NEW YORK -- Katie Holmes made her Broadway debut in "All My Sons," and her husband, Tom Cruise, thought it was a knockout.
When asked for his verdict on Holmes' performance, Cruise stopped for a moment while moving through the crowd at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Thursday night, telling a reporter, "Did you see it? . . . It was extraordinary."
Hundreds of people bought tickets to see Holmes act on Broadway for the first time, in a preview performance for the revival of "All My Sons," costarring John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest and Patrick Wilson.
The audience collectively gasped when Cruise entered the theater moments before the curtain went up. While anti-Scientology protesters demonstrated outside, the movie star -- and Hollywood's most famous Scientologist -- mingled and shook hands with some other theatergoers who took photos and clapped. He then hugged Dustin Hoffman, who was sitting a few rows away, which drew another cheer.
Amid the hubbub, it took a while for people to take their seats. Then the moment they'd been waiting for arrived: Holmes and her fellow cast members stepped out on stage to start the play, which officially opens Oct. 16.
If Holmes felt nervous and jittery, she didn't show it. She delivered her lines with confidence and projected her girlish voice so it could be heard loud and clear. She danced around on stage with gusto. She wore a brown shoulder-length hairpiece to hide her pixie cut.
"All My Sons" concerns businessman Joe Keller (Lithgow), whose factory supplied defective parts to the military, resulting in the deaths of 21 pilots during World War II. Yet it was his business partner who went to jail for the mistake.
Wiest plays Keller's wife, Wilson his idealistic son, and Holmes the son's fiancee and daughter of Keller's disgraced partner.
Holmes starred in the popular teen drama "Dawson's Creek" and has appeared in such films as "The Ice Storm," "Wonder Boys," "Disturbing Behavior," "Thank You for Smoking," "Batman Begins" and "Mad Money."
The 29-year-old star -- accompanied by Lithgow, not Cruise -- stopped to pose for photographers outside and called her performance "fine." She and Lithgow then jumped into a black SUV that sped them away from the surrounding media and fan frenzy. More than 200 bystanders had gathered across the street to watch Holmes leave the theater as police officers on foot and horseback patrolled the scene.
Not among the observers: the roughly 30 Scientology protesters from a group called Anonymous who demonstrated before the show behind a barricade, loudly chanting, "Scientology kills!"
Melissa Doyle tried to ignore the ruckus. She said she took her spot in line early and saw Holmes rush into the theater wearing jeans, a black blazer and sunglasses.
"I love Katie Holmes," the 27-year-old New Yorker said. "I think she's a great actress, and right now I really love her for her fashion, her style! I think she really kind of differentiates herself among young Hollywood. Plus, she's a mom -- and I just think she's a really good role model."