Monday, April 22, 2013

Motown: The Musical

If Motown: the Musical, the latest jukebox show to hit Broadway, had had a good book, instead of the anemic and self-serving one written by Berry Gordy, it would be a powerhouse. Still, thanks to that music, which to me is among the greatest of all time, Motown is one immensely entertaining evening that sent me out of the Lunt-Fontanne filled with joy and memories.

The show, directed with little imagination by Charles Randolph-Wright, is drawn from Gordy’s 1994 autobiography, To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, the Memories of Motown, about the creation of his pioneering music labels, most notably Motown. Gordy presents himself in a far kinder and milder light than that of Curtis, the Gordy figure in in the far better written -- and by all accounts except Gordy’s, more accurate -- Dreamgirls. (Gordy is also one of Motown’s producers.)

That’s one of the biggest problems of the show -- no conflict. At 29, after being a failure at every job he’s had, Gordy (Brandon Victor Dixon) borrows money from his family to start a recording company, which becomes the empire known as Motown (a name derived from Motor City, the nickname for Detroit, his hometown) and would launch the careers of some of the best singers and groups of the 20th century -- Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Temptations, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, to name a few.

Act One shows this unfurling with nearly miraculous ease -- Gordy discovers talent after talent, records are turned out rapidly and all become hits that are accepted on white radio stations as well as black. It’s all too simple and courteous. Dreamgirls (book and lyrics by Tom Eyen) brought out the ruthlessness of the record mogul and the back-stabbing behind the “girl group” he founded, which was based on the Supremes. It portrayed the fight for acceptance, the dirty dealing of other groups in stealing songs and the betrayal of love in that high-stakes showbiz environment.

Gordy also could have taken lessons from Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice on how to write a strong book for a jukebox musical about real people. Their Jersey Boys tells an involving story about the lives and career struggles and successes of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. So it can be done.

The trouble is, Gordy seemed to want to take on the whole Motown history. Even in a show that is two hours and 40 minutes long, that’s not enough time to do more than give a passing nod -- if that -- to the stories of these performers. With more than 50 songs, Motown seems more like a Greatest Hits concert than a Broadway musical.

By the second act, though, I no longer cared about knowing the full story behind the songs because the songs were the story. That’s the music I grew up with in the 1960s and 70s, starting in elementary school when we used to line dance to the Temptations. I carried my transistor radio with me everywhere -- out with friends, to the swim club, the beach, baby-sitting and into my bedroom at night. I listened every waking moment I could.

That’s why Motown was so appealing to me, because it was the soundtrack of my youth, the way the songs of the Hit Parade were for my mother. Music that is so interwoven into our lives will always touch a deep cord. I remember being on the Underground in London in 1984 and seeing a headline on a tabloid across the aisle announcing that Marvin Gaye, a Motown genius, had been fatally shot by his father. I was devastated.

I felt an emotional response in the show when the young Michael Jackson (Raymond Luke Jr. in a standout performance) was introduced to Gordy. It was sad to remember what a fireball of talent he was then, and remained right up through “Thriller” in 1982, but what a pathetic -- and sick -- figure he became.

 Motown only goes as far as 1983, using the framing device of the 25th anniversary TV tribute to the company, its founder and its artists. At the start, Gordy refuses to go, bitter is he that so many of the stars he discovered have moved on and his company is in steep decline, unable to compete with the mega-million dollar contracts conglomerates like RCA can offer. By the end, after recounting what here seems like a breezy road to success over two decades, Gordy relents and joins his superstars on stage for the happy ending.

I liked Valisia LeKae as Diana Ross. Her speaking voice sounds amazingly close to Ross’ breathy, little girl voice, and I especially liked her “Reach Out and Touch” number that had her singing with volunteers from the audience and ended with all of us holding raised hands with our neighbors, swaying and singing along.

Charl Brown as Robinson and Bryan Terrell Clark as Gaye were also strong, even if their characters seem more like bit players in this musical that is trying to fit in so much. The ensemble members were good as they came and went quickly, dancing the steps made famous decades ago by the likes of the Temptations and now choreographed by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams. Esosa did a smashing job with costumes, David Korins needed more pizzaz in his sets.

I’m not alone in liking Motown, flaws and all. It is one of the top-grossing Broadway productions of the season, playing to sold-out houses, and, according to, grossing upwards of $1 million weekly for all four weeks of its preview period – a record for any Broadway show to arrive in New York without an out-of-town tryout.

(Photo, by Joan Marcus, of the Temptations, played by Jesse Nager, Donald Webber ,Jr., Julius Thomas III, Ephraim M. Sykes and Jawan M. Jackson.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Curtain to rise on Act Three of Broadway Blessing

 I am pleased to announce the curtain will rise for the 16th annual Broadway Blessing on Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. at its new home, The Church of the Transfiguration, commonly known as The Little Church Around the Corner, on 29th between Fifth and Madison This free interfaith service of song, dance and story, which yours truly, Retta Blaney, founded in 1997 and has produced ever since will be supported by the church and the Episcopal Actors’ Guild, which is celebrating 90th anniversary.

I will be lining up performers for this year’s Blessing in the months to come, so check this blog for updates. Among those who have participated in the past are Lynn Redgrave, Marian Seldes, Frances Sternhagen, Boyd Gaines, Edward Herrmann, KT Sullivan, James Barbour, Three Mo’ Tenors and Broadway Inspirational Voices.

This is Act Three for Broadway Blessing, which began in midtown with congregations from St. Malachy’s/The Actors’ Chapel, The Actors’ Temple, St. Clement’s Episcopal Church and St. Luke’s Lutheran before moving in 2006 to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine for a six-year run. The Actors’ Temple and St. Clement’s have remained a part of Broadway Blessing from the beginning and will be part of this year’s event at The Little Church.

The Broadway Blessing Choir, now under the direction of Claudia Dumschat, The Little Church’s music director, will return and -- it is hoped -- Project Dance as well.

It’s appropriate now for the Blessing to continue at Transfiguration, which celebrates its 165th anniversary this year. This historic Episcopal parish has a long history of ministering to those in need, having sheltered escaped slaves as part of the Underground Railroad and African-American families during the Draft Riots of the Civil War.

What makes it a particularly apt new home for Broadway Blessing, though, is its tradition of welcoming members of the theater profession, something not common in the churches years ago. Transfiguration’s welcoming attitude toward actors earned the church its nickname, The Little Church Around the Corner, a name that dates back to 1870 when Joseph Jefferson, famous for his portrayal of Rip Van Winkle onstage, had requested a funeral at another church for his fellow actor and friend, George Holland. Upon learning that the deceased had been an actor, the priest refused. At that time many considered actors to be unworthy of Christian burial. After some prodding by Jefferson, the priest commented, “There is a little church around the corner where it might be done.” Jefferson responded, “Then I say to you, sir, ‘God bless the little church around the corner.’”

The church has maintained its close ties to the theater, serving as the national headquarters of the Episcopal Actors' Guild since its founding in 1923. The facility itself was designated a United States Landmark for Church and Theater in 1973.

The mission of the Episcopal Actors’ Guild is to provide emergency aid and support to professional performers of all faiths undergoing financial crisis.  It is also dedicated to helping emerging artists advance their careers through scholarships, awards, and performance opportunities. It was founded in 1923 and incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) charity in 1926.          

The primary program of the Guild is its Emergency Aid & Relief Program (EARP), giving grants to performing artists in financial crisis regardless of faith, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical ability or language.  More than 95 percent of all performers helped by the Guild live in one of the five boroughs of New York City.  The Guild addresses such crucial issues as eviction, housing court stipulations, utilities shutoffs, emergency medical and dental costs, and sustenance needs (including food and transportation).        

It prides itself on being one of the only agencies able to provide immediate emergency financial assistance, when necessary.  When a qualified applicant contacts the Guild in crisis, they can receive a vendorized check the same day.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella

With so many strong parts it’s a shame the sum is such a tedious whole in director Mark Brokaw’s Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella at the Broadway Theatre. I found myself longing for it to end.

My expectations were partly to blame. I had loving memories of watching the 1965 TV version with Lesley Ann Warren as a child, but this version, the first to be staged on Broadway, has been so reworked by book writer Douglas Carter Beane that the title should have been rewritten as well. In Act Two of his version Cinderella  turns into a champion of the poor, introducing needy villagers to the prince who instantly promises to reside over a reformed kingdom. What was wrong with the original, which began as a 1957 television film starring Julie Andrews (which I saw and enjoyed on DCD)?

Equally as important in sinking this production, if not more so, are the performances of the fairy tale leads, Laura Osnes as Cinderella and Santino Fontana as her Prince, whose name is Topher, short for Christopher. (Once again, change is not always better. Topher?) Charming he is not, nor is she. It’s like watching two attractive people with lovely voices but who are there in body only. They lack heart and soul. Listening to their mechanical duets of “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” was like hearing a Musak version of a beloved song. So even one of the greatest strengths of the show, the music, which incorporates songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalogue as well as from the original television version, was tarnished.

Their disengagement had caused another song I loved as a child, “It’s Possible,” to fall flat. Cinderella sings this as she’s getting into her pumpkin-turned-coach, but in Osnes’ handling with none of the enchantment of a girl who has just witnessed this magic, is wearing a beautiful white gown and glass slippers whipped up moments before by her fairy godmother and who is heading to a ball to meet the prince. She transmits no sense of excitement or wonder. She appeared to be going through the blocking in her head -- first I step into the carriage, then turn to look back at the forest, etc., while her voice sings the song for her.

Harriet Harris, Marla Mindelle and Ann Harada had some comic moments as the wicked stepmother, Madame, and her daughters Gabrielle and Charlotte, but the great talent of Victoria Clark as Marie, the fairy godmother, is wasted in a silly creature who flies above the stage on behalf of Cinderella.

William Ivey Long’s costumes are terrific -- loved the quick change pieces he created for Cinderella’s transformations -- Josh Rhodes stirs up some lively choreography, nicely blending ballet with ballroom dancing and Anna Louizos’ sets create an appropriately fairy tale-like forest -- with furry animals popping out of the trees, Cinderella’s home and the castle.

And, of course, the score is a winner. Maybe it will come off better on the cast recording. It’s lost in mediocrity here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Soul doctor

 I wrote this feature for the April 12, 2013, issue of National Catholic Reporter.

Voices cry out in the quiet church, pleading for the priest to alleviate physical and spiritual suffering. They are filled with anguish coupled with hope. “Say a prayer for me, Father . . .”

As if responding to their call, the man these beseechers have put their faith in enters slowly from the back. Wearing a black Victorian cassock and wire framed glasses, he takes his place before the altar and the voices are stilled. The priest who will heal these troubles has arrived.

With this simple yet powerful beginning, actor and playwright Casey Groves brought his new one-man play, Seelos: Doctor of Souls, to Manhattan’s St. Paul the Apostle Church. The 90-minute work, which Groves developed over a year and a half, features 28 characters and tells the story of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos (1819 - 1867), the Bavarian-born Redemptorist priest renown for his power to heal body and spirit.

“My intention in writing it was that it would have a healing impact on the audience,” said Groves, sipping coffee and eating a giant chocolate chip cookie one February afternoon in midtown Manhattan. Groves, 42, had come north from his home in New Orleans to do 10 performances in 10 days in four states. “I want everyone to find something in Fr. Seelos’ life to touch something in them.”

Fr. Seelos, who died of yellow fever in New Orleans at the age of 48, was proclaimed blessed by Pope John Paul II in 2000. The miracle that earned him this distinction was the healing of Angela Boudreaux, a mother of five in southeast Louisiana with a liver cancer the size of a grapefruit. In the 1960s she prayed for intercession to Fr. Seelos and lived for another 35 years.

Being alone in the spotlight for 90 minutes, bringing to life 28 characters, would be a challenge for any actor, but Groves has been preparing for this new role, whether he knew it or not, since he was a student at De La Salle High School in New Orleans where he first performed Damien, Aldyth Morris’ one-man play about another real-life priest, Father Damien, the Belgium-born cleric who ministered to the lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. He has since performed that play more than 150 times.

His parents were the impetus behind this latest endeavor. They learned about Fr. Seelos at St. Mary's Assumption Church and Blessed Seelos Shrine, the church where Fr. Seelos served in the Irish Channel in New Orleans from 1866 to 1867 and where his remains are kept. They encouraged their son to write a play about this fascinating man. Although Groves had grown up in the city, and had 17 years of Catholic education, he had never heard of Fr. Seelos and, living in New Jersey at the time and acting in theatre and on TV, he wondered if people outside of the Louisiana area would be interested.

But when he moved back with his wife, Rachel, in the fall of 2010 to explore the movie and TV opportunities that had opened in post-Katrina New Orleans, he reconsidered his parents’ prompting and went online to look into Fr. Seelos’ life. He was impressed to learn that people waited for up to two hours to find spiritual healing with Fr. Seelos in confession, where the priest encouraged penitents to share their stories and through his attentive listening put them at ease and brought peace to their troubled hearts

With all that he had read conjuring up dramatic possibilities in his mind, Groves sent a proposal for a play to the National Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos in New Orleans and received a “creative loan” for 150 hours of research, time to write, learn lines, and rehearse and collaborate over a 10-day period in New York with his director, the Rev. George Drance, S.J. In return, Groves gives back $50 from every performance to the National Shrine.

In creating the play, for which his main source was the Rev. Michael J. Curley, C.Ss.R,’s book The Cheerful Ascetic: The Life of Francis Xavier Seelos., Groves came up with the device of a train ride, with Fr. Seelos traveling from Chicago to New Orleans. He divided the play into seven sections, each one based on a sacrament and relating to different phases of Fr. Seelos’ life. As the priest gazes out the train window, something he sees reminds him of a time in his past and he addresses the audience to tell his story.

“The train is sort of a labyrinth journey and the images along the way are the sacraments,” Groves says.

The recorded petitionary prayers bring the audience into the play and Groves then dramatizes them being answered. Drance came up with the idea of ending with a recording of the same voices thanking Fr. Seelos and God for their answered prayers, an effective framing touch.

Once he had completed the initial script, Groves worked with the Rev. Byron Miller, C.Ss.R., director of the National Shrine, who suggested changes to between one third and one half of the piece. Together they shaped the final product, with Miller promoting simplicity and Groves safeguarding the dramatic complexity of the play and the uniformity of the metaphors.  Groves says that while Fr. Seelos was remarkable in the way he could connect someone’s suffering to God’s healing power, he also was known for his affability and the play makes this clear as well.

Although Groves didn’t choose an ordained life, he nonetheless shares Fr. Seelos’ sense of mission.

“I see acting as a sacred art,” he says. “Actors have the capacity to be healers, to intrepidly go where no one else wants to go, to explore the dark. It’s a vocation for me. I want the work I do to look deeply into the stuff that’s working and not working and find a way to make it work.”

In November, he got to see just how much his work with the Seelos play is a sacred art. After a performance at St. Alphonsus Church in Wexford, PA, near Pittsburgh, Groves found one woman with an intimate connection to Simon Sell, one of the petitioners at the start of the play and one whose voice of gratitude is heard at the conclusion. At the last minute in developing the work, Groves decided to bring Sell into the action as a character, a man who had fallen from a scaffold in Cumberland, MD, and because of his internal injuries had not been expected to live out the day. He had six children and Groves portrays him expressing his fear to Fr. Seelos that they would be homeless without him to provide for them. Then, as Fr. Seelos, he kneels beside the gravely injured man and reassures him he will not die, that he won’t be rich, but that his family will always have a home. Sell was healed of his injuries and lived for another nine years.

After the the performance, a middle-aged woman introduced herself as Sell’s great granddaughter.

“If Fr. Seelos hadn’t healed him I wouldn’t be here,” she told Groves, who is still in awe of that experience. “It was a basherte moment,” he said, using a Yiddish word for something that is meant to be. “Who else could his woman tell this story to for it to have so much meaning?”

(Related web site:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Kinky Boots

Sometimes when I go to a new Broadway musical it is so bad I don’t even know where to start in reviewing it. (This season’s Hands on a Hardbody comes to mind.) So I was thrilled to find just the opposite with Kinky Boots, the Cyndi Lauper-scored adaptation of the 2005 film with its deliciously fun performances, music, choreography, costumes and every other aspect to boot. The audience at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre was bursting with joy and laughter.

This story of Charlie (Stark Sands, left in photo), a small town British shoe manufacturer struggling to keep his family’s factory open, and Lola (Billy Porter, right), a drag queen he meets one night on a London street, was a charming, fact-based movie. I was concerned its simplicity would be overcome by too much Broadway commercialism, but no worries. Under Jerry Mitchell’s direction (and choreography), the new version is a high spirited, old time musical with just enough camp to make it shine for today.

Porter is both riotous and vulnerable as Lola, a cross-dressing nightclub singer disowned by his boxer father because he’s gay. Charlie also has father issues -- his didn’t think Charlie would be able to run the business and had planned to sell the building to a condominium developer, something Charlie finds out after his father dies unexpectedly shortly after the play begins.

Both young men have settled in London, Lola to a showbiz life of escape where “the world looked brighter six inches off the ground,” as she sings in “I’m Not My Father’s Son.” Charlie’s foray to London is less intentional and less committed; he has been coerced by his fiancee, Nicola (Celina Carvajal), who can’t get away fast enough from Northampton, their small midlands factory town.

The two are brought together one night when Lola is harassed by several men and Charlie, thinking she’s a woman, comes to her rescue. In the scuffle, Lola ends up smashing Charlie in the face with her high-heeled boot; it turns out she had been trained as a fighter by her father before being disowned and is quite capable of defending herself. She takes Charlie back to her nightclub dressing room to clean up his face and the two have a bit of a chat before parting.

That basherte encounter proves providential to both. Having learned a bit about a drag queen’s travails, that the largest size of women’s shoes don’t last long under a man’s weight, Charlie heads home to try to deal with the possibility of closing the factory that has been in his family for four generations but whose products are no longer in demand.

Then Charlie has an epiphany. Following the prompting of his sassy assistant, Lauren (Annaleigh Ashford, center), he realizes if he wants to keep the factory open and save the jobs of all the longtime employees, he’s got to create a product geared to a contemporary market, not the one being churned out since the business was founded in 1890. In an ah ha moment he remembers Lola and dares to envision a future in drag. If he can just convince Lola to relocate to the midlands for awhile to help design the new line.

Not an easy task, but once accomplished the two find they have more in common than they would have expected. This is nicely portrayed as “I’m Not My Father’s Son” becomes a duet, with Charlie sharing his sadness at not being the reflection his father wanted to see.

Naturally a story line (book by Harvey Fierstein) like this is expected to spur some splashy dance numbers and Mitchell as choreographer provides them. Porter belts and sashays around that stage, giving it the full diva. And who knew he had such killer showgirl legs? With the help of the Angels’, Lola’s backup singers from her nightclub act -- chorus boys in drag -- the designing of Price and Son’s latest line is an exuberant presentation to shake the foundation of the old company, with Lola and the Angels strutting their stuff and singing “Sex is in the Heel” and, volia, a thigh-high shiny red stiletto boot is now the future of this venerable company. No more wing-tipped men’s business shoes; it’s now “irresistible tubular sex appeal.”

Act One closes with the new product gliding down the assembly line. David Rockwell’s set enhances the festivities, looking more like a fairy tale workplace than an actual industrial site. Factory workers dance their way across those conveyor belts to celebrate and gleefully sing “Everybody Say Yeah.” It’s delightful.

Of course, if you’ve seen much old-style musical theatre, you know the happy ending of Act One will be shaken and tested in Act Two. Lola’s sexuality is challenged not just by the Neanderthal mentality of the factory workers, represented most forcefully by Don (Daniel Stewart Sherman), but finally in a confrontation between Charlie and Lola that threatens the company’s revival. Fierstein’s writing here makes it clear lessons are to be learn, but I didn’t feel preached at. The pace is too quick and the acting too strong.

No good musical comedy is complete without the happy-ever-after love angle. I’m not giving anything away in saying that will be found between Charlie and Lauren, who even though he is engaged to Nicola, sings of her love for him in a heartfelt Act One lament, “The History of Wrong Guys.”

A musical this rollicking wouldn’t be possible without spectacular lighting (Kenneth Posner), hair design (Josh Marquette) and make-up (Randy Houston Mercer).  And last but far from least are the costumes by Gregg Barnes, which are a play land of leather and glitter and COLOR. And that’s just the clothes. Wait until you see those boots prance down the Milan runway at the end as Price and Son takes the fashion world by storm. Charlie and Lola are reconciled, Charlie and Lauren together, and the audience clapping along with the pulsing beat of “Raise You Up/Just Be.” I left the theatre and walked home with the words to that song -- “When you hit the dust, let me lift you up” -- singing in my ear.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Tom Hanks is a "Lucky Guy" on Broadway

Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks proves his acting talent is just as great onstage as he makes his Broadway debut annoyingly, movingly and always convincingly portraying New York tabloid columnist Mike McAlary in Lucky Guy, Nora Ephron's new play at the Broadhurst Theatre.

Ephron, who died of leukemia last June at 71, was a tabloid reporter (the New York Post) early in her career. She tells the colorful story of McAlary, who died of cancer at 41 on Christmas day in 1998, in flashbacks, starting in 1998 with a gang of McAlary’s former colleagues, “just Irish guys at the bar,” sharing memories. These go back to 1985 and bring McAlary on the scene to relive his tale. Under the direction of George C. Wolfe and with a strong supporting cast, this biographical play captures the gritty feel of the city in that era and the ego and tenacity of the reporters covering it.

“New York City is a tabloid town,” says Hap Hairston (Courtney B. Vance), one of McAlary’s editors, setting the scene. “It was a good time for tabloids.”

Indeed it was. That’s the year I moved to New York and tabloid-ready stories were everywhere -- the crack epidemic was exploding, crime was high and the division between rich and poor was great.

McAlary, with a journalist’s love of a “good story,” is hungry for a spot in New York Newsday’s Manhattan city room, but is stuck covering routine bureaucracy in Queens. Hanks demonstrates his flair for comedy in these scenes, with a determined McAlary pestering Hairston and jumping at the chance to take any crumb of a story the other reporters leave behind at the end of the day. It reminded me of my youth hanging out at The Baltimore Sun, going in on weekends to write and willing to stay all night if they’d let me. I was just as hungry for that life as McAlary.

Why not? As the reporters sum it up at the end, a journalism career means the chance to do something different everyday and to make a difference by getting the truth out there. And the sense of power can be intoxicating, dangerously so as we see with McAlary in Act One as his arrogance overpowers the sense of fun and purpose and he becomes more and more overbearing with his rise from the Queens bureau to the newsroom and then to what for him is the pinnacle of a journalism career -- becoming a New York City columnist. I really didn’t like him, which is a tribute to Hanks’ acting and Ephron's writing.

I liked the second act much better, in terms of the writing and evolution of the character. It picks up where Act One ends, with McAlary’s high speed, drunk driving accident on the FDR Drive. After nearly killing himself, he battles his way through recovery and back to the newsroom, possibly too soon as he makes an extremely poor judgment in a series of columns that leads to a libel suit and harms his reputation inside and outside of the paper.

He holds onto his career, but then metastasized colon cancer strikes and while he hangs on, his fire for the “good story” dies. It is his wife, Alice (an underused Maura Tierney), who gives him the push to respond to a tip that ultimately leads to his Pulitzer Prize shortly before his death. The scene where an emaciated McAlary, guided by Alice, goes back to the newsroom to celebrate is one of the most powerful in the play. Hanks, who is not emaciated by any means, through his bearing and movements portrays a dying man. We are one with McAlary then, all sins forgiven.

I come from a hard news background so I know that world well. I even had several similarities. Like McAlary, I was a police reporter and I know what it’s like to be asking questions at midnight. Try a spell on night cops in Baltimore, attempting to pry information out of a homicide detective before your deadline. That kind of training sets you up to follow any path in a journalism career.

Other connections for me: McAlary studied journalism at Syracuse University; I was a reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard. He was a New York Newsday columnist; I wrote a couple of op-ed pieces for them. One of the reporters teaches journalism at CUNY; I taught journalism at Brooklyn College for two semesters while the department chair was on sabbaticals.

What didn’t ring true to me was the rampant use of profanity in Act One. In all of my years in newsrooms put together I never heard as much as I did in two hours of that play. I have nothing against the F word -- I use it myself liberally around my apartment -- but it’s so excessively used in the play as to be ridiculous. It really cheapens the work. Perhaps if Ephron had lived she would have done a good bit of editing when she heard how gratuitous the swearing sounded.

I did love a quote of hers from “Journalism: A Love Story by Nora Ephron” that is included in the program because it spoke to my heart:

“But for many years I was in love with journalism. [Me too!] I loved the city room. [Me too!] I loved the pack. [Me too!] I loved smoking and drinking scotch and playing dollar poker. [I preferred a glass of wine or two after work with colleagues, minus the cigarettes and poker] I didn’t know much about anything, and I was in a profession where you didn’t have to. I loved the speed. [Me too!] I loved the deadlines. [Yes!] I loved that you wrapped the fish.
“You can’t make this stuff up, I used to say.

“I’d known since I was a child that I was going to live in New York eventually, and that everything in between would be just an intermission. [Me too!] I’d spent all those years imagining what New York was going to be like. I thought it was going to be the most exciting, magical, fraught-with-possibilities place where if you really wanted something you might be able to get it; a place where I’d be surrounded by people I was dying to know; a place where I might be able to become the only thing worth being, a journalist.
“And I’d turned out to be right.”

I felt that same way and I thank God over and over again for my journalism career and my life in New York. Lucky Guy provides a fond look back into both worlds.