When another American version, to be fashioned for Corbett, was proposed, Shaw consented to the deal, for his rights were now secure. Corbett and Shaw soon comprised an international mutual admiration society. Corbett thought that some of the things G.B.S. wrote were "bright" and added that he had got a laugh out of Man and Superman. Shaw, who had never seen Corbett either as fighter or actor, was all for him because he paid his royalties in advance. During rehearsal Corbett began to construct an analogy between his own life and that of Cashel—a man looked down upon because he was a fighter. Corbett told an interviewer, "I sacrificed what little social standing I had—everything, in fact. My father wouldn't speak to me for three months afterward." His father ran a livery stable.
The play had its premiere at Daly's, New York's most fashionable theater, on January 8, 1906. Asked in his dressing room if the highbred audience would frighten him, Corbett said, "If a fellow can keep his head in the ring, with a lot of madmen yelling at him, he ought to be able to keep it at Daly's."
The first act went well. There were some gasps when Corbett appeared nude from the waist up, daring for Daly's. Lydia, the society lady, seemed to like what she saw. She also admired the manly way in which Corbett got at the core of their romance: "If I can't have the satisfaction of marrying you, I may as well have the satisfaction of saying I'd like to." The final curtain came down to spirited applause. Most of the critics were kind to Corbett.
However, there was only one really knowledgeable critic on hand, the "gentleman on the aisle" for the New York American. This was Philadelphia Jack O'Brien, who later that year disputed the claim to Jeffries' vacated heavyweight title with rival Tommy Burns.
Philadelphia Jack had a knack for dramatic fiction himself. He originally made his name by knocking out a bunch of stumblebums in England and cabling back glowing reports to the U.S. He built himself up into such an attraction that, when he returned, he dictated terms to promoters and selected his own opponents. These he even rehearsed to make their fights exciting—an anticipation of the imaginative ways of modern professional wrestling.
O'Brien wrote of the Corbett play, "Nothing since my recent victory over lanky Bob Fitzsimmons gave me greater pleasure than to witness the plunge of my old friend, Jim Corbett, into the legitimate. My greatest ambition in life is to knock out Jim Corbett, but I want to do that knocking in the ringside. If I attempted to knock his histrionic abilities, I would be unfit for the task. Jim is a natural born actor.... The story of the play is one that interested me perhaps more than any person in the house. It portrays the humiliation that a pugilist is confronted with when he attempts to lead a quiet social life." The critic had just been thrown out of the Waldorf and Netherland hotels for creating disturbances. "The plot hinges on his [Cashel's] accidental acquaintance with a rich society girl while he is training for a fight. If the lady had been at all wise she could have tumbled to the fact that he was a prizefighter right away. He shifted his feet and clinched his fists which, by the. way, was a time when he should have been trying not to show the fact.... Having been obliged to leave at the end of the second act to coyer an engagement, I don't know how he made out with the rich society girl but it's dollars to doughnuts from the way he was progressing with the love affair that he captured her."
Philadelphia Jack did have another "engagement." As were most of his colleagues, he was an actor, too. He had to hurry off to fulfill a booking at a nearby burlesque house.