With THE FRONT PAGE we are taken in to the hard bitten, smoky world of a group of journos in the pressroom af a major court complex in Chicago in the 1920’s.  The journos are a raggedy, majorly unimpressive bunch. In the first scene we see them smoking, playing cards and cracking jokes. Their phones ring, and if someone hasn’t been murdered or if it doesn’t involve a major fire, they just can’t be bothered and hang up the phone. The court building is next to where the gallows are, and when they hear a hanging take place, they nonchalantly dismiss it as if here goes another crim. They are a full on cynical group.

The next thing that is on their schedule and that they can’t get out out of is the hanging later in the day of prisoner Earl Williams, a white man who has killed a black cop. There is some conjecture as to whether Williams should be hung as the evidence seems to suggest that he shot the officer by accident. The execution has however become politicised as there is a Mayoral election coming up and the Mayor his sidekick, the Sheriff, are keen to win some black votes by  getting Williams to the gallows.

Whilst the Mayor and the  Sheriff are in the press room Samuel Pincus arrives to deliver an envelope from the Governor in which is a stay of execution from the Governor. The Mayor reads it and is livid. With a fulsome bribe he tells Pincus to go back to the Governor and tell him that the stay could not be delivered.

Nathan Porteus as Mayor Thompson and James Yeargain as Sheriff Peter Hartman are convincing as the the two public servants who are determined to keep their hold on power.

Diego Relamales is convincing as the misunderstood Williams who means no harm but just wants to be able to voice his political views.

Braydon May is excellent as the small in stature, weasly Pincus, a pushover or is he?!

The other main plotline follows the fortunes of Hildy Johnson, the hard nosed veteran reporter for the Chicago Herald-Examiner. Johnson has fallen in love, it would appear for the first time, and has decided to give the game of journalism away. Hildy is in the process of saying her last goodbyes to his colleagues when the news breaks that Errol Williams has escaped his prison cell. One can her brain ticking over as her predicament reaches a crescendo. Will she go to meet Bruce as arranged? He has already been doubting her commitment or will she hang around to get just one more big story. Rose  Treloar does well in communicating her character’s anguish – can Hildy really give up the job she loves so much.

Andrew Waldin gives a good performance as Johnson’s boss at the Examiner who tries to persuade her to stay on. Michael Smith’s gives a good portrayal as Johnson’s very dull, strait laced fiance, Bruce Grant.

Alison Chambers gives a stand-out performance as Grant’s impatient, cranky mother who always  appears on the scene when she is least needed. As does Megan Heferen who plays the very feisty prostitute Mollie Molly and the girlfriend of Williams who feels hard done by the journos who have been telling lies about her.

Cassady Maddox  Booth gives a charming performance as police officer Eichhorn and Callum Stephen looks and acts the part of the local thug, the ubiqituously named Diamond Louie.

There is good work from the remainder of the cast. The cast, in its entirety, comprising eighteen actors is one of the largest cast’s that the New Theatre has ever assembled.

Nicholas Papademetriou’s production features his own adaptation of Hecht and MacArthur’s classic 1928 play. The adaptation is a substantial one; there are cuts, plotlines are played with, and genders swapped for some of the rules. My feeling is that it is a shame when classic plays such as THE FRONT PAGE are tinkered with. Then again I’m a good conservative in my tastes.

Papademetriou’s creative team evocatively create the stage for the actors to work in; Paris Burrows’ period set and costumes  and Michael Schell’s lighting and sound design. Kathy Petrakis was the Assistant Director.

Anyhow it is still a great show with a magical recipe of farcical moments, rich satire and plenty of wisecracks.

The cast’s timing and choreography are good.There isn’t a cheque book in sight, And the running time is appealing, a long play is pared down to ninety minutes without interval. Quite a feat!

CAST : David Allsopp, Luca Berreta, Cassady Maddox Booth
Alison Chambers, Barry French, Barret Griffin
Megan Heferen, Braydon May, Gerry Mullaly
Georgia Nicholas, Nathan Porteus, Diego Retamales
Michael Smith, Reuben Solomon, Callum Stephen
Rose Treloar, Andrew Waldin, James Yeargain


Director & Adaptation Nicholas Papademetriou
Costume Designer Paris Burrows
Lighting and Sound Designer Michael Schell
Dialect Coach Nick Curnow
Assistant Director Kathy Petrakis
Stage Manager Rosane McNamara
Assistant Stage Manager Genevieve Viljoen

Production photography by Chris Lundie

The New Theatre’s production of THE FRONT PAGE by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur as adapted by Nicholas Papademetriou opened at the New Theatre 542 King Street Newtown on Wednesday 24th April and is playing until the 18th May 2024. Performances are Thursdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm and Sundays at 2pm. There is only one Saturday matinee performance on Saturday 18th May at 2pm. Tickets full price  $37, Concessions and group $32, Thrifty Thursdays $25.

The New Theatre’s next production is also journalism related. The production will be James Graham’s play INK. An Olivier Award  winning playwright Graham’s play is about the rise of Rupert Murdoch in Great Britain which started with his publication ‘The Sun’. The production will run from the 28th May and 29 June 2024.


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