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Matthew Broderick Forgets His Lines

Matthew broderick_close-up The first Broadway preview performance of The Starry Messenger, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan and starring Matthew Broderick, was apparently more like a rough rehearsal in front of a paying audience.

Broderick had to ask for several of his lines from a prompter, who was sitting in the front row with a script in case any of the actors needed to call out for a line. Actor Merwin Goldsmith even used a script on stage to read his lines. (But to be fair, Goldsmith joined the production only last week as a last-minute replacement.) The confusion was caused by recent rewrites after the cast had rehearsed an earlier version of Lonergan's script for about a month. As a result, Gatecrasher reports today that the play will now open Nov. 23, a week later than originally planned.

Lonergan has never directed a major production of a play before, although he wrote and directed the films You Can Count On Me and Margaret. The playwright said in an interview last week that he was "alternating between great hope and total despair about the show." Lonergan added, "I know it will come together, but my inexperience with the production elements of staging a play has made me nervous. Being responsible for the whole thing is a challenge emotionally."

According to ArtsBeat, New Group artistic director Scott Elliott had informed Monday night's audience "that a prompter was on hand and that the performance would be the first full run-through for the cast in front of an outside audience."

Still, many audience members left disgruntled, as evidenced on the theater site All That Chat, where one unhappy customer wrote:

"Anyone who paid money for tonight's performance should receive a full refund.

"First previews are always dicey. The audience expects to see a performance of a work in progress, but they also expect to see a professional performance. What happened on the stage of The Acorn this evening was certainly not professional, and was hardly even a performance."

“This does happen from time to time, but I’m sure that as previews unfold, the production will only become stronger and stronger,” Elliott said Tuesday. “Kenny Lonergan is a great artist and a good, old friend, and I have confidence in him and in the production.”

What do you think? Will the cast and crew pull it together in time for their official Broadway opening? And would you demand your money back for a bad preview performance -- or do you think that this is exactly what previews are for? Leave your comments below to let us know.

-- Daniel Lehman

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