The John Guare play — adapted from Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's The Front Page as well as the Columbia Pictures film it inspired — opened at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre June 5. Reviews were good, though the positive reaction was not echoed by The New York Times' Ben Brantley's July 17 review, which was mixed.
Director Jack O'Brien previously told Playbill On-Line, "I'd love to have New York see it." O'Brien admitted, however, that the production would be tough to transfer, given its size.
"It has 30 actors," he said. "You know the economics of that. We can do it at the National Theatre, which is subsidized."
He said that his frequent New York home, Lincoln Center Theater, was a possible destination for His Girl Friday. "A few of the people involved are veterans of Lincoln Center: myself, set designer Bob Crowley and John Guare."
Haber and the producing company USA OSTAR Theatrical's recent Broadway credits include Imaginary Friends, Dance of the Vampires, Man of La Mancha, Hollywood Arms, Amour and Frankie and Johnny. Alex Jennings and Zoë Wanamaker star as, respectively, editor Walter Burns and his ex-wife and star reporter Hildy Johnson. O'Brien sets the action on a Hollywood sound stage, where a group of actors are enacting the newsroom drama.
The creative team comprises Bob Crowley (designer), Mark Henderson (lighting) and Colin Pink (sound) with music by Neil McArthur and Jonathan Cooper.
The battle of the sexes approach is taken from the 1940 Cary Grant Rosalind Russell movie. Hecht and MacArthur's original set up a love-hate relationship between ace male reporter Hildy Johnson, who is trying to leave the newspaper racket, and hard-boiled editor Walter Burns, who wants to keep him on the beat. The Howard Hawks film, looking for a romantic angle, made Hildy a woman and Burns' ex-wife, on the brink of marrying someone else. The "His Girl Friday" plot has since proved more popular with both audiences and interpreters.
Hecht and MacArthur both began their careers as reporters. The Front Page is still considered the best play ever written about the newspaper business.