Nora Ephron grew up with a mother who lived by the maxim that everything was copy (they were both writers), and as she revealed in her book and film Heartburn (1986), nothing was off limits. So with her last play in which she originally wrote to become a movie – Lucky Guy – a story chronicling the life of legendary New York journalist Mike McAlary, it felt as though she were analyzing life and death and saying goodbye to her fans vicariously through a man who she was greatly curious about as they both had a love for journalism, New York City and lived lives that ended far too soon.
Fourteen years ago Ephron began doing research on the larger-than-life Pultizer Prize winning New York journalist who died at the age of 41 from colon cancer. With her eye on Tom Hanks to play the leading role, she wouldn’t have success turning it into a movie – titled “Stories About McAlary”. And even as a Broadway play, she couldn’t get it produced (and Hanks turned down the lead).
As hindsight is 20/20, we now know it eventually did get produced and posthumously, Nora Ephron deserves a tremendous round of applause.
Tom Hanks did eventually decide to become Mike McAlary – mustache and all, and as he shares in an interview one reason he wanted to take the role was to “hang with Nora” a little bit longer. As the play opens, set in 1988 and running until his death in 1998, an Irish ballad is sung “The Wild Rover” (and is also how the play ends). Upon hearing the first bookend, I was curious and intrigued, by the finale I was wiping away tears.
Based on interviews with those who knew and worked with McAlary (she even taped McAlary’s widow to get a few key lines perfected), Ephron infuses humor, actual headlines from Newsday, The New York Post and The Daily News and provokes emotion that I am still trying to wrap my brain around.
Prior to watching the play, many ask the question about the chosen title – Lucky Guy, why? After all, we all know how his story ends. But when upon seeing how he lived, the work ethic he displayed and the success he accrued, there really couldn’t be another title.
As the previews wrapped up March 31st, it premieres at the Broadhurst Theater on 44th street Monday (April 1st) and has been extended to run through mid-June until July 3rd.
As I attended the Wednesday matinee performance last week while in New York City and fortunately had purchased my ticket a month in advance (as it had been sold-out), the play has been receiving rave reviews (here’s one I think you’ll enjoy, oh, and this one as well). I highly recommend seeing it if you are in the area during the next few months.
With Lucky Guy, Tom Hanks makes his Broadway debut directed by Tony award winning director George C. Wolfe, alongside a stellar cast that you will recognize from your television screens: Courtney B. Vance, Christopher McDonald, Maura Tierney (playing McAlary’s wife Alice), Michael Gaston, Deidre Lovejoy, Peter Gerety and others. I’ve gathered up a few images to show but a glimpse of a play that left me mourning for more of Nora’s talent.
~UPDATE: 4/30 – Lucky Guy has received six Tony nominations, including a leading actor nod to Tom Hanks.
Click here for tickets.
Tom Hanks speaks to the New York Times about his debut on Broadway, playing Mike McAlarey and Nora Ephron.
~Tom Hanks, Christopher McDonald, Maura Tierney, Courtney B. Vance and Peter Scolari at Sardi’s for an interview with Piers Morgan~