Lucky Guy

Lucky Guy

 Date:  June 11, 2013

 Theatre: Broadhurst

 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.

2013 Tony Awards Quick Predictions


Tomorrow night, June 9,  is the night when everyone in the theatre community holds their collective breath to see who will earn the word “win” in his or her next Playbill bio and who will have to be content with “nom.”

There’s not much time left before the big night, so I’ve got to get my Tony predictions in NOW. Because time is short, I’ll only cover the main categories. Maybe I’ll be right, maybe I’ll be wrong, but to quote Ann Richards in Holland Taylor’s snappy production of Ann: “You gotta go out on a limb, because that’s where the fruit is.”

Here goes:

Best Musical:  Kinky Boots
I haven’t yet written my Shari on the Aisle review of Kinky Boots, but let’s just say that in the 2013 battle of Matilda vs. Boots, I’m firmly in the Matilda camp. Too bad for me, because everybody else prefers Kinky Boots. (But I’d love to be surprised).

Best Revival of a Musical: Pippin
No contest, although I saw and enjoyed all of the nominated shows in this category. Annie is a delightful show and this is a great production; Drood is tons of fun, and Cinderella’s stagecraft is stunning. But Pippin is a shoo-in.

Best Play: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Christopher Durang has never won a Tony and this is his year. The Testament of Mary, a provocative play with an amazing performance by Fiona Shaw, has no chance. Even though the play won a nomination, when Tony voters skipped Shaw for a Best Actress nod, the play promptly posted a closing notice. The Assembled Parties and Lucky Guy garnered lots of praise, Parties for the actual play and Guy for Tom Hanks’ performance. But everyone loved Vanya etal., and it’s a pretty sure bet to win.

Best Revival of a Play: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
This is probably the toughest category to call, the one where I’m really do have to go out on a limb. My first instinct is to predict Golden Boy, a really top rate production that everyone loved. But it’s no longer playing, which works against it. Of course Virginia Woolf has also closed, but it’s considered the best production of the play in a long time, possibly ever. The performances were just sizzling. Orphans, which I enjoyed (especially Tom Sturridge’s feral performance), has no shot. I also loved every minute of Trip to Bountiful, but Tony voters will most likely honor Cicely Tyson, but not the play, which is OK by me.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Tom Hanks
Everybody loves both him personally and his performance. And although the play is no masterpiece, Tom is raking in the bucks for the production. Give the man a Tony.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Cicely Tyson
Kristine Nielsen, a theatre veteran and Durang favorite, is positively delicious in Vanya, etal. The producers tried to nominate her for best actress in a featured role, but the Tony committee (rightly) refused. Laurie Metcalf’s performance in her angst-ridden role in The Other Place was excellent, Amy Morton was fierce in Virginia Woolf, and Holland Taylor nailed the sass and wit of Ann Richards. But I will never forget the scene where the ethereal Ms. Tyson stood up, raised her arms to the heavens, and sang the hymn “Blessed Assurance.” The audience spontaneously joined in. It was a moment, let me tell you. She deserves that Tony and I can’t wait to see her accept it.

Almost done. On to the Best Performances by an Actor and Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical:

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Billy Porter
The Battle of the Cross-dressers. This one truly causes me pain. Bertie Carvel won the Olivier Award for his Miss Trunchbull in the original West End production of Matilda. I thought he was a shoo-in for this award, but all the buzz is about Billy Porter. He’s brilliantly talented, but I just adore Bertie. Surprise me, Tony voters.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Patina Miller
I’m hearing rumors about Laura Osnes taking this one for her delightful turn in Cinderella. But seriously, Patina sings while on a trapeze. And her impeccable performance of the Fosse choreography in the Manson Trio number is just stellar. Plus, I’d give her an award for the buffest arms I’ve ever seen.

Before I sign off: While I’m writing about Pippin, I fully expect to see Andrea Martin accept her award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical. I also predict she’ll bring down the house, as she does 8 times a week on stage at The Music Box. I’ve loved her since her days as Edith Prickly on SCTV. And she’s the hottest 67 year old anywhere.

I’ll be watching with Glenn, having a cocktail, eating leftovers, and keeping score tomorrow evening. Enjoy!

Broadway Babies

Broadway Babies

The life of a child actor on Broadway isn’t all curtain calls, adulation, and lunch at Sardi’s. In this Sunday’s NY Times Arts & Leisure section Robin Pogrebin presents a sensitive, inside look at child actors currently working on Broadway, from the 4 Matildas to Annie, young Michael Jackson in Motown, and the child version of Kinky Boots’ drag queen.