It's opening night on Broadway for the cast of this year's revival of The Front Page. The latest revival stars Nathan Lane, John Slattery, and John Goodman, with a stacked cast featuring Holland Taylor, Robert Morse, Sherie Renee Scott, Jefferson Mays, and Micah Stock. Tonight the cast must be buzzing with excitement and nerves, and for once, so are the critics.
In recent years, critics are typically invited to see a show during the last weeks of its preview period. Theoretically, this allows for critics to craft a more thoughtful review, without the pressure of a looming deadline. Yet this relaxed atmosphere is a far cry from the bustling newsrooms like the kind depicted in The Front Page. As an homage to the smoke-filled, profanity-laced pressure cookers of the early 20th century, producer Scott Rudin has asked critics not to come see the show until opening night.
When The Front Page opened on Broadway in 1928, the New Republic declared, "My God, it's vulgar!" In the almost century since, the play has been seen on Broadway six times, and it has attracted its fair share of admirers. Famously, Tennessee Williams said it was his favorite play, attributing it with "[taking] the corset off American drama."
At this point in its history, The Front Page has been reviewed by several generations of critics, most of whom had to dash off and quickly type up their reviews in the face of an ever-nearing deadline. It seems only fair that critics in 2016 should have to do the same.
Photograph by Mark Seliger for Vanity Fair.