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the take

Will ‘The Country Girl’ Be a Hit or a Flop? Either Way, Michael Riedel's Covered

Photo: Patrick McMullan


We love reading the Post's theater-gossip columnist Michael Riedel for many reasons. He's one of the few entertainment writers who just puts into print the stuff everyone is talking about — because he has the benefit of being a high-culture writer working for a low-culture tabloid, and because he takes advantage of the proud Broadway tradition of talking shit behind the backs of your co-workers. He's pretty much always right. And he loves carrying on vendettas, which certainly makes for a richer reading experience for gossip-hungry theater fans.

Riedel's got a new target. Just as he did a few years ago when he decided that Bernadette Peters was miscast as Mama Rose in the most recent Gypsy revival — and hammered her over and over and over in print until the show was widely viewed as a failure despite its other acclaim — so has Riedel seemingly declared war on the upcoming revival of The Country Girl.

Last week Riedel reported that a six-page scene had been cut from Clifford Odets's original script by director Mike Nichols and adapter Jon Robin Baitz. Riedel also claimed that star Morgan Freeman couldn't learn his lines, and that Nichols spent most of his time telling showbiz anecdotes while his show fell down around him.

This week Riedel's back on the warpath, modestly pointing out that the producers, "stung, no doubt, by The Post's startling report," were reinstating the scene. But have no fear, Riedel's still all over The Country Girl: Freeman still can't learn his lines, producer Bill Haber is overspending, the box office is bad, and Nichols is yukking it up with Matthew Broderick at Bar Centrale and giving his underrehearsed cast days off. Reportedly!

And this is what's so great about Riedel: He's totally willing to roll up his sleeves and dive headfirst into a story. There will be more columns about The Country Girl's problems, fed by more and better leaks from inside the production. In the end, Riedel is totally covered. Either the show is a hit — because Michael Riedel saved it. Or the show is a flop — just as Michael Riedel predicted. The man's a genius.

The Play's Not the Thing [NYP]
'Country' Restoration [NYP]