Phyllis Newman(Photo © Broadway Beat)
Phyllis Newman
(Photo © Broadway Beat)
TELL THE TRUTH, YOU GO TO SEE THOSE BEAUTIFUL DAMES
Nothing Like A Dame, the annual benefit event that has raised millions of dollars for The Phyllis Newman Health Initiative and The Actors' Fund of America, returns for its ninth year on March 1. For this go-round, the stage of St. James will be filled with many of Broadway's leading leading ladies. "It's less of a vaudeville than in years past," says Newman. "We're really focusing on the women who are and have been on Broadway." The starry lineup includes Tony Award winner Heather Headley in a much-awaited return to the Great White Way, singing "Home" (also the title of her May 24 concert at the New Amsterdam). A special group number will feature Sutton Foster, Nancy Lemenager, Deidre Goodwin, and Karen Ziemba. Also promised are appearances by Chita Rivera, Idina Menzel, Bebe Neuwirth, Zoe Caldwell, and Kathleen Chalfant. But Newman's really looking forward to one particular solo spot: Christine Ebersole, on her night off from her fabulous new show In My Dreams at Feinstein's, will sing a song called "Knocking 'Em Back." Says Newman, "It was written by my daughter Amanda Green for a new movie that Ben Stiller's doing. Christine sings it as Betty Ford. It's just brilliant." The ever-busy Amanda, by the way, has also just gained the musical rights to the John Cusack film High Fidelity and is working on a revised version of her dad Adolph's 1967 musical Hallelujah, Baby!, which won a Tony for Leslie Uggams.

MORE OF LOESSER
The appeal of Guys and Dolls continues to endure more than 50 years after the show's Broadway debut, which is why the timeless Frank Loesser score will get a superstar-studded airing on Monday at the Sheraton New York as part of a benefit evening for the Iris Cantor Women's Health Center at New York-Presybeterian Hospital. The celestial cast includes Tony Bennett, Whoopi Goldberg, Vanessa Williams, Delta Burke, Susan Lucci, and Marisa Tomei. One sure highlight of the evening will be a duet of "I'll Know" by Law & Order star Jesse L. Martin and the gorgeous Melissa Errico, who will be cabbing it over to the Sheraton straight from the Acorn Theater, where she's co-starring in the New Group's Aunt Dan and Lemon. So why did Errico decide to double-up? "The director [of the benefit show], Lisa Shriver, was the choreographic inspiration for my Broadway show Amour and I just adore her," she says. "Plus, I am not good at saying no to anything having to do with women's health causes. My mother is a breast cancer survivor and my dad is a doctor."

MELISSA GETS HER MEN
Ms. Errico truly is a girl who can't say no. On March 16, she begins a three-week stint at the Algonquin Oak Room, singing a blend of standards, jazz, and pop. Her brand new musical director is Clifford Carter, who's been pop icon James Taylor's keyboardist for over a decade. Then, on April 6 -- just 72 hours after that gig ends -- she opens in an eight-week engagement of a "concert version" of Finian's Rainbow at the Irish Repertory Theater. And you heard it here first: Errico's former Amour co-star Malcolm Gets will play the randy leprachaun, Og.

MAJOR BARBARA
The cast of Hairspray has made Joe's Pub its Monday night home away from home. Following in the footsteps of Chester Gregory and Jackie Hoffman (whose sold-out show The Kvetching Continues has now been extended into March and April) is Barbara Walsh; she'll present her cabaret show No Standards there on February 23. "The songs I've chosen aren't standards in the traditional sense," says Walsh, who plays the scheming Velma Von Tussle in Hairspray. "I'll be singing some folk/rock classics from the 1970s, some modern theater songs, and some things you may have never heard before. While they all have a personal meaning to me, I think that, to quote a friend of mine, everyone will find it to be 'a very satisfying meal.'" Since joining Hairspray last fall, Walsh has seen a lot of the show's original stars depart -- but is she ready for the biggest cast change of them all, when Harvey Fierstein steps out of Edna Turnblad's high heels on May 2 and Michael McKean steps into them two days later? "Harvey is the definitive Edna and it will be a very dificult day when he leaves," Walsh remarks. "But a long-running show needs a new take sometimes, and Michael is a wonderful actor and a wonderful person. I think he will be exquisitely good for the show."

FOA, FOA EVERYWHERE
The adorable Barrett Foa has made quite a name for himself this season; first in the title role of Cupid in the charming Off-Broadway musical Cupid & Psyche (which may be recorded this spring) and now as John Tartaglia's understudy in Avenue Q. Good news for Foa fans: He'll once more be filling in for the star, playing both Princeton and Rod, on Tuesday, February 24. The following afternoon, Foa will appear -- without puppets -- in the Food for Thought/Lunch Hour Theatre reading of A View From the Bridge at the National Arts Club. "I'm playing Rodolpho, the blond Italian who sings," he tells me. Will the role be a stretch for him? "Let's see," he replies: "I'm blond, I'm Italian, my uncle's name is Rodolpho, and I've been told I can sing. Guess I'll be okay."

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES
Joan Rivers, Karen Akers, and Michael Greif all took in Sarah Jones' sensational solo show bridge & tunnel last Monday night...Simon Jones will co-star in TACT's revival of The Chalk Garden, March 13-15...And, in April, Oscar winner Shirley Jones will reportedly join Broadway's 42nd Street as Dorothy Brock, with son Patrick Cassidy in tow as Julian Marsh.