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“Abbey has a keen eye for the comedic gesture, the sight gag, the visual joke. But he also knows how to bring out serious moments by framing the scene and staging it so that there is no doubt where the focal point is…
The star of course is Hildy Johnson and he is played with effortless energy, command and determination by Ben Carlson. He’s like an explosion on that stage and always riveting.”
“The gender-shift in the script is the most important of a number of changes in Michael Healey’s unflaggingly strong adaptation (references to fake news and impeachment bring the play into the present moment) and it delivers a bonanza in the casting and performance of Maev Beaty, who is wonderfully inventive in the role…
As for the play’s preoccupation with truth and lies, and the responsibility of newspapers and the media to “get it right”, not much seems to have changed. Almost a century later, far from being a museum piece, this really splendid production of The Front Page, bears a striking resemblance to our contemporary present.”
“One change in the Healey adaptation is in making the character of Wilson, one of the journalists in the pressroom, a person of colour. As each character attempts to weave the catchiest crime story, much is made by the white journalists of the fact that the accused, Earl Williams, allegedly killed a black cop. Wilson has a strong desire to only share the known and proven facts in his story and expresses frustration that the others don’t even know the name of the officer who was killed.
The character, played by E.B. Smith implies that if he prints one inaccurate fact, he could be out of a job-something the others clearly do not have to worry about at all. The layers to this relatively minor character are a very interesting touch and Smith portrays him with a quiet and confident resolve to do his best work, and an overarching frustration with the system in which he has to do that work.”
“Stratford has hired Michael Healey adapt a play that, except for its use of racial epithets, does not need adaptation. Healey’s goal and that of director Graham Abbey seems to be to turn this dark comedy into a screwball farce. All they succeed in creating is a high decibel, three-hour shouting match that completely misses the point of the play…
Healey has given Abbey a sanitized adaptation at odds with the original play and Abbey’s inconsistent direction is at odds with enjoyable comedy. “
“To their credit, the cast members do everything asked of them, but left many in the audience confused as to when, if, or how hard to laugh. The original is most certainly not devoid of yuks, but never loses site of its raison d’être. In this production cheap laughs trump (in all senses of the word) stellar writing and wit.
Director Graham Abbey seems quite content to go along with putting new—if ill-fitting clothes on this classic play—but too many will leave the theatre (especially if they have never seen or read the original) delighted with the comedy and ever so pleased with being able to pick up on the Red/Russia menace references—so like the White house these days.”
“Beaty portrays Cookie with the sarcastic wit and devastating cunning that a woman at that time and in her position would have developed to survive. Often using the male reporters’ egos against them, she quickly adapts to every setback placed in her path with the single-minded mission of portraying the Chicago Examiner as the hero in a story of corrupt officials trying to murder a man who had not intended to kill a police officer.”
“There may be something about The Front Page’s frenzied world of early and late editions and phones ringing off the hook (literally, off hooks) that doesn’t seem that far away from our own non-stop, social-media, hyper-partisan world of news cycles. But this version doesn’t connect the dots; it’s entertaining, but gallops in many directions at once: Homage, touch-up, Trump-era take.”
“Those who tremble when they hear that a great classic play has been “updated” or “adapted” (I am one of them) can relax. The sturdy bones of the story are intact and Healy proves himself to be a comic writer with whom Hecht and MacArthur would have been happy to get drunk…
The real star part belongs to Cookie Burns and Maev Beaty is nothing short of incandescent in the role. Hers is easily the funniest performance at Stratford this season, and she has some stiff competition. Her flat Chicago accent is as impeccable as her comic timing. Her takes and asides are mini master classes in the art of comedy. In fact, the only thing wrong with Beaty’s performance is that it doesn’t begin until the second act.”
“What really makes this Front Page feel fresh is its social, gender, racial and character complications — things that a mainstream audience in 2019 is much more equipped and eager to investigate than in 1928.
It might mean there’s often a bitter tinge to the laughs, particularly in the first two (of three) acts, but this grey area of theatre feels more honest than the black and white of newsprint in the original script.”