Broadway’s original odd couple, Chicago newspaper editor Walter Burns and his recalcitrant ace reporter Hildy Johnson are returning to heap abuse on one another, producer Scott Rudin announced today. He’s mounting a Broadway revival of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s 1928 testament to testerone tossed tabloid treachery The Front Page with Nathan Lane (The Producers) starring as Walter, John Slattery (Mad Men) as Hildy and John Goodman (Trumbo) as Sheriff Hartman. Jack O’Brien (Hairspray) will direct the production, slated to open October 20 for a limited run through February 5, 2017 at a theater yet to be announced.
Set in the press room of a courthouse while a manhunt is underway for an accused murderer, The Front Page was a raucous tribute to Hecht and MacArthur’s days in the tabloid trenches and a lemon-dipped love letter to editor Walter Howey, of the Hearst operation. The reporters gathered there share a cynical view of humanity (they’re about to witness a hanging), an ease with the colorful language of prevarication and braggadocio and a consuming need for regular infusions of alcohol. It features one of the most memorable closing lines this side of “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” when Walter blurts out the lie, “The son of a bitch stole my watch!”
Staged by George S. Kaufman, the original production was a massive Broadway hit (despite its characters’ indelicate contempt for New York City in general and The New York Times in particular) and served as the prototype for at least three successful film adaptations: the first, with Adolphe Menjou and Pat O’Brien; another with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon and, in a gender switch as a vehicle for Rosalind Russell, as His Girl Friday. The most recent Broadway revival starred John Lithgow and Richard Thomas as Walter and Hildy, in a Jerry Zaks production for Lincoln Center Theater at the Vivian Beaumont, in 1986.
The new production will also feature Jefferson Mays (as Bensinger), Rosemary Harris (as Mrs. Grant), Sherie Rene Scott (as Mollie Molloy) and Dann Florek (as the Mayor). Douglas Schmidt is designing the set, Ann Roth the costumes, Brian MacDevitt the lighting and Scott Lehrer, sound.