Thursday, January 15, 2009



David Frost’s 1977 interviews with Richard Nixon, following the Watergate scandal and the President’s humiliating resignation, drew the largest audience ever for a television interview. What led up to, and the interview itself, is the lynch-pin of ‘FROST/NIXON.’

Frost, a lightweight entertainer with a playboy reputation, had no obvious political convictions and no special interviewing skills. Could he could get Nixon to admit something that none of the “real” media journalists could elicit? Much to everyone’s surprise, he did!

What motivated British dramatist, Peter Morgan, to believe that two people sitting and talking would be compelling enough to hold an audience spell-bound? He obviously accomplished the impossible as evidenced by the play receiving an Olivier Award, a Tony Award and a Drama Desk nomination for Best Play.

The play premiered in London in August 2006, starring Michael Sheen as Frost and Frank Langella as Nixon. It opened in New York on April 22, 2007 and ran 137 performances. In the touring production award winning Stacy Keach, known to many for his portrayal of TV’s Mike Hammer, takes on the role of Nixon. He is joined by the talented Alan Cox as Frost. They beautifully display the determination, the conviction, and the cunning of the two men as they square off.

The entire cast is excellent. The staging is well-paced by the director Michael Grandage. Even though the audience knew how the interview concluded, the climax brought a verbal gasp. The effect was heightened as we watched a close-up picture of Nixon, shown on a huge screen, with a series of black squares imposed upon his now unsmirking face, his hands folded, not in their phony double “V” for victory pose. It was as if jail cell bars had been superimposed over the ex-President, the man who lied and broke laws but got away with it via a pardon by his successor, Gerald Ford.

One of the local questions that was asked was, could a small cast play with a script which encompasses little physical action, emotionally fill the vast Palace Theatre. The answer, surprisingly, is yes! Another question was, “Would Key Bank’s Broadway Series attendees, who flock to musicals, be appreciative of a drama? Again, the much deserved standing ovation signaled another resounding yes!

For those who lived through this era, the reliving of the experience should be engrossing. For those who were too young to have been around, this is a must see historical document that makes history live.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘FROST/NIXON’ is a must see for those interested in a well-conceived script, which gets an excellent production.