a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Tony 1It's Only 1“It’s Only a Play” is very funny and VERY long. Why this piece of fluff, of absolutely delicious whimsy had to be two hours AND  FORTY MINUTES, I had no idea! When I checked the time leaving the theater it was just before ten! And it had started at 7! However, I did have a good time. It’s breezy, bouncy and cheesy. But cheese of the most delicious, aromatic type.It’s a witchy, bitchy brew.

You’ll enjoy it, too, if you’re lucky enough to get tickets. It’s totally sold out it’s limited engagement! Limited! Only until January 4! It’s the biggest hit on Broadway! With all the star-power involved, you’d think they’d have more courage to just have it open-ended and sweep up every Tony in sight come June.

But no, it was only supposed to run til the beginning of January, and Nathan Lane’s leaving, and Martin Short’s coming in(see press release a few posts back) and the good news is it’s running now until March. And Nathan hasn’t been this good since “The Producers.” He’s really, really funny in this and actually I don’t think that Broadway has seen a show with this much fun and bounce SINCE “The Producers”!

I always think  of the great Terrence McNally who wrote(and re-wrote and re-wrote) “It’s Only a Play” since the ’70s, as a very genial sort.He’s no longer Mr. Nice Guy now!. The gloves are definitely off in “It’s Only a Play” so much so that it reminded me of wonderful Gerard Alessandrini’s much missed “Forbidden Broadway.” Everybody who’s anybody gets it in the teeth here. Liza Minelli is called a cunt. I’m not kidding. And Lane bemoans the Kardashians starring in “Three Sisters”. Here McNally has become an equal opportunity insulter. And the play is all the more timely and fun because of it.

And the worst review that Lane’s character gets is being compared(unfavorably) to Harvey Fierstein. Over and over and over. It’s funny. His exasperation and horror are truly hilarious as he keeps repeating “Harvey Fierstein!”

And every body in the stellar cast is very, very funny, with the exception of the somnambulist Matthew Broderick. Who has never got this theatrical mojo back since “The Producers.” He walks through this like a dead fish. Shame. Lots of jokes about Stockard Channing’s diva/actress character and her penchant for drugs. Specifically Valium.

Broderick’s performance is like that. Dead-eyed and dead-in-the-water,and he’s supposed to be the impassioned playwright,  but it matters not, because every body else has brought their A-Game.

It’s wonderful to see Lane at his level best. And he has joke after joke after joke, and actually never once leaves the stage, THANK GOD!

Lane states, “I don’t work with children, dogs or Frank Langella.”(!?!)

Channing has never been better as the leading actress Virginia Noyes(pronounced Noise) and she sports a cane because she’s got a police detector, an ankle bracelet on her ankle, which keeps going off at the most hilarious moments. She snorts coke and has to  report in to her parole officer every three hours. She’s described as a “female impersonator searching for a female to impersonate.”(!?!)

Her auburn hair is styled like Susan Hayward at her most flaming in the ’50s. Recalling her in “The Jane Froman Story,” and she makes the most of every comic line McNally has given her. She and Lane are a joy. But I bet it is Channing who gets the Tony come awards time. She, unlike Lane, is staying in the show.

The newly thin-esque Megan Mullaney, looks completely un-like her former TV self and is sporting a Southern drawl to go with her newly svelte figure. I didn’t even recognize her! She’s the play’s energetic and naive and very rich producer, Julia Budder. And she, too keeps the comic balls bouncing.

At one point, somebody throws a snow-ball through her town house(where the play is set, stunningly designed by Scott Pask), through her town house window, and she looks outside to see who did and she says “It’s the Cast of ‘Matilda’! And I can’t understand a word they’re saying!”

Also surprisingly expert at their comic chops are Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint, as a snotty British director, who HATES getting nothing but good reviews(and is a secret kleptomaniac) and F. Murray Abraham(also unrecognizable here, initially) as that dreaded creature THE THEATER CRITIC.

Stealing the show out from everyone in a brand new part which has just gone through a sex-change(the character as written originally was some one called Emma) is newcomer Micah Stock as the lanky/hunky, gay cater-waiter, Gus P. Head, who’s just gotten into town, in cowboy boots, no less, and who keeps wanting to sing “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked” and eventually does so, to hilarious effect.

“They’re going to eat you alive!” Lane notes. Stock is so good audiences and critics are indeed eating him up. With delight.

“It’s Only a Play” is so good and so funny that you wonder why more rip-roaring comedies aren’t written like this and are on Broadway delighting millions. Well, when I read its’ history,  since THE SEVENTIES, which I’ll post below,  well, you’ll see what a long and tortuous road “It’s Only A Play” had on its’ way to Broadway, where quite frankly, it belongs, and I hope it runs for a million years!

History here below thanks to Wikipedia ~

It’s Only a Play is a play byTerrence McNally. The play ranOff-Off-Broadway in 1982, Off-Broadway in 1986, and Broadway in 2014. The producer, playwright, director, actors and friends eagerly wait for the opening night reviews of their Broadway play.

Productions

The play was revised from its 1978 version and produced off-off-Broadway by Manhattan Punch Line at the Actors and Directors Theatre, opening in November 1982.[1][2] Paul Benedict directed, with a cast that included Francis Cuka as Julia Budder, Richard Leighton as James Wicker, Paul Guilfoyle as Frank Finger, Ken Kliban as Ira Drew and Harriet Rogers as Emma.[3]

The play was produced Off-Broadway by the Manhattan Theatre Club at its New York City Center Stage 1, running from December 17, 1985 (previews), officially January 11, 1986 to January 26, 1986. Directed by John Tillinger, the cast featured Christine Baranski (Julia Budder), Paul Benedict (Ira Drew),Mark Blum (Peter Austin), James Coco (James Wicker), David Garrison (Frank Finger), Joanna Gleason (Virginia Noyes) and Florence Stanley(Emma).[4] John Tillinger was nominated for the 1986 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play.[5]

A revised version was produced by the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson at the Doolittle Theatre, Los Angeles, California in April 1992. John Tillinger directed, with a cast that featured Eileen Brennan (Virginia Noyes), Sean O’Bryan (Gus, a waiter), Charles Nelson Reilly (James Wicker), David Hyde Pierce (Frank Finger), Dana Ivey (Julia Budder), Paul Benedict (Ira Drew),Zeljko Ivanek (Peter Austin) and Doris Roberts (Emma).[4][6]

The play began its Broadway premiere at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on August 28, 2014 (in previews) and officially on October 9, 2014. It was originally scheduled for a limited 18-week engagement, through January 4, 2015. Jack O’Brien directs, with a cast that stars Nathan Lane as James Wicker and Matthew Broderick as Peter Austin. Also featured in the cast areMegan Mullally as Julia Budder, Stockard Channing as Virginia Noyes, F. Murray Abraham as Ira Drew, Rupert Grint as Frank Finger, and Micah Stock as Gus.[7][8][9] In November 2014, it was announced that the play would extend its run, through January 18, 2015 at the Schoenfeld, and will then transfer to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in a run from January 23, 2015 to March 29, 2015. Martin Short will replace Lane in the role of “James Wicker” as of January 7, 2015.[10]

McNally has said that he has rewritten the play to bring it up-to-date.[1][11]

Background

The play was originally called Broadway, Broadway and had closed during tryouts in Philadelphia in 1978.[12] Geraldine Page and James Coco were in the Philadelphia cast, and the play was set to open on Broadway at theEugene O’Neill Theatre. However, the Philadelphia reviews were negative and the Broadway opening was cancelled.[13] In 1984, McNally said that afterBroadway, Broadway closed he was no longer confident, but finally realized that having a show close is not the worst thing that could happen.[14]

 

 

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