To hear actors say "Break a leg" to each other is nothing new. To hear actors break their silence both on-stage and off about the critic who'll be reviewing their show is something else again. Here's Lesley Stahl of "60 Minutes":
Ever wonder what's going on behind closed doors just before the curtain goes up at a Broadway show?
When asked if he still gets nervous 40 minutes before the show begins, award-winning theater, film and television star F. Murray Abraham said, "Oh, yeah. But it's a good kind of nervous. It gets your blood up. You really feel your heart thumping. It's hard to believe, after 53 years!"
So as the audience is arriving, Abraham turns the stage into a workout studio, doing stretches, push-ups and sit-ups. "And then I vocalize," he said. "When the curtain comes down, I do it with the audience in mind. I can hear them behind the curtain -- it's pretty exciting!"
While backstage, his fellow cast members in Broadway's new hit, "It's Only a Play," Tony-winner Nathan Lane and newcomer Micah Stock, run through their opening scene, but at lightning speed.
On this day, the show's four-time Tony-winning playwright Terrence McNally looked on. Stahl said to Lane, "He laughed all the way through that."
"I know. He's a big fan of his work!" Lane laughed.
"Once you've done McNally, there's no going back to Chekov," the playwright laughed.
Lane says he and Stock will probably do this before every show for good luck. Most of the actors have superstitions and tricks to chase away both the butterflies and the demons.
At one of the actors' regular haunts, Joe Allen Restaurant on West 46th Street, Stahl sat down with the cast, including Ruper Grint, star of the "Harry Potter" movies; "Will and Grace"'s Megan Mullally; and Tony-winning stage and screen stars Matthew Broderick and Stockard Channing.
"Do you still get nervous?" asked Stahl.
"Oh definitely, yeah."
"Really, every night?"
"Yeah. Always before I have my first entrance. It's terrifying!"
"But boy, it doesn't show -- with you, you come bounding out there," said Stahl.
"Well, once I get the first line out, then I can."
"Once he gets his pants off," dead-panned Abraham.
Grint gets one of the many roars of laughter in the show; its entire run is already nearly sold out. It's a play about a play -- or more precisely, a play about a review of a play.
It takes place in the upstairs bedroom at the opening night party. A group of narcissists backbite and gossip as they wait anxiously for the critic's verdict.
"I don't think it's like our relationship exactly," said Broderick, "but our relationship is very familiar to me, our relationship in the play. I have a friend like that, an actual writer friend."
The play's ditzy producer is played by Mullally.
Micah Stock's Gus, an aspiring actor, is there to check coats.
Grint is the hot "cool" director; Channing, the drug-addicted actress.
And Abraham is an infamously cruel critic.
"Here's the thing: It's a little dangerous, this play," said Lane. "People don't usually like to talk about reviews at all. I mean, you only get into trouble when you talk about critics. So we've entered into the forbidden zone, in a way. The whole play is set in the forbidden zone!"
"I wonder how a critic can criticize it, maybe?" asked Stahl.
"Especially a certain critic, one particular," said Channing.