Photo: Joan Marcus

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Opening Night:
October 9, 2014
June 7, 2015

Theater: Bernard B. Jacobs / 242 West 45th Street, New York, NY, 10036


Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane lead an all-star cast featuring F. Murray Abraham, Stockard Channing, Megan Mullally and Micah Stock in the Broadway comedy about the comedy of Broadway: It’s Only a Play. Written by four-time Tony® winner Terrence McNally and directed by three-time Tony® winner Jack O'Brien, this is a celebration of theatre at its best – and theatre people behaving their not-so-best. It’s opening night of Peter Austin's (Matthew Broderick) new play as he anxiously awaits to see if his show is a hit. With his career on the line, he shares his big First Night with his best friend, a television star (Nathan Lane), his fledgling producer (Megan Mullally), his erratic leading lady (Stockard Channing), his wunderkind director, an infamous drama critic (F. Murray Abraham) and a fresh-off-the-bus coat check attendant (Micah Stock in his Broadway debut). It’s alternately raucous, ridiculous and tender — reminding audiences why there’s no business like show business. Thank God!


    Well, Did What’s-His-Name Like It? Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane and Stockard Channing in 'It's Only a Play' on Broadway

    Ben Brantley

    October 9, 2014: Big names drop like hailstones in Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play, the kind that look like diamonds from a distance and then melt away before you know it. As a star-struck young man observes at the beginning of this deliriously dishy revival, which opened Thursday night at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater (and is about a tense opening night of a play at the Ethel Barrymore Theater), “This place is crawling with famous people.” He’s referring to a noisy party that’s happening downstairs. But he might as well be talking about the comedy in which he appears, which is directed with gusto by Jack O’Brien. One of the reasons that It’s Only a Play is already a gold-mining hit is its unblushing willingness to play the fame card as an ace that can’t be beaten. As any of the pseudo-cynical, theater-obsessed characters in this work from the 1980s — which has been strategically rewritten by Mr. McNally — might point out, “That’s Broadway today, baby.” The list of celebrities starts with the show’s cast members, whose biographies glitter with Tonys, Emmys, a box-office-bonanza film franchise and an Oscar. They include Broadway’s most popular bromancers, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, along with Stockard Channing, Megan Mullally (of Will and Grace), Rupert Grint (of the Harry Potter movies) and F. Murray Abraham. Then there are the many, many other well-known names that pepper the dialogue to keep it from tasting bland.


    It's Only a Play is a poison-pen mash note to New York theater, at once gleefully bitchy and affectionate

    Thom Geier

    October 9, 2014: It's taken more than three decades for Terrence McNally's backstage comedy It's Only a Play to make it to Broadway. The show was bound for the Great White Way in 1978 until a disastrous Philadelphia tryout derailed those plans. But McNally never completely abandoned the project, which is set at the posh Manhattan townhouse of a Broadway producer as the cast and creative team gather for an opening-night bash to await the reviews. In the mid-'80s, there was a successful Off Broadway revival with James Coco, Christine Baranski, and Joanna Gleason. And now it's landed on Broadway at last in a hilarious and star-packed evening of theater in-jokes that often plays like a nonmusical version of Forbidden Broadway. McNally has completely overhauled his original script, stuffing it with up-to-date references to everything from Lady Gaga to Kelly Ripa, and from Matilda to the upcoming revivals of A Delicate Balance and The Elephant Man. There are also plenty of way-inside punchlines for theater chatroom habitués: Bonus laughs for those who know that Moose Murders was a notorious Broadway flop or that if you have to pick a hometown for the show's nervous playwright the natural choice is Corpus Christi.

  • VARIETY REVIEW OF It’s Only A Play

    Nobody does mean-nasty-vicious like Terrence McNally, bless his black heart

    Marilyn Stasio

    October 9, 2014: The setup for this showbiz comedy is perfect: The producer, playwright, director and star of a new Broadway show, along with friends and foes, are huddled upstairs in the producer’s townhouse, anxiously awaiting the reviews, while a raucous opening-night party rages downstairs. After an initial false step in 1978 (when the show, then called Broadway, Broadway, flopped out of town), the concept clicked in 1982, when the show was retooled and re-launched Off Off Broadway by the Manhattan Punch Line. It worked just as well in 1986, when Manhattan Theater Club picked up the production for its City Center main stage. And since the more things change in this business, the more they stay the same, McNally’s original blueprint still works just fine in helmer Jack O’Brien’s snappy production. O’Brien lets us know right at the top of the show that we’re in for some good times. One big tip is his savvy casting of Micah Stock as Gus P. Head, the clueless innocent who has been hired to collect the guests’ coats, but hopes that one of the famous among them will recognize his hidden theatrical talents. Stock is a natural comic actor, with his lanky frame and hilarious deadpan expression, and he makes an exciting Main Stem debut as this dim yokel. “This town’s gonna eat him alive,” someone predicts.


    'It's Only A Play' Is Wickedly Funny

    Mark Kennedy

    October 9, 2014: Terrance McNally's play is not so much a love letter from a shy, smitten admirer as a mash note sent by a stalker who's written it in capital letters and smeared it with what may be bodily fluids. Whatever it is, it's a pure hoot, a rollicking comedy with perfect casting and deft direction in Jack O'Brien that gleefully dissects modern Broadway and doesn't pretend to mask its targets by using fake names. There are jokes about James Franco, Kelly Ripa, Alec Baldwin, Tommy Tune, Liza Minnelli, Shia LaBeouf — in legal trouble, of course — and snide comments about shows like Matilda the Musical and Mamma Mia! Ben Brantley, the powerful theater critic for The New York Times, is mentioned several times and even becomes the butt of a prank. Four-time Tony Award-winning McNally has earned his right to laugh — this is his 21st Broadway production — and his knife work is like that of a five-star chef: enough to bleed, but good-naturedly enough to not nick the bone. The seven-character play, which made its Broadway debut Thursday at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, is an offstage look at theater egos after the curtain comes down. Those in the audience who adore the minutia of the theater world — everyone knows who Tovah Feldshuh is, right? — will laugh the loudest.


    Broadway buddies Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane head an all-star cast in Terrence McNally's irreverent backstage comedy

    David Rooney

    October 9, 2014: There are 26 credited producers on the Broadway production of Terrence McNally's theater-biz satire It's Only a Play, and presumably nobody will be laughing harder than those guys at the zingers about the phalanx of moneymen who now regularly mob the Radio City stage when winners are announced on Tony Awards night. The in-jokes come thick and fast in this extensively retooled revival, which has been raking in huge grosses through previews thanks to its deluxe cast. The big draw is the reteaming of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, the adored double-act who made the Mel Brooks musical The Producers a commercial juggernaut and demonstrated their box-office clout again in a 2005 revival of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. But it's in Lane's dynamite early scenes with gifted newcomer Micah Stock that this funny if flimsy comedy really fires on all cylinders, while Broderick underwhelms in a key role. McNally's farcical doodle starts out like gangbusters but becomes increasingly uneven. It has an annoying habit of stalling when it should accelerate, particularly in a padded second act that could use an editor. Still, there's much enjoyment to be had from this amusing sketch, first performed in 1978 and then overhauled in 1982. That version has been revised in subsequent productions to update its many insider references to the current Broadway landscape.



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