The Broadway play featuring Tom Hanks, ‘Lucky Guy’ highlights the fact that Broadway plays’ level of success and notoriety are products of many factors outside of the intrinsic strengths of the play’s plot. Ideally, all plays would rise and fall based on their plot but such thinking is quite far removed from the reality of how Broadway plays are produced, critiqued, and received. As much as we’d all like to believe that it only takes a good story and great acting and production values to make it big on Broadway, we’d only be fooling ourselves if we don’t pay attention to external details that can greatly enhance a particular play’s drawing and staying power.
Tom Hanks’ debut Broadway vehicle, ‘Lucky Guy’ highlights the power of these external factors in drawing attention to one particular production and not to another. In addition to Hanks’ star power, ‘Lucky Guy’ also brings to the table a great playwright in the form of no less than Nora Ephron. Nora Ephron is no slouch in the literary world and many of her stories have been produced in Hollywood.
To elevate ‘Lucky Guy’s auspicious signals even higher, the play was produced a year after Ephron’s early death-just at the time when there was a heightened level of appreciation for Ephron’s works. Finally, Lucky Guy’s storyline isn’t fluffy, lightweight, or otherwise mediocre. It is, after all, a Nora Ephron product and benefits from all the literary skillfulness and powerful character development Ephron is famous for.
Finally, the setting of and topic of the play, pre-commercial Internet New York journalism, makes for a great look back and a great contrast to headline- and Twitter-driven modern news. It is no surprise that this play is turning a lot of heads. Just as the secret to a great-tasting cake are great ingredients, great timing, great mixing, and, yes, the right attitude, this play mixes all the right ingredients together to make something that is distinctive.
Back in 1999, Nora Ephron originally thought the story for Lucky Guy would make for a great ‘made for TV’ drama on HBO. Not a bad choice. Considering the fact that HBO has, since ‘The Sopranos’ regularly blown away any and all regular TV dramatic series offerings out of the water, Ephron’s conceptualization of what would otherwise be a high concept play for HOB makes a lot of sense.
If anything, Ephron’s consideration of HBO in 1999 (before The Sopranos’ runaway critical and commercial success) highlights her nearly prophetic ability to see premium cable TV’s potential as a medium for higher quality TV fare. Unfortunately for cable TV, as Ephron began working on the project, it quickly became apparent that Ephron’s project was not going to become a made for TV movie anytime soon because she ostensibly had a tough time looking for the right lead to play the story’s main character based on real life New York columnist Mike McAlary.
Post contributed by Rob Doherty, head writer at Goldstar and frequent theater-goer. He can be reached via email at r.doherty@epix