Edward Albee
Edward Albee
Each of the three Edward Albee plays in rehearsals right now in New York and environs is decorated with a Tony-winning diva at the top: Anne Bancroft is in Occupant, opening February 24 Off-Broadway at the Signature Theater Company; Mercedes Ruehl is in The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?, opening March 3 on Broadway at the Golden; and Rosemary Harris is in All Over, opening February 15 at Princeton's McCarter Theater Center. Neal Huff is Bancroft's playing partner, Bill Pullman and Jeffrey Carlson will be Ruehl's husband and son, and Harris is surrounded by a galaxy of good co-stars: Pamela Nyberg, Michael Learned, William Biff McGuire, John Christopher Jones, John Carter, and Myra Carter. Albee was present on the first day of rehearsals at the McCarter, and said: "I am looking at a cast of seven and realizing that I've had the good fortune and pleasure of personally working with four of you. I've been told there is such a thing as an Albee actor. I don't know, maybe there is. It takes a kind of intelligence, sensitivity, and a tongue to get around the language. At the moment, you're looking at a very happy writer. Of course, I also have two other plays in rehearsal...I'm happy about that, too."

********************

GOOD MAN IN FAST LANE

Don't look now, but the Brit is coming--again. Henry Goodman, who headed up the first Broadway replacement cast of Yasmina Reza's Art and is regarded as a first-class Falstaff in his native Britain, has been tapped to take over the Max Bialystock role when Nathan Lane exits The Producers on March 17. The game plan calls for Goodman to play the part here for six months or so, then return to England and open up the London company.

They offered Lane the moon to stay aboard, but he already has the moon: His Jackie Gleason movie biography, To the Moon, is about ready to roll out on the West Coast. After that, he has no less than three TV sitcoms on the griddle, ready to start flipping. Producers of The Producers are going to be throwing money at him and Matthew Broderick to get them to do the Mel Brooks-Thomas Meehan musical again when it opens in L.A. Warming up in the bullpen if that doesn't happen: Martin Short and Jason Alexander.

Not to apply any more undue pressure to the St. James' box-office, but Broderick will be ankling on March 17 as well: He's turning in his producer's hat for a band uniform to do the TV remake of Meredith Willson's The Music Man, opposite Kristin Chenoweth.

********************

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO...

1) What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? The musical version of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford's cinematic cat-fight of 1962, was to have had its world premiere last June at the Houston Opera House, but those plans were washed out by the summer floods that plagued the area and, specifically, the Opera House. Now, the show is back on the books--and in Houston, too, hopefully on higher ground. It lifts off with a six-week engagement starting October 8 at the just-completed, $28-million, state-of-the-art, 2,650-seat Hobbey Center for the Performing Arts, and it will be the only world-premiere attraction in the theater's inaugural season. The show has a book by Henry Farrell (who wrote the original novel), lyrics by Hal Hackady, and music by Lee Pockriss. With any luck at all, it'll have Millicent Martin as the demented Jane and Dee Hoty as the wheelchair-bound Blanche.

2) Susan Gordon? The daughter of producer Bert I. Gordon was a movie moppet who came along about the time of the Baby Jane movie; in fact, she much-resembled the Baby Jane dolls with her insistent, peroxide-blonde curls. She fell off everybody's radar after enjoying a certain screen vogue from Danny Kaye's The Five Pennies of 1959 to Daddy Gordon's Picture Mommy Dead of 1966, particularly among pre-teen males of the period. Two of those males--record mogul Bruce Kimmel and stage director Robert Armin--were chatting away on the Internet last November and, when they confessed that they shared the same first crush on Susan, a friend of Kimmel's who happened to drop into the chat room and had known Gordon since the fourth grade passed along her Teaneck address. Armin looked her up and cast her in A Magic Place in a New Time, playing this weekend and next at the 45th Street Theater (325 West 45th Street). It's Gordon's belated stage bow.

********************

GUESS WHO'S COMING TO THE DINING ROOM?

Half of the original cast is assembling around The Dining Room for a couple of anniversary readings of A.R. Gurney's arrival play, which premiered at Playwrights Horizons 20 years ago yesterday (January 31). Act I on February 25 and Act II on February 27 will launch a new season of Food for Thought, the lunch-hour series whose readings are held from 1pm to 2pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at The National Arts Club. Pippa Pearthree, Ann McDonough, and Remak Ramsay will be on hand from the original company, with the latter directing. W.H. Macy is tied up with a film in Hollywood and John Shea is busy doing a TV series in Toronto, so their roles will be read by Michael Hayden and Reed Birney. The role originated by Lois de Banzie will be shared by Frances Sternhagen (on Monday) and Elizabeth Wilson (on Tuesday). The author will attend both readings and will be available for interrogation afterward.

Betty Buckley, past and present, figures prominently in Gurney's current agenda. The Fourth Wall, a play of his that she did years ago with George Segal in Chicago, is belatedly going up in New York next season at Primary Stages. There is no reason to believe that Buckley will recreate that role, but she will be the author's Buffalo Gal in a new opus opening March 15 in Buffalo, directed by John Tillinger and produced by Julian Schlossberg. An Off-Broadway transfer is possible.

Meanwhile, Food for Thought is giving its audiences a lot chew on. On Monday (January 28), Rex Reed led his longtime pals Elizabeth Ashley and Polly Bergen in an exploration of early Tennessee Williams works and in a reading of a new play by the series' artistic director, Susan Charlotte. On Thursday (January 31), it was Judith Light in The Last Yankee. Next Thursday (February 7), Oscar winner Cliff Robertson will read and direct his own VIP trilogy for the series.