Rita Moreno(Photo © Michael Portantiere)
Rita Moreno
(Photo © Michael Portantiere)
FASCINATING RITA
Rita Moreno's new cabaret show at Feinstein's at the Regency (March 9-20) is called Between Love and Fascination, but the multi-award winning superstar says the title could've easily been Potpourri. "There's no connection between these songs," she says of her repertoire. "They're just good stuff." The program includes numbers by Ned Washington, Cy Coleman, Jerry Herman, and Marilyn and Alan Bergman. "Maybe if I live long enough, I will do one of those theme shows," Moreno allows. "But for now, I just love to do diverse material."

She put the act together while moving into new digs in Berkeley, California and beginning preparations for the upcoming Berkeley Rep production of Terrence McNally's Master Class, in which she will channel Maria Callas. "I've been trying to do something with them since I moved to Northern California about five years ago," Moreno tells me. "I really wanted to do The Visit but we couldn't get the rights because of the Kander and Ebb musical. So when they called and offered me this, and then told me that Moisés Kaufman was going to direct, I couldn't have been more thrilled."

But Moreno didn't know exactly what she was in for because she had never seen nor read the play: "Then I got the script, and when I saw those two huge monologues, I almost wet my knickers. That's why I'm trying to memorize the whole thing in advance [the production runs May 21-July 18], which is something I usually despise doing as an actor. But I am looking forward to doing her accent. I've heard it on tape; it's not really American or Mediterranean but it is fascinating."


I'LL CLINK TO THAT
Moreno isn't the only regular from the HBO series Oz onstage in New York this month. In fact, fans of the show may have to rob a bank -- not to mention clone themselves-- if they want to catch all their favorites in person. On Monday, Chris Meloni will join Susan Sarandon, Paul Rudd, and a host of stars at the Little Shubert in a reading of Neil LaBute's new group of one-act plays Autobahn to benefit Manhattan Class Company. That same night, just up the block at the Port Authority's Leisure Time Bowling, Terry Kinney -- who's in town directing Nicky Silver's Beautiful Child at the Vineyard -- is one of over 20 stars (including Alec Baldwin, Cherry Jones, and Swoosie Kurtz) particpating in Second Stage's annual All-Star Bowling Classic.

Uptown, Betty Buckley is holding forth all month long at the Café Carlyle with her eclectic new show Portraits. On March 17, Lauren Velez begins a run in Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel, which inaugurates the Roundabout's new Laura Pels Theater on West 46th Street. And speaking of the Roundabout and Oz, B.D. Wong will star in the company's much-anticipated production of Stephen Sondheim's Pacific Overtures, due at Studio 54 this fall.

COOKING UP A STORM
Another beloved television star hitting the boards is Dorothy Lyman, a two-time Daytime Emmy winner for originating the role of Opal Gardner on All My Children and a co-star of the forever-in-syndication Carol Burnett spin-off Mama's Family. In My Kitchen Wars, which begins performances on Friday at the 78th Street Theatre Lab, Lyman will follow in the footsteps of Jonathan Reynolds by preparing various dishes onstage while recounting the life of food writer Betty Fussell.

"It's a story of survival, about being able to change at a critical point in your life and make chicken salad out of chicken shit," says Lyman, who adapted her longtime pal's memoir of the same title. The two ladies have a lot in common in that both are excellent cooks and both have dealt with divorce: Fussell was married to prize-winning historian Paul Fussell while the now-single Lyman was married (at various times!) to director John Tillinger and film producer Vincent Malle. But what the 56-year-old actress really relates to is the concept of Fussell's mid-life reinvention.

"There are not enough roles for women my age," says Lyman, "so I'm thrilled not just to star in this but to have created a piece that other women my age will want to do. Because I'm on T.V. 10 times a day in Mama's Family, people think I'm still working all the time, which isn't true. In some ways, the smart women were the ones who stayed on the soaps all these years. Believe me, when I see Susan Lucci jewelry trucks rolling down Beverly Boulevard, I kick myself."

GO WEST
Anne Bobby may have things a little easier than Lyman. Dame Rebecca West, the subject of her new solo show That Woman at Manhattan Theater Source (through March 13), is no longer with us. But don't think that this Broadway veteran can therefore get away with historical inaccuracies. One of her collaborators is the late author's great-niece Helen McLeod; and, on Saturday, Bobby will perform the show as a benefit for The International Rebecca West Society.

"Like most people, all I knew about Rebecca before I started this play is that she was H.G. Welles's mistress," Bobby confesses. "But she was such a trailblazer! She forged a path for so many different kinds of women and did it in a very public way." West, who died at age 90 in 1983, was also a single mother, a suffragette, and a political critic. "If this play can get more people to know about her," says Bobby, "I would just be thrilled."

MEN ABOUT TOWN
Tony winner Denis O'Hare checking out Assassins co-star Michael Cerveris onstage in Wintertime at Second Stage...British actor/director Mark Rylance catching Jackie Hoffman at Joe's Pub...Nathan Lane, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Queer as Folk star Jack Wetherall at Nothing Like A Dame...New York Post columnist Michael Riedel being decked by Fiddler on the Roof director David Leveaux at Angus McIndoe after the musical's opening night party at the Marriott Marquis.