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Spring Awakenings

Keeping track of PAUL RUDD, JAMES LUDWIG, ERIN DILLY, and other actor types as spring fever hits the theater community.

By New York City

Paul Rudd
Paul Rudd
LONDON CALLING...AGAIN

Paul Rudd, who has done London in plays by Neil LaBute (bash) and Eugene O'Neill (Long Day's Journey Into Night), is booked for another LaBute there in late May and through June. Directed by the author, the piece is called The Shape of Things and co-stars Rachel Weisz (Beautiful Creatures, Enemy at the Gates) and Gretchen Moll.

This means that Rudd won't be Jessica Lange's son again when producer David Richenthal weds her to Brian Dennehy for his Long Day's Journey on Broadway. "After five months," reasons Rudd, "I think I'm ready to shed that skin."

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ABSENT ZIEGFELD

The Ziegfeld Follies of 1957 will not be a part of The Broadway Musicals of 1957 event this coming Monday (April 16) at 8pm at Town Hall--simply because, according to host-artistic director Scott Siegel, "we couldn't find a decent number worth doing." But there's a wealth of rewarding numbers in the remaining offerings: New Girl in Town, Rumple, Jamaica, the unjustly forgotten Simply Heavenly, Nancy Walker's Copper and Brass, and those old war-horses West Side Story and The Music Man. Two of the funniest cut-ups in cabaret captivity--Alix Korey and Jay Rogers--will have a go at Archy and Mehitabel. Also lending a hand will be a couple from Kiss Me, Kate, Adriane Lenox and Eric Michael Gillette. No more editions of The Broadway Musicals of...have been set, so a lot is riding on this. It's a wonderful way to revue/review vintage show tunes a year at a time, and response to the 1943 edition was super. Tickets are on sale for $35 and $30 through TicketMaster (212-307-4100) or at the Town Hall box office (212-840-2824).

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James Ludwig withJacquelyn Piro in Suburb(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
James Ludwig with
Jacquelyn Piro in Suburb
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
ENTER LAUGHING

James Ludwig (from the York Theatre's recent Suburb) and Toby Foster (late of Les Miz) have landed the ingénue leads in They All Laughed--the revised version of The Gershwins' 1926 Oh, Kay!--which lifts off this summer at Goodspeed Opera House. And a more than okay cast of supporting players has been amassed to surround them: Michael McGrath (Swinging on a Star), Mary Beth Peil (The King and I), Donna English (Ruthless), and Mark Lotito (Betrayal). The Gershwin estate gave Joe DiPietro (I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change) carte blanche to make any changes he wanted in the show, so he has chucked the original Guy Bolton-P.G. Wodehouse book and added whatever Gershwin evergreens he saw fit. Rehearsals begin at the end of May, and the results may well wind up on Broadway.

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DILLY, FROM MILLIE TO PHYLLIS

"Que sera, sera," is what Erin Dilly trills if you mention her missing the Thoroughly Modern Millie boat. (She disembarked in San Diego last year, during tryouts.) "It's all kinda fortuitous, because I was really meant to do this show," she glows about the Roundabout's Follies, in which she plays the younger counterpart to Blythe Danner's Phyllis. "I have no ill will [about Millie], and the production is going to be phenomenal. I wish them all the best." And that goes for her understudy, Sutton Foster, who inherited the title role and will be playing it on Broadway. Rehearsals start August 20 for a November 15 opening at a Nederlander house to be announced. As for the rest of the cast, offers went out last week and the producers are now poised for responses. No amount of bamboo under the fingernails will get them to reveal their choices until the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. (I tried!)

As a consolation prize, Millie director Michael Mayer tipped two-thirds of the cast of the other show he's helming: The Credeaux Canvass at Playwrights Horizons. It sounds a lot like a Redesign for Living, about a trio of twentysomethings living in New York: a painter, his ne'er-do-well best pal, and their mutual girlfriend. "It's a weird triangle that involves the forgery of a famous art work," Mayer adds as a point of distinction. He cast Glenn Howerton and Lee Pace right out of Juilliard in the leads, but he continues to cherchez la femme.

Mayer has also been talking about returning Shirley Knight to the stage in The Human Voice, the one-person Jean Cocteau piece that marked a triumph for Ingrid Bergman. Knight's daughter, who once supported her mom in an Off-Broadway edition of Come Back, Little Sheba, is now a mom herself--of Off-Broadway's Bat Boy. Her name is Kaitlin Hopkins. "Kaitlin was the name of Dylan Thomas' wife, which says a lot about my parents," proffers Hopkins, whose father, John Hopkins, wrote Michael Moriarty's 1973 Tony-winning vehicle Find Your Way Home.

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David Edward Byrd's art for the original Follies,as seen on the cover of the show's cast album
David Edward Byrd's art for the original Follies,
as seen on the cover of the show's cast album

REFLECTIONS OF FOLLIES PAST

On the opening night of Follies 30 years ago, Alexis Smith walked up to the show's logo designer, David Edward Byrd, and said she knew that the face in the poster was hers. "I never told her it was Dietrich," Byrd admitted years later. Truth to tell, the artist's inspiration for the showgirl-with-headdress trademark was a classic shot of Marlene Dietrich in The Scarlet Empress. (He misidentifies the movie in Craig Zadan's book Sondheim & Co. as the nonexistent Empress of Shanghai.) But the image that first started his mind reeling--not to mention the minds of Stephen Sondheim, James Goldman, and Hal Prince in creating the show--was the legendary Life magazine shot of Gloria Swanson standing in a black sheath by Jean Louis, replete with red feather boa and $170,000 in jewels, in the rubble of the razed Roxy theater. (Swanson, whose film The Love of Sunya was the first to hit the Roxy screen, arrived at the shoot in true Norma Desmond style in her Rolls-Royce.)

It took many drawings for Byrd's imagination to fly from Swanson to Dietrich, and at least 20 of these illustrations are currently on display at the Triton Gallery (323 West 45th Street). When this exhibit opened last Wednesday, the gallery threw a party that was attended by six members of the original cast: Steve Boockvor, Harvey Evans, Rita O'Connor, Julie Parrs, Sheila Smith, and Ken Urmston. Urmston, who danced all 522 performances of the original Follies (sometimes in the roles he understudied, Young Ben and Young Buddy), told a fitting Follies story on "Broadway Baby" belter Ethel Shutta. "While she was starring on Broadway in Whoopee with Eddie Cantor," he recalled, "Ziegfeld came to her and said, 'We're having trouble with this show. Would you mind doing a number in it?' She said, 'No, not at all.' So they used to synchronize their curtains and have her, during her break from Whoopee, get into a taxi, rush over to the other theater and do a number. She said, 'I always did one encore because I always stopped the show. I'd do the encore, I'd get in the taxi and go finish the other show.' " Incredible.

In related news: Film will be the next frontier for Matthew Warchus, the British wunderkind who helmed the Roundabout's Follies. He will have a whole week off before going into pre-production for a major motion picture.


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