Those who feel that Bernadette Peters is offbeat casting for Mama Rose in Gypsy may be happier to hear that Kevin Chamberlin is being considered to play opposite her as Herbie when the third Broadway revival of the show opens next year. This would represent an instance of traditional casting to type on the part of director Sam Mendes, whose no-holds-barred, revisionist take on Cabaret is as thoroughly despised by some as it is lauded by others. Mendes has already angered some musical theater aficionados by defending the casting of the kewpie doll-esque Peters as Mama Rose with the comment that the days of "battle axes" in this role are now over. Presumably, he was referring to people like the role's creator, Ethel Merman, whose performance remains legendary even though it has been badmouthed in recent times by the author of the show's book and its lyricist, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim.
By the way, Chamberlin and Mendes have worked together before on the abortive production of Sondheim's Wise Guys at the New York Theatre Workshop and on the upcoming film Road to Perdition.
Though Katie Finneran was mentioned as one of the stars of the Roundabout's summer revival of the Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart-George Abbott musical The Boys From Syracuse, a source reports that she will not be doing that show after all but, instead, has been offered another high-profile project.
Finneran won well-deserved raves for her hilarious performance in the current revival of Noises Off; she is contractually set to continue in that show at least through the summer and into the fall but, of course, contracts can sometimes be amended.
Louis Gossett, Jr. lasted only six performances as Billy Flynn in Chicago on Broadway. According to a press release, Gossett returned to his home in Los Angeles on Monday, February 25, on the advice of his physician due to "an asthmatic condition that became aggravated shortly after the start of rehearsals."
In Wednesday's New York Post, Michael Riedel quoted "several sources" who described Gossett's performances as "harrowing." Those sources told Riedel that Gossett had frozen on stage, forgotten whole pages of dialogue, and appeared to be "completely at sea." Though the 66-year-old Academy Award winner (for An Officer and a Gentleman) has a long and honorable history as a stage performer, having appeared in such shows as The Desk Set, A Raisin in the Sun, and Golden Boy, he had been away from live theater for over 30 years prior to this attempt at a return.
Understudy Eric Jordan Young has taken over the role of Flynn and a replacement will be announced shortly, according to the press release, which also stated: "The producers hope that Mr. Gossett can return to the production at a later date if scheduling permits."
Despite less-than-stellar reviews, Bea Arthur is doing so well at the box office that her originally scheduled six-week engagement at the Booth has now been extended indefinitely for an open-ended run. Though some critics have unfairly compared Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends to the very different one-woman entertainment that is now being offered at the Neil Simon by Elaine Stritch, audiences are loving Arthur, and her high TVQ has helped the show to sell scads of tickets even though it lacks the confessional monologues about alcoholism that people are eating up over at Stritch's.
On that note: Stritch fans might want to consider that, hilarious though the lady's anecdotes may be, they aren't necessarily 100% true. Someone who was on hand for the John Kenley production of The Women in which E.S. appeared with Marge Champion, Gloria Swanson, and other stars is telling people that Stritch's version of the story of her firing from that show is inaccurate. According to this witness, a more honest account of the circumstances would paint Stritch as something other than an entirely sympathetic victim.
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