Uta Hagen
Uta Hagen
PIANO LESSON

At 81, Uta Hagen still continues to shop around for new plays in which to appear, but she may not be back on the boards quite as early as we had all hoped. The lady was to have started rehearsals this coming Monday at her HB Studios in a new play titled Burnt Piano by Justin Fleming. Laila Robbins, who co-starred with Hagen in Mrs. Klein and is currently (through Sunday) in Tiny Alice, was to have joined Miss H. and Fritz Weaver at Piano rehearsals as a last-minute replacement for Mia Farrow, who had to bow out. But, just this afternoon, an HB spokesman informed this column that "Miss Hagen will not be doing Burnt Piano after all," and that more news about the reasons why will be announced next week. So stay tuned!

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THE ADMIRABLE JONES AND HOLMES

Speaking of Fritz Weaver: Sherlock Holmes, Weaver's famous musical role, falls happily to the inestimable Simon Jones when Baker Street gets a welcome reprise by the York Theatre Company as part of its semi-annual Musicals in Mufti series, January 19-21 at the Theater at St. Peter's. The 1965 Jerome Coopersmith-Marian Grudeff-Raymond Jessel show musicalizes three mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. At the York, Dee Hoty will be the distressed damsel and Randall Duk-Kim the villainous Moriarty, roles originated by Inga Swenson and Martin Gabel.

This is the second time Jones has taken up the pipe and deerstalker. Two years ago, he did the title role in William Gillette's Sherlock Holmes for The Actors Company Theater. This year--in fact, this month, January 12, 14-15--he's playing James M. Barrie's The Admirable Crichton for TACT at New York Historical Society on Central Park West. This rarely done comedy about shipwrecked aristocrats and their very resourceful butler has Tom Toner as Crichton's titled employer, Lord Loam. Toner, who was Pickering to Jones' Higgins in a Paper Mill Playhouse My Fair Lady, is Watson to Jones' Holmes in Baker Street.

The rest of the TACT cast: Delphi Harrington, Cynthia Darlow, Scott Schafer, Greg McFadden, Sean Arbuckle, Mary Bacon, Lauren Lovett, Gregory Saloto, Margaret Nichols, Lyn Wright--and the star's son, Tim Jones, in the role of a stable boy. An early calling? Did he raise his hand to do the part? "I raised his hand for him," says Jones père.

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Sandra Church with the Naked Boys(Photo: H.E. Yhoman)
Sandra Church with the Naked Boys
(Photo: H.E. Yhoman)
GYPSY AND THE BOYS

Talk about preaching to the converted! Those perky Naked Boys Singing were sincerely impressed to find The Stripper of All Showbiz Strippers in their audience recently: Sandra Church, who--do we have to say it?--played the title role in the original Broadway production of Gypsy to Ethel Merman's Mama Rose. Church stuck around after the show and autographed a copy of the Gypsy cast album for the guys....Jeff Woodman rushed in to replace John Michael Higgins (a.k.a. Jeffrey), who stopped butlering for Tiny Alice on Sunday to jet to L.A. to tape an Ally McBeal. There appears to be some kind of opening on that series....The American role that Robert Downey Jr. was to have played in the English movie that Robert Altman starts shooting March 1 has been "reconceptualized" as a Brit, and will be played by Jude Law....The seldom-seen Salome Gems will be seen here in NYC for a limited one-week run (January 22-29) in Catherine Gropper's play Embers. She's playing Louise Nevelson, the sculptor who created the chapel of St. Peter's Church at Citicorp Center, where the play will be done.

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POPULATING 42nd STREET

Christine Ebersole rang out the old with The Best Man, and it looks like she'll be ringing in the new with 42nd Street, doing the Star part created by Tammy Grimes. David Elder, who spelled Michael Berresse in Kiss Me, Kate while Berresse filmed Stephen Spielberg's A.I., is said to have the inside-track on the Lee Roy Reams hoofer role, and offers have gone out to Mary Testa and Jonathan Freeman for the songwriting couple.

The show's book writer, Mark Bramble, will direct, and Randy Skinner will choreograph. Both will be adding new flourishes of their own but also re-creating the original work of Gower Champion, who died the day the show opened.

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MEADOW CHANNELS MAGGIO

The guidelines of another deceased director, Michael Maggio, will be observed beginning February 20, when Rebecca Gilman's Chicago hit Boy Gets Girl begins its subscription run here at Manhattan Theatre Club. "I'm going to try to channel Michael and understand what he might have done," says MTC's artistic director, Lynne Meadow. "It's the right way to do it. We hadn't planned on doing this, obviously, but I think that is one of the things that an artistic director unfortunately has to step in and do. Rebecca felt strongly that it should be either me or Robert Falls."

The original Chicago cast will be used for this production. Credits will read: "Directed by Michael Maggio. Production supervised by Lynne Meadow."

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Ray Walston
Ray Walston
THE DEVIL GOES TO HEAVEN

The wonderful Ray Walston, who played a devil of a Devil (a.k.a. "Mr. Applegate") in Damn Yankees on Broadway and got a Tony and the movie version out of it, died at age 86 on the first day of 2001--exactly 76 days after we lost his handful of a handmaiden Lola, the equally wonderful and Tony-winning Gwen Verdon. I like to think of them together now, regaling the pearly gates gallery with "Those Were the Good Old Days."