Okay, Jackie Hoffman, here's my heart. This hilarious comedienne is making a massive, multi-charactered spectacle of herself these days--tonight (February 15) and tomorrow night, only, alas--at the Greenwich House in a Drama Dept. diversion called Jackie Hoffman's Valentine's Day Massacre. It's killer comedy starring the woman who always takes us home in body bags.
Aside from her very funny self, Hoffman plays by turns a Taliban standup comic, Shelley Winters, and (on film) a sepia-toned chanteuse in this show. She has accomplices who are kinda like Jamie DeRoy's friends on speed: Tammy Faye Starlite, a born-again country singer in the throes of a romantic disenchantment ("Did I Shave My Vagina for This?"); Allen Lewis Rickman, a born-again straight; Johnny Fox, a flip and foxy sword (and worse) swallower; and the wonderful Mary Birdsong.
On the Sabbath, Hoffman will rest as you're biblically supposed to do. Then, on Monday she'll be up and at 'em again: She and La Birdsong will be part of the all-star drag-show version of George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's Stage Door--retitled, after Kaufman's crack about the movie version, Screen Door--which TWEED TheaterWorks is presenting at Town Hall as a one-night gala reading benefiting God's Love We Deliver. Charles Busch, Lypsinka, Joan Rivers, Wallace Shawn, Varla Jean Merman, Andre Gregory, David Drake, Sheila MacRae, Jay Rodgers, and Jodi Lennon star. On the following Monday, February 25, Hoffman is one of the guest friends lined up for the next Drama Dept. romp, Free To Be...You and Me.
In March, Hoffman marches into the movies as the title character's very-large-with-child best friend in Kissing Jessica Stein, a nifty independent film about a twentysomething Manhattanite (Jennifer Westfeldt) reviewing her sexual options (Scott Cohen or Heather Juergensen). The film draws heavily on the New York stage acting pool--particularly big splashes are made by Michael Mastro and Tovah Feldshuh.
A big noise from the Windy City, Hoffman collected the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Actress for a series of six revues she wrote and performed at the renowned Second City in Chicago. Last season, she won an Obie for her dizzy work in The Book of Liz. Can Broadway be far away? Actually, no: Hoffman will debut there this spring in Hairspray!
FROM OKLAHOMA! TO UTOPIA
A man divided these days is Trevor Nunn, busily making his production of Oklahoma! ready for Broadway while trans-Atlantically conducting business as usual as head of the National Theater. In addition to applying a new realism to Rodgers and Hammerstein's landmark musical of 1943, he is casting around to outfit a brand-new trilogy of plays by Tom Stoppard. Wearing the umbrella title of The Coast of Utopia, these will go into rehearsal in March, as soon as The Sooner State settles on the stage of the Gershwin.
THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS
Even if you saw The Princess Diaries--the songless, formulaic, Garry Marshall film in which Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews did a regal family act--you would have never suspected that Hathaway possesses the same kind of pristine soprano voice that Andrews once had. Encores! let the cat out of the bag last weekend, presenting Hathaway in the Anna Maria Alberghetti role of Lili in a sweetly satisfying reprise of Bob Merrill's Carnival. What a charming revelation it was! The young lady's rendition of "Love Makes the World Go Round" had the audience in a spin, and Hathaway somehow made gullible, girlish innocence a believable commodity in these cynical days.
The performance will get her work. James Naughton, for one, raced backstage and asked her to audition for Emily Webb in the Our Town he's staging up at the Westport Playhouse, June5-June 22. Paul Newman will be playing the Stage Manager. Only 19--the same age as Andrews when she conquered Broadway via The Boy Friend--Hathaway says she'd love a shot at the title roles that Miss Julie made famous: Cinderella and My Fair Lady. But the title role she wants most to play is the one in Gypsy.
Brian Stokes Mitchell and Douglas Sills, who played tug of war for Hathaway's affections in Carnival, are both headed for title roles themselves. Mitchell starts rehearsing Sweeney Todd in April for the Stephen Sondheim festival at the Kennedy Center. And a Broadway revival of Mack and Mabel may finally come to pass for Sills, who says that Jerry Herman hopes to open it at Houston's brand new, $28-million Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and then bring it in. According to Sills, "Jerry says that Kristin Chenoweth really wants to do it, and Donna [McKechnie, who previously did the show with Sills in L.A.]. I promise I'll shave my head for the role...but who knows? Things change. Nothing's for sure." Meanwhile, Sills is set for a couple of Monday night concerts upstairs at Studio 54--doing Scarlet Pimpernel ditties and other Wildhorn numbers--as well as a West Coast concert in April.
Box office-wise, Carnival in its five performances at City Center became the highest-grossing Encores! show ever, pulling in $672,000 and topping another Encores! production directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall--Hair. Indeed, Marshall worked her magic on the four top-grossing Encores! of the decade. So when is somebody going to give the girl a break and let her go to town with a Broadway show? She tends to mist up if you mention Wonderful Town, which Barry and Fran Weissler put on hold when Donna Murphy became pregnant and which is still on hold. (It is an encouraging sight to see Barry W. on his cell phone at intermission as he was at Carnival's closing, presumably deal-making. But you can't take that to the bank. Fran W. admitted she'd like to take Carnival straight to Broadway, but the rights are held by Julian Schlossberg, who's planning to produce his own full-scale Broadway revival.