By Keith Tomasek, Sept. 6, 2018
The Stratford Festival has cancelled the 2019 production of “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and replaced it with “The Front Page.” Michael Healey is writing a new adaptation of the 1928 play.
No specifics were provided for the change, but speaking in a press release artistic director Antoni Cimolino said that some creative collaborations haven’t fallen into place and “consequently we took the opportunity to bring to the Festival stage one of the great comedies about journalism – ‘The Front Page.'”
Healey, who has a razor-sharp wit, was playwright-in-residence at Tarragon from 2000 until 2011, when he left in protest over Richard Rose’s decision not to program his satirical play on Prime Minister Stephen Harper entitled “Proud.” Healy’s most recent play “1979” examines a critical moment in Prime Minister Joe Clark’s leadership. Writing in The Ottawa Citizen Peter Hum noted that “the play’s many laughs range from bawdy to farcical to absurd to politically nerdy to meta-theatrical.”
Healey’s critical eye is vital these days; hopefully his agreement to adapt also includes a new commission from the Festival. That would have been a true Win-Win negotiation.
Graham Abbey is directing the production and says “In many ways, this play created the blueprint for generations of stage and film scripts to follow with its rapid-fire dialogue and vivid depiction of hard-nosed journalistic stereotypes. At its heart, it is an examination and celebration of language – the power of the spoken and written word to uncover and expose the truth, and the possibility of the corruption of that truth under the guise of political ends.”
In his review of the 2016 Broadway revival starring Nathan Lane, Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune reminds us that the play has a comedic role that can be a tour de force performance for the right actor. Writing in the Globe in Mail J. Kelly Nestruck notes that the Healey adaptation will remove the original’s “sexism and racism,” and flip the gender of Walter Burns to become a female character.
No word yet on casting, who would you like to see in the role?
The recent film adaptation of Healey’s 1999 play “The Drawer Boy,” will be screened at The Forest City Film Festival in London ON. on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7pm, at the Wolf Hall.
Miles Potter who directed the first production of “The Drawer Boy” will be speaking at the screening.
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