Review Roundup: LUCKY GUY Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
Two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks makes his Broadway debut in Lucky Guy, a new play written by three-time Academy Award nominee Nora Ephron and directed by two-time Tony Award winner George C. Wolfe. Lucky Guy opens tonight, April 1, at Broadhurst Theatre.
Also starring are Maura Tierney as Alice McAlary; Christopher McDonald as lawyer Eddie Hayes; Peter Gerety as editor John Cotter; Courtney B. Vance as editor Hap Hairston; Peter Scolari as columnist Michael Daly and Richard Masur as editors Jerry Nachman and Stanley Joyce.
The production features scenic design by David Rockwell, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, sound design by Scott Lehrer and lighting design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, with projection design by batwin + robin productions.
Nora Ephron's new play is about the scandal- and graffiti-ridden New York of the 1980s, as told through the story of the charismatic and controversial tabloid columnist Mike McAlary (Tom Hanks).
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: "Lucky Guy" is not so much a fully developed play or even a persuasive character study as a boisterous swapping of fond anecdotes about the end of a life and the end of an era...Not that "Lucky Guy" is a crepe hanger. On the contrary, staged with the full bells-and-whistles treatment for which Mr. Wolfe is celebrated...Unlike some of the movies Ephron wrote and directed, and many of her peerlessly sharp essays, "Lucky Guy" often feels only newsprint deep. But as a love song to a fast-disappearing, two-fisted brand of journalism - a field in which she began her long and varied career - it has the heart and energy of the perpetually engaged, insatiably curious observer that Ephron never ceased to be.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Nora Ephron's last play is about the world of New York tabloids, and it's a lot like the messy subject she looks at - overindulgent, overstuffed and raucous. That's its charm as well as its undoing...Hanks, making his Broadway debut, is classic Hanks - lovable, touching and funny...After 16 scenes over two hours, McAlary emerges as a complex figure, both self-aggrandizing and yet also someone who genuinely seems to want to "right wrongs"...Ephron seems to be bewitched by this lovable scamp. But the play leaves little lasting impression, like a day-old tabloid.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: The actor whose name sits above the marquee proves equally adroit. McAlary, whose columns could be as unsparing on alleged crime victims as they were on rogue cops, made his share of professional and personal missteps; and Hanks shows us his capacity for arrogance and recklessness. But the actor also makes McAlary's human fallibility part of his appeal, bringing to the role a crustier version of the unmannered charm that made Hanks one of Hollywood's most likable leading men. That's a key asset here, as something like it surely helped McAlary form the regular-guy bonds that fed his biggest scoops.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: A frequent stumbling block in any dense dramatic chronicle is too much tell, not enough show. But the late Nora Ephron circumvents that problem in her entertaining salute to the tabloid newspaper business of the 1980s and '90s, Lucky Guy. She smartly enlists a garrulous crew of reporters and editors to serve as the oral-history vessel for her nostalgic look back at old-school, foot-in-the-door journalism...Directed with warmth and vitality by George C. Wolfe, it's performed with relish by a dynamic cast of pros, piloted by an uncharacteristically rough-edged Tom Hanks...Is it exceptional drama? Not by any means. It's talky, cursory in its conflict exploration, and not exactly packed with complexity. Yet it's intelligently written, engrossing and laced with crackling humor.
Erik Haagensen, Backstage: Nora Ephron's posthumously produced "Lucky Guy" is a breezy but thin account of the life and career of New York City reporter and columnist Mike McAlary. Film star Tom Hanks, in his Broadway debut and first stage appearance in more than 30 years, displays potent theatrical technique and dispenses the requisite charisma as the bombastic newspaper flack. Audiences primed for seeing Hanks in the flesh probably won't care about the flimsiness of his vehicle and the reams of rat-a-tat-tat narration that shackle it.
Matt Windman, AM New York: Although the play is clunky, choppy and unapologetically sentimental (and probably would have been revised if Ephron was still with us), it engrosses us in a distinctive, proudly macho world of newspaper journalism, cigarette smoke and Irish barrooms. Hanks, sporting McAlary's trademark thick mustache, offers a spirited performance, basking in the frenzy of being a reporter on the police beat, and makes a clean transition to a frailer physical state later in the play. 3 stars
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Tom Hanks is a natural. Although he hasn't trod the boards in years, the affable movie star takes to the stage like a fish to water in "Lucky Guy"...As an actor whose niceness is the key component of his DNA, Hanks can play selfish, arrogant, cunning, and calculating without losing his sources or alienating his enemies. The inherent decency he projects redeems this prickly character from his less than princely behavior toward friend, foe, and long-suffering family.
Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly: Lucky Guy boasts a posthumous script by the beloved late writer and director Nora Ephron; the Broadway debut of super-duper movie star Tom Hanks; and the real-life story of Mike McAlary, a swaggering New York tabloid columnist...That's a lot of juicy back story - none of which saves Lucky Guy from its fate as a dull, stalled play about a not-particularly-noteworthy mug with a flair for self-promotion. Two hours of Lucky Guy and a theater-goer with no previous knowledge of McAlary and his tabloid cronies will still have no idea why Ephron was so enamored of this blowhard, no sense of McAlary himself, and no explanation for why a Broadway production, directed by the inventive George C. Wolfe with so much energetic set-changing and stage business, nevertheless feels so inconsequential and dramatically inert. C+
Jesse Green, Vulture: With an insider's devastating combination of repulsion and affection, [Ephron]'s written a most unlikely thing: a play about journalism, or really about telling stories, that is as rich and rough and elegiac and fun as the lost world it re-creates...Ephron was damned lucky; few writers write their best work last and manage to go out with a bang. She was lucky, too, in having eventually convinced Tom Hanks, who had been reluctant, to star as McAlary...And while it's no little compliment to his performance to say it is as good as that of his castmates, who are excellent from top to bottom, the triumph belongs to Ephron and Wolfe, who are almost one entity here. In shaping the final working script, Wolfe had access to Ephron's drafts and notes, and did no more or less than what Ephron, as engaged an author as ever there was, would clearly have approved.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: At its best, the drama cracks with the smoky and gritty atmosphere Ephron knew firsthand from her own days as a reporter. Her signature wry humor bites, as when an editor is lovingly needled: "If you held the guy up to the light, you could see the olive." That is 100-proof Ephron zing.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: Nora Ephron's "Lucky Guy" is a eulogy. A really fun, really entertaining eulogy. You may have heard that Tom Hanks, making his Broadway debut, is the star of the show - and he is, his Everyman-relatable charm coming through as strongly onstage as it does on- screen. But Ephron's real focus isn't a man but the end of hardboiled New York journalism.
Michael Musto, Village Voice: Hanks is terrific at capturing the writer's gumption, drive, and vulnerability...But this is truly an ensemble piece, and the whole company--as directed by George C. Wolfe--is strong...As the evening's sketchy feeling becomes its defining feature, it's clear that this is more of a character evocation than a strict narrative. It's a play about atmosphere--the booze-and-smoke-filled arena where headlines are born, chances are taken, and, most of all, stories are told. In the uneven but boisterously affecting result, McAlary's pure love of journalism--like Ephron's--shines through like a cigarette in the dark.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: By the end of "Lucky Guy," you're going to like Tom Hanks a lot more than Mike McAlary, the tabloid byline he plays with magnetic appeal in his Broadway debut. That's exactly as it's meant to be. Hanks: Good-guy hero. McAlary: Hero, maybe. Good guy? Well, that's the more complicated issue that Nora Ephron was getting at when she wrote this valentine to the New York tabloid wars of the 1980s and '90s along with the reporter who best exemplified them.
Linda Winer, Newsday: Wolfe and a laser-eyed creative team take control of our gaze with the rhythm and allure of a noir movie. David Rockwell's brilliantly inventive, sleek black-and-white sets make headline projections and sliding furniture look new again. Desks are seldom out of sight for these workaholics, even when they're at the bars. In "Imaginary Friends," Ephron's grossly underrated 2002 Broadway play about Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy, Hellman says, "We're all just stories. The question is, who gets to tell them." How lucky, if that's not too paradoxical a word, that Ephron got to tell this one.
Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: "Lucky Guy," which opened Monday night at the Broadhurst Theatre, is Tom Hanks' rookie Broadway appearance, but the film star makes acting on stage look easy. Effortlessly transferring his low-key charisma to the theater, Hanks is quick, funny and surprisingly tough as columnist Mike McAlary and, at the end, makes the character much more touching than you'd think possible.
David Cote, Time Out NY: Wolfe stages the play-propelled by direct-address narration from McAlary's fellow journos (forming a kind of f-bomb-dropping Greek chorus)-at a furious clip. Split scenes, video projection and rapid cuts bridge the stylistic gap between the movie this material started as and the scrappy, vibrant urban drama it became. The hero of this latter-day Front Pagedied at the cusp of a new age, one of news aggregators, blogs and camera phones-not to mention plummeting ad dollars and circulation numbers. He and his fellow media dinosaurs didn't live to see what a bloodless hash the Internet would make of city news. Maybe they are the lucky ones.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: The biggest challenge faced by "Lucky Guy" might be the conundrum of its title. Ephron originally called her script "Stories About McAlary," and McAlary's widow was reportedly apprehensive of the change, at least before sitting in on a rehearsal. McAlary's time was brief, but it seems as if it was filled with the love, camaraderie and success many spend lifetimes twice as long trying to achieve. All things considered, you could say he was pretty lucky.
Charles McNulty, LA Times: But this vibrantly acted production, directed by George C. Wolfe with his signature urban zip, does its best to mitigate the dramatic deficiencies by keeping the wider scene pulsating even when the protagonist's journey grows fuzzy or loses steam. The projections animating David Rockwell's kinetic sets only accelerate the staging's step.
Alexis Soloski, The Guardian: Despite everything we know about the demise of print media and the scandals that pervade it, Ephron and Wolfe really make you believe, at least for the play's two-hour running time, that journalism, as McAlary says, isn't "the oldest job in the world, but it's the best job in the world."