A CANADIAN YANKEE IN KING HENRY'S COURT

Encores! will lead off its new season February 8-11 with A Connecticut Yankee, and guess what? He comes from Canada. Stephen Sutcliffe, Ragtime's original Brother, landed the title role in Rodgers and Hart's tuneful time-travel to Camelot. The 42nd Street-bound Christine Ebersole and Titanic's Judy Blazer will play damsels in various degrees of distress, and the dancing load will be toted by Dream's Nancy Lemenager and Contact's Sean Martin Hingston. Lording over the show with proper majesty as King Arthur will be Henry Gibson, late of Laugh-In, whose only previous brush with royalty was as the King of Country Music, Haven Hamilton, in Robert Altman's 25-year-old Nashville.

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Peter Gennaro
Peter Gennaro
A GLORIOUS SEND-OFF

If there must be memorial services, make them as joyful as the one Peter Gennaro got at the Broadhurst on Monday. Fact is, the word "joy" came up about 4,382 times, and that indeed was the operative word. Lee Roy Reams, Martin Charnin, Chita Rivera, Andrea McArdle, the road-company tykes of Annie (going through Gennaro's Tony-winning choreography for "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile"), Wally Harper, Barbara Cook, daughter Liza Gennaro, John Schuck, and Judy Collins all hit the right happy notes, and The Peter Gennaro Dancers (nine of 'em, anyway) performed briefly and shared some beautifully articulated memories with the audience. But the capper was the horde of kids comprising the National Dance Institute; they went through some stunning routines, and you could actually see stars forming in front of your eyes.

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KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES

The York Theatre Company's Musicals in Mufti series will conclude its midseason run of Joneses (Celebration by Tom Jones, Baker Street with Simon Jones) this weekend with Oscar Hammerstein II's 1943 African-American take on Bizet, Carmen Jones. Suzzane Douglas, who did Tap with Gregory Hines and Threepenny Opera with Sting, has the title role. The Lion King's grown-up Simba, Jason Raize, will be her ("Unhappiness-Is-Just-a-Thing-Called") Joe. Others in the cast include Anika Noni Rose (Cindy-Lou), Timothy Blevins (Husky Miller), Glenn Turner (Dink), Nora Cole (Frankie), and Tanesha Marie Gary (Myrt).

Before we leave Mufti, whose miracles are wrought in 30 hours' worth of rehearsal time ("whether the cast needs it or not," as York artistic director James Morgan is wont to say), we must give a rousing, 21-gun salute to Barbara Walsh, who dropped in when Dee Hoty dropped out and learned the female lead in Baker Street in three hours! Brava, Barbara!

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Christiane Noll
Christiane Noll
CLASSY NOLL

When Christiane Noll was doing The Student Prince with Brandon Jovanovich at the Paper Mill Playhouse last year, she proposed a rematch there via Carousel. That started the merry-go-round going in the minds of executives, and voila! The show will open there on June 1 as PMP's contribution to the Richard Rodgers centennial--albeit with Matt Bogart and Glory Crampton in the leads. Noll and Jovanovich were invited to play the secondary leads, Carrie and ("When I Marry") Mr. Snow. She said yes, but a pressing Carmen in his datebook compelled him to say no to Snow; so that part is being pitched to Robert Evan, Noll's matinee Jekyll & Hyde. Martha Bagwell will be Carousel's Nettie Fowler, and Eddie Bracken (who hits 81 on February 7) will mark his 15,000th stage performance during the run as the Starkeeper. Robert LaFosse, who recently dipped his tootsies into theater choreography via Off-Broadway's A Child's Garden, will stage the show's all-important dances.

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BIG STAGE, LITTLE SCREEN

Jerry Zaks, who directed Kristin Chenoweth on Broadway in Epic Proportions, is easing her onto the small screen. He helmed two episodes of her upcoming Kristin series, and may do more if the show's a go....Andrew Lippa, who composed The Wild Party for Manhattan Theater Club, has been tapped by Disney/ABC-TV to add four new songs to Charles Smalls' Tony-winning score for The Wiz, which they'll remake as a TV-movie à la Annie. Lippa just wrote some music for Venezia, the Arthur Laurents play about to premiere at the George Street Playhouse with Chita Rivera, and now he's cooking up a new musical with L.A. writer Betsy Pool. It's untitled, but based on a true story.

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HE'S YOUNG AND HEALTHY

Late breaking news, unconfirmed, is that David Elder (who recently spelled Michael Berresse in Kiss Me, Kate) will have the Lee Roy Reams role of Billy Lawlor in the Broadway revival of 42nd Street revival. Keep on tappin'!

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Jim Caruso
Jim Caruso
CD SPREE

Miranda Music is throwing a CD launch party at Wilson's (201 West 79th Street) on January 29 for Lucky One, the new one from Scott Howard. He'll follow the party with a full-hour performance.

In related news, fellow Theatermaniac Jim Caruso is observing his birthday (four-three, folks) at Arci's Place (450 Park Avenue) on February 5 with his CD party. "It hasn't gone platinum yet," Caruso confesses. "We're getting close to going tin--maybe corduroy."

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50, GUYS, 50

Birthday bashes marking a full half-century of living are all over the town these days. On January 15 at Scaletta's on the Upper West Side, drama critic David Kaufman was feted by his partner, Ken Geist, with a wonderful spread for 94 of their nearest and dearest. This coming Saturday, the same milestone will be marked (and Marked) well at Laura Belle by entertainment lawyer Mark Sendroff. He's calling it "Night of 1000 Star Clients," many of whom will be in attendance.

And then there's the celebrity photographer who tossed himself a 50th birthday party last Sunday. Friends wrestled him to the floor, got his wallet and discovered--mon Dieu!--that he's 52. Some enchanted evening it wasn't!