Though the presidential box of the Belasco Theatre is decorated with a pleated patriotic flag, it remained empty on Thursday night when Michael Moore made his Broadway debut with his one-man show The Terms of My Surrender. “I sent an invitation for Trump to come tonight,” he said. “There are two seats and two tiny opera gloves for him to wear. … Even [Steve] Bannon can come, as long as he doesn’t blow himself.”
Directed by Michael Mayer, the new play — which Moore describes as a “12-step meeting for the Democratic Party” and runs through Oct. 22 — is segmented to resemble a political rally, an autobiography, an interview segment with a surprise guest and, yes, a head-to-head game show. Despite an initial audio snafu and a brief lull while searching for audience participants, the opening-night performance went smoothly, without protesters outside or hecklers inside. And when Moore misspoke by saying Abraham Lincoln didn’t free slaves, he just laughed it off and said, “First time on Broadway!”
Thursday’s performance included punchlines commenting on the latest political headlines, which Moore said he’s reading for material until half an hour before curtain. “It’s not enough though,” he told The Hollywood Reporter afterward. “One night, when Keith Olbermann was the surprise guest — I had already [commented] on the latest news, and he walked out with his phone and read something new to the audience!”
The show’s previews also welcomed Bryan Cranston, Maxine Waters and Judah Friedlander, and upcoming guests include Rosie O’Donnell and, possibly, Madonna, according to a representative of the production.
On opening night, the guest was Gloria Steinem. The legendary activist and journalist joined Moore onstage for a candid conversation about someday getting the Equal Rights Amendment passed, abolishing the electoral college and generally staying vigilant in the Trump era.
“I don’t have the answers, but you have to remember though, I’m a hope-aholic,” explained Steinem, who received a standing ovation after her appearance. “Though it’s incredibly dangerous what happened — and it is, as you pointed out, the result of a perfect storm — we are woke now. We are seriously woke. … It’s a thousand times more because it’s all age groups and the anti-Vietnam movement was largely young people, and it’s geographically everywhere where the civil rights movement was not as much in the whole country as it should have been. It’s just huge. It is the majority, it’s people just doing whatever we can, which is the key.”
Tony Bennett, Dan Rather, Christie Brinkley, Anna Deavere Smith, Josh Lucas and O’Donnell were among the opening-night attendees. When O’Donnell was referenced in the show, she raised her hand with a laugh. After the performance, Moore, Steinem, Brinkley and others walked to the afterparty at the Bryant Park Grill, where the newly-minted stage star spoke freely about Monday’s divisive Bachelorette finale: “Of course it should’ve been Peter [Kraus]! He wanted the relationship, but he wasn’t ready to propose and that’s okay. Go have the relationship!” he shouted. “Am I the only one on the left who watches Bachelorette? Me and Noam Chomsky.”