Who: Bertie Carvel, Jonny Lee Miller, David Wilson Barnes, Bill Buell, Andrew Durand, Eden Marryshow, Colin McPhillamy, Erin Neufer, Kevin Pariseau, Rana Roy, Michael Siberry, Robert Stanton, and Tara Summers
What: Ink on Broadway
Where: Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St. between Broadway & Eighth Aves.
When: Tuesday - Sunday through July 7, $79-$189
Why: At the beginning of James Graham’s Tony-nominated Ink, which takes place on Fleet Street in 1969–70, soon-to-be international media mogul Rupert Murdoch (Bertie Carvel) asks newspaper editor Larry Lamb (Jonny Lee Miller) what makes a good story. “Well, it’s the five ‘W’s, isn’t it,” he says, listing the first four — Who, What, Where, When — then hesitating before getting to the last one. “So what’s the fifth? The fifth ‘W’?” Murdoch implores. “Fifth ‘W’ I used to think was the most important, now I think it’s the least. Fifth ‘W’ is Why,” Lamb responds. Murdoch: “You think the least important question is ‘why’; I would have said that was the most important question.” Lamb: “Once you know ‘why’ something happened, the story’s over, it’s dead. Don’t answer why, a story can run and run, can run forever. And the other reason, actually, honestly, I think, is that there is no ‘Why?’ Most times. ‘Why’ suggests there’s a plan, that there is a point to things, when they happen and there’s not, there’s just not. Sometimes shit — just —happens. Only thing worth asking isn’t ‘why,’ it’s . . . ‘What next?’”
Graham (Labour of Love, Privacy) and director Rupert Goold (King Charles III, American Psycho) follow that advice in the sparkling Manhattan Theatre Club presentation of the award-winning Almeida Theatre production, running at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre through July 7. The play dives right into the Who, What, Where, and When as Murdoch decides to buy the failing Sun newspaper from the company that publishes the Mirror and hires exiled editor Lamb to run it. It’s thrilling to watch Lamb put together a ragtag staff, including news editor Brian McConnell (David Wilson Barnes), chief sub Ray Mills (Eden Marryshow), sports editor Frank Nicklin (Bill Buell), woman’s editor Joyce Hopkirk (Tara Summers), persnickety deputy editor Bernard Shrimsley (Robert Stanton), and novice photographer Beverley Goodway (Andrew Durand), as they attempt to not only put out a newspaper immediately but, within one year, surpass the Mirror in circulation, a ridiculously absurd proposition — but one that drives Lamb, Murdoch, and his devoted deputy chairman, Sir Alick McKay (Colin McPhillamy), who are willing to do just about whatever it takes to make it happen, much to the consternation of Mirror chairman Hugh Cudlipp (Michael Siberry) and editor Lee Howard (Marryshow), who worry about the integrity of their industry.
Two-time Olivier winner Goold adds glitter and flash to the proceedings, with the sexy Stephanie Rahn (Rana Roy) occasionally breaking out into song and dance with various characters, turning Bunny Christie’s multilevel, dark-gray, crowded stage into a hopping nightclub, with fun choreography by Lynne Page. Tony nominee Carvel (Matilda the Musical, The Hairy Ape), employing a slight hunch and an overly affected interpretation of Murdoch’s voice, and Miller (Elementary, Frankenstein), bold and forthright as Lamb, make a dynamic duo; even though we know how it’s all going to turn out — particularly how tabloids would present so-called news to the public — we root for them to succeed against the stodgy old guys who actually care about truth and quality. Jon Driscoll’s projections add color to the proceedings, primarily the familiar red of the Sun logo. The serious proceedings, the repercussions of which are still being felt today, with Murdoch’s ownership of such papers as the New York Post and such television stations as Fox News, President Trump’s favorite channel, are infused with a wickedly dry sense of humor; even the insert telling audience members to turn off their cellphones is like the front page of the Sun, blaring the headline: “Cellphone Humiliates Playgoer.”