Date: June 11, 2013
Shari on the Aisle Rating: ***1/2
Lead Cast: Tom Hanks, Maura Tierney, Christopher McDonald, Peter Gerety, Courtney B. Vance, Peter Scolari, Richard Masur, Brian Dykstra, Michael Gaston, Dustyn Gulledge, Deirdre Lovejoy, Danny Mastrogiorgio, Stephen Tyrone Williams
Background: Lucky Guy comes to Broadway thanks to three modern icons: legendary tabloid journalist Mike McAlary (the main character), beloved writer/filmmaker Nora Ephron (the playwright), and equally beloved movie star Tom Hanks (in the starring role, making not just his Broadway debut, but his professional stage debut).
Lucky Guy tells the story of Mike McAlary’s life as a reporter and columnist for the big three New York tabloids—Newsday, The New York Post, and The Daily News—from the mid-1980’s to the time of his death in late 1998. Along the way McAlary drank a lot, smoked a lot, hung out a lot in bars with his fellow newsmen, chased down stories, and won a Pulitzer Prize for his exposé on the Abner Louima police brutality case.
Quick Take: I went to the Broadhurst not expecting much from Lucky Guy, as reviews had been lukewarm, even though the show has been selling out every performance thanks to the tremendous star power of Tom Hanks. I ended up enjoying the show, mostly due to its excellent ensemble cast (you’ll recognize many of them, even if you don’t know their names; Peter Gerety’s John Cotter particularly stands out) and Mr. Hanks’ excellent, touching performance.
In Addition: Nora Ephron loved New York and loved journalism, so McAlary’s story is a natural for her. Sadly, she passed away before the play began rehearsals. Would it have been a better play had she been around to finesse it before opening night? Probably. But thanks to George C. Wolfe’s creative direction of his very fine, experienced cast of character actors, the play really gives us a feeling for its era. Using projected newspaper headlines, we’re reminded of the New York City of crack-fueled violence, unsafe streets, and dirty cops of not so long ago. We feel the authenticity of the smoke-filled newsroom (there’s even a joke where a guy comes in with a smoke machine to intensify the effect) and the bromance of guys working together in the trenches for the common good.
Trivia: Peter Scolari, who plays newspaperman Michael Daly in Lucky Guy, was Tom Hanks’ co-star in the early 1980’s sitcom “Bosom Buddies.”
Tony Awards Notes: Tom Hanks was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Although he gave a very strong performance (and his loss is the only Tony prediction I got wrong), he doesn’t have to feel bad about losing out to Tracy Letts’s seminal performance as George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. That production may go down in history as possibly the best production of Albee’s masterpiece.
Now on to Courtney B. Vance (Hap Hairston), who won the Tony for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role. Once I saw Lucky Guy, I was pretty puzzled by his win. As I said, this is really an ensemble piece, led by Hanks as McAlary. Vance’s role doesn’t really stand out. I saw the performances by all of the nominated actors in this category (Danny Burstein and Tony Shalhoub in Golden Boy, Richard Kind in The Big Knife, and Billy Magnussen in Vanya and Sonia, etal.) and of all of them I would have rated Vance last, mostly because the role itself isn’t all that memorable. I think any of the others would have made more sense. So go know.
Should You Go? Yes! As John Cotter tells McAlary in Lucky Guy, “It’s all about the story.” And it’s a good story. Supposedly McAlary could be an arrogant bastard, but nobody ever accused him of being boring. If you’re old enough to remember New York City in the bad-ass ‘80s, you’ll enjoy this glimpse backward. If you don’t remember that time, you’ll learn something, and you’ll appreciate how good we have it now. Plus, it’s your chance to see Mr. Hanks tread the boards. Who knows when that will happen again?
This show consistently sells out, and the run ends on July 3. Consider snagging a standing room ticket ($29, available 90 minutes before curtain). It’s worth it.