of their personal.

To January 29, thefrontpagebroadway.com

Section: Arts

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