Every day is opening night.


Ladies and gents,

On Broadway, every opening is an event, but once every few seasons there’s an opening that reminds you why New York is the most exciting city in the world. And when a mere opening night simply won’t do, perhaps try to pull off an entire opening day and night. That’s just what the incredible new production of Angels in America did on Sunday, beginning with red carpet arrivals at a (by theatrical standards) pre-dawn time of 11:00 a.m. (meaning ladies started getting hair and make-up done at 8:30 a.m., or as I call it “the middle of the night”). Curtain time for Part I was held at noon (also known as “matinee time” if you’re a member of the Big Apple Circus), followed by much-needed sustenance at Joe Allen and Orso. Now Manhattan mainstays, these establishments were oases in the tumult of the Reagan-era, so it only seems appropriate that this is where guests hung their hats for a while. Part 2 got underway at around 6:00 p.m., cutting my usual cocktail hour short.

But enough about timing, let’s talk about the production. If your memory of Tony Kushner’s ultimate canonical work of the late 20th century has dimmed since it first reshaped the face of American drama in 1993, rest assured: it deserves every accolade it has ever received. And it has received all of them. Sprawling and messy, taught and sharp— full of humor and humanity and utterly devastating. And though the memory of that original cast is burned into my brain, this company managed to create something equally indelible and vital out of these now-iconic characters.
Let’s get the big draw out of the way first: Nathan Lane has probably never missed the mark in his extraordinary career, and here he is at his very best. Only Lane could make Roy Cohn lovable. Don’t get me wrong — he’s still one terrifying son-of-a-bitch, but Lane infuses the role with such humanity that you come to understand a man haunted by his shame — the ultimate cowardly lion. Never has an actor turned lying in a hospital bed into such a full-body, physical feat. In the words of my old friend Beth DuMont, “Tony Award! Tony Award!”
Andrew Garfield brings a level of craft and sensitivity to his Prior Walter that belies his movie star heartthrob status. Perfectly calibrated, fearless, and surprising at every turn, he has done something that conventional wisdom would tell us doesn’t happen anymore: he has utterly redefined his young career on the Broadway stage.
James McArdle plays Kushner’s alter ego, Louis Ironson, flawlessly, and — perhaps even harder to earn than the Olivier Award nomination he received for the role — he has gotten a hugely enthusiastic stamp of approval from Kushner himself. If you thought Jackie Hoffman knew how to kvetch, wait until you see McArdle’s monologue of non-stop complaining for fifteen.

The Pitts are perfect, from Lee Pace’s Joe, to Denise Gough (fresh off her giant American stage debut in People, Places, & Things at St. Ann’s Warehouse) as a hilarious and heartbreaking Harper, in her Broadway debut, to Susan Brown’s Hannah. Brown also nails all of her other roles, especially her take on Roy Cohn’s doctor, delivering one of the plays most challenging and breathtaking scenes when Roy first finds out about his illness.

Belize, who in many ways is the moral center of the play, is played by Nathan Stewart-Jarrett— an actor with the uncanny ability to deliver moments of theatrical grandeur and moments of naked simplicity, one after another, without missing a beat.
And Amanda Lawrence manages to outshine even the incredible stagecraft that has gone into her role as The Angel. Saying anything more would be to ruin too many surprises.
It isn’t often that the extreme pomp and circumstance surrounding such a massive opening night could be overshadowed by the play itself, but such is the particularly genius of Marianne Elliott’s production.

My fellow attendees included Lupita Nyong’o, Glenn Close, Joel Grey, Frances McDormand, RuPaul, Diane Sawyer, Maura Tierney, Daryl Roth, Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Billy Eichner, Jeffrey Wright, Spike Jonze, Lea DeLaria, Thom Browne, Michael Arden, Cindy Adams, Jimmy Nederlander, Phil Smith, Peter Staley and Kevin Sessums.
Presiding over the affair were producers Tim Levy for NT America and Jordan Roth, President of Jujamcyn Theaters.
I can’t remember the last time an opening night felt so momentous, or the last time a full day of theater flew by in the span of a New York minute.

Tidbits from around town…
Spotted Debra Messing at LAX wearing full safari gear.
Overheard Harry Hamlin describing his time on Broadway in Chicago as “the happiest days of my life.”
Saw Molly Ringwald refuse to take a photo with an eager tourist, saying “it’s very early and I haven’t even brushed my hair.”

As always,

Scoop V.