CLOSE TO PERFECTION
Glenn Close, normally a lady of restraint and understatement, exhibits a "cockeyed optimist" attitude whenever the subject of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific comes up. "I'm very proud of it," she gushes, "and I'm very proud of our CD. We all went down to Sydney and laid down the tracks there, then we went up north and filmed [the movie]. I've seen the director's cut, and it's wonderful. I'm very excited about it."
She's talking about the three-hour TV movie of the fabulous Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein II-Joshua Logan Pulitzer Prize winner, brought forth from Down Under (Port Douglas in Queensland, Australia) and Over (Moorea, Tahiti). It will air the evening after the Oscars, March 26 (8pm-11pm), on ABC-TV. Close, who executive-produced this edition, hired Rade Sherbedgia of Snatch and Mission: Impossible 2 to be her Emile de Becque, Harry Connick, Jr. for the role of the doomed Lieutenant Cable, Murphy Brown's Robert Pastorelli as Luther Billis, Jack Thompson as Captain Brackett, Lori Tan Chinn as Bloody Mary, and Natalie Mendoza as Liat.
The people behind the cameras are an interesting, eclectic, and unexpected mix. Director Richard Pearce began as a cinematographer of Oscar-winning documentaries (Woodstock, Marjoe, and Interviews with My Lai Veterans). Michael Gore, famed for his two Fame Oscars, was the film's executive producer--presumably in charge of the music. The fellow who did the script adaptation and musical reshuffling ("There Is Nothin' Like a Dame" now begins the show) is Lawrence D. Cohen, who previously specialized in adapting Stephen King's stuff (Carrie and the miniseries Stephen King's "It" and Stephen King's The Tommyknockers). Thankfully, none of the above remembered to bring along the tinted photographic gels that disfigured Josh Logan's 1958 feature film version.
For gosh sakes, don't get Glenn started on which is her favorite song in the show. "Every one of them is so beautiful," she enthuses. "It's hard to beat 'Some Enchanted Evening.' It makes me weep. When you see Rade sing it to me intimately on a balcony overlooking the ocean--as a woman, you think, 'Oh, my God! If only somebody would say that to me!' He's so beautiful and direct and sexy and wonderful. 'A Wonderful Guy' is also great; it just makes your hair stand up when you break into 'I'm as corny as Kansas in August.' And 'Honey Bun' is one of the best things I've ever participated in. We had three torrential downpours, we had 500 extras, everybody's adrenaline was running. We felt like we were really putting on a show, because nobody had seen it. It was rainy, and we held out for the last five minutes. Then the rain stopped and we were able to shoot it.
"Harry did beautiful work," Close says of Mr. Connick, Jr. "He's such a fierce musician. He recorded 'You've Got to Be Taught' in Sydney and then, when he heard it again in the context of the show, he said, 'I've got to do this again.' He's the only one of us who could put a little ear-rig in his ear and sing to the orchestra playing in his head. He sang the song live in the scene."
There are a couple of musical casualties. "Happy Talk" was never filmed because it didn't fit in smoothly with the new adaptation--not, we have been assured by a R&H spokesperson, because it was "politically incorrect" (à la, "I'm a Polynesian, Too"), as had been previously rumored. The lovely Nellie Forbush-Lieutenant Cable duet "My Girl Back Home" was filmed but had to be dropped because of time constraints. That song suffered the same fate on the road to Broadway in 1949, but was restored to the 1958 Josh Logan movie version; the Close-Connick rendition may be included on the upcoming Sony soundtrack CD and, with any luck, the future DVD release.
THE PORTABLE GLASS SLIPPER
On another R&H front, the touring stage version of their only TV musical, Cinderella, reaches the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts tonight (Tuesday) and magically acquires a new title player: Jamie-Lynn Sigler, best known as Meadow Soprano in the Emmy-winning HBO series The Sopranos, slips into the glass slipper previously worn by Deborah Gibson, who had already planned to split the tour (without any horse-head-in-her-bed prompting). Paolo Montalban, who played The Prince to Brandy's Cinderella in the ABC-TV movie remake, will continue in that vein. Representing the forces of Good and Evil in the show are Eartha Kitt, stretching a bit to play The Fairy Godmother, and Obie Award-winner Everett Quinton as The Wicked Stepmother. Also featured in prominent roles are Cats' Ken Prymus as The King and Victor Trent Cook of Smokey Joe's Cafe as Lionel. Gifted Gabriel Barre, who threw The Wild Party for Manhattan Theater Club, directed. The tour is set to swing into the Theater at Madison Square Garden for 10 days in May (3-13).
COME AND MEET THOSE DANCING FEET
The press peek at the 42nd Street that's coming to 42nd Street (more specifically, to The Ford Center for the Performing Arts) on May 2 occurs manana (Wednesday) at Radio City rehearsal studios. Among those on display will be The Director (Michael Cumpsty), The Star (Christine Ebersole), The Raw Kid From the Chorus (Kate Levering), The Writers (Mary Testa and Jonathan Freeman), The Male Ingenue (David Elder), The Chorine (Mylinda Hull), The Producer (Michael McCarty), and The On-Stage Pianist (Billy Stritch). Also present will be the real director/co-author (Mark Bramble) and choreographer (Randy Skinner).
Watching those kids tap and sing all day long is something new for Cumpsty, who's fresh from the unmusical Copenhagen. "One of them actually took his tap shoes off the other day and his toes were bleeding," says the actor. "That's what the show's about!" Although he did an impressive turn in the Roundabout revival of 1776, Cumpsty doesn't count himself a singer, so he has been brushing up his technique with fellow performer Victoria Clark.
Clark, from Cabaret and Titanic, returns to the stage in a reprise of the Joe's Pub revue Beyond the Cradle: The Songs of Marc Blitzstein on March 24 at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse in Lincoln Center's Rose Building. Also aboard, under the musical direction of Ted Sperling, will be Malcolm Gets, Lauren Flanigan, and Norm Lewis. It's one of several shows being presented under the umbrella of Lincoln Center's American Songbook series. Next up, March 13 at Alice Tully Hall, is Bright-Eyed Joy: The Music of Ricky Ian Gordon, an all-star sampler of the composer's recording that comes out this month under the same handle. Alphabetically on board: Judy Blazer, Kristin Chenoweth, Adam Guettel, Brian d'Arcy James, Camellia Johnson, Cherry Jones, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Monique McDonald, Billy Porter, and Chris Pedro Trakas.
DEE FOR DAME
At this year's Nothing Like a Dame gala on March 12 at the Martin Beck, Dee Hoty will remind everybody how much she wanted to audition for the Roundabout's Follies (she wasn't allowed to because she did it at the Paper Mill Playhouse) by knocking across "Could I Leave You?" Seconding the Stephen Sondheim motion, Lea DeLaria will preview "Swingin' Sweeney," the swing-jazz version of "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" included on her CD Play It Cool, which Warner Bros. will release in May. Also at Dame, Uta Hagen will ask the nonmusical question Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (as is her Tony-winning wont) to The Invention of Love's Richard Easton; and The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes will present a medley of parade numbers that they just did for George W. Bush's inauguration.
Jude Kelly, who is not a Dame but is an O.B.E. (and a brand-new Olivier Award winner for Singin' in the Rain), will direct the above and more, much more: Lauren Bacall, Polly Bergen, Pat Birch, Zoe Caldwell, Sandy Duncan, Tovah Feldshuh, the aforementioned Lauren Flanigan, Amanda Green, Joan Hamburg, Celeste Holm, Anne Jackson, Joan Kwnon, Marin Mazzie, Bebe Neuwirth, Phyllis Newman, Christine Pedi, Lynn Redgrave, Marla Schaffel, Karen Ziemba, George Dvorsky and Sally Mayes as Pete 'n' Keely, children from the Jacques d'Amboise National Dance Institute, "The Broadway Tenors," and such honorary dames as André DeShields and Mario Cantone.
The annual event, as glittery as it gets, benefits The Actors' Fund of America's Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative. Ticket prices range from $40 to $1000. For information, phone 212-221-7300, ext. 129.