Al Pacino on Broadway

Tom Brogan
17 min readFeb 4, 2021
Al Pacino in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? Photo by AP.

A cinema legend with roles in movies such as The Godfather, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and Heat Al Pacino has never been far from the theatre. It was where he first displayed his outstanding acting talent, with blistering performances that rivetted crowds. Over the years, however, his screen presence, while a draw for audiences, could overwhelm the roles he took on.

When he uttered his first line on stage in front of a paying audience, in a 1963 production of William Saroyan’s Hello Out There Pacino had such a shock he might never have gone on stage again.

“The audience laughed at my first line,” Pacino told Lawrence Grobel in Playboy in 1979. “It was a really funny line and they should have laughed, but I had never been in front of an audience doing that play and I didn’t know it was funny. I realized I didn’t know the part well.”

At the interval, Pacino went into the ally behind New York’s Caffe Cino and cried. The play’s director, Pacino’s mentor Charlie Laughton, reminded him that he had to do the line again, in a second performance that night, and for every night in the run. “It was a very important moment for me,” Pacino told The New Yorker. “I went back in there and finished the run.”

The play that really announced Pacino as a theatre actor of note was his legitimate New York debut in Israel Horowitz’s The Indian Wants the Bronx. Performed Off-Broadway at the Astor Place Theatre on Lafayette Street in January 1968 the part of Murph won Pacino an Obie for Best Actor. Laughton would say that it was the play in which Pacino “Seized the power”.

Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?, Belasco Theatre, February 1969

Al Pacino and Hal Holbrook in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? Photo by Photofest.

After 204 performances of Indian Pacino made his Broadway debut in February 1969 as Bickham a hot-headed student with a deep-seated resentment towards the father who abandoned him in Don Petersen’s Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? The play was set in the jail school for young prisoners on New York’s Riker’s Island. Associate Producer Jay Weston spoke to Variety in 2007.

“The director, Michael Schultz, and I were having trouble…

Tom Brogan

Author of We Made Them Angry Scotland at the World Cup Spain 1982. Writing about films, music, football and television.