Our first night in town we had dinner at an Indian restaurant and then cuddled in bed and watched the Golden Globes. The second night we went to a Knicks game because we were in walking distance of Madison Square Garden. (Don’t tell, but I secretly rooted for the New Orleans Pelicans because they’re in the same division as the San Antonio Spurs. The Pelicans won.) Our third night and every day thereafter we saw shows. The first was The Front Page.
It was written in 1928 by a couple of Chicago newspaper guys who became playwrights, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (husband of Helen Hayes). The setting is the press room in the criminal courts building in Chicago, October, 1928. While a lot of particulars of life have changed from then until now, the basics remain unchanged: People are people. But the clothes from back then are vastly superior, for men and women. Fab-U-Lous! Most important, friends, all I did was laugh, through all three acts.
How could I not? John Goodman was the sheriff. John Slattery was the newspaperman trying to get out. And the unscrupulous editor? Nathan Lane.
“Appearing at around the same time as the shark appears in “Jaws,” Lane’s Walter Burns roared through the door of this thinly veiled version of Chicago’s former City News Bureau…”
That great line is from Chicago Tribune reviewer Chris Jones. Nathan Lane was the shark. He sucked up every bit of oxygen on stage, and we begged him to take more. I’ve admired him on the large and small screen, most recently as attorney F. Lee Bailey in The People v. O.J. Simpson. But in person? He was unreal. There was a bit where he was trying to push a rolltop desk that wouldn’t budge, and he slowly slid all the way down until he was on the floor. Never underestimate the value of physical comedy.
This trip of ours? It was fun. We laughed. We walked our tooshies off. We ate at multiple corner delis, some of them multiple times. And we did what we love most—we saw shows.
When I met John, he wasn’t a theater guy. When we did a study abroad trip in London, he saw shows then, and I think, although he didn’t know it, he was bitten by the bug. A few years later one of our children got into theater, which led to us becoming season ticket holders at our fabulous local community theater, Fredericksburg Theater Company. We’ve since each been in a show.
There is nothing like live theater. It’s scripted, yet unpredictable. The Front Page we saw Tuesday, January 10, was different the following night in some small (or maybe large) way. I’d see it again anywhere. But I’ll never see it again with Nathan Lane.