THE FOLDING OF WINGS
Both Betty Bacalls were in attendance at the little bash she threw for cast and crew of Waiting in the Wings at Joe Allen's the night before it closed. Mostly it was Lauren Bacall the Luminous, fluttering here, fussing there, charming the crowd as is her wont. Then came the acid test for divas--an autograph hound from a nearby table, wondering if she would mind signing his program. She started to oblige him with some of her residual graciousness, then noticed the Playbill wasn't even from Waiting in the Wings. "Do I mind?" she asked the guy. "Yes, I mind. I only sign programs from my show."
There were tears, cheers and roses all the way when the curtain fell emphatically on Wings the next day; a super-supportive, sentimental audience applauded that curtain back up for one last goodbye, and the glistening eyes on stage responded warmly. Even Bacall's...I kid you not. If anything, this run of a 30-year old Noel Coward play proved the public will still come out for an authentic Star (even when she's uncomfortably cast, as Bacall was here). And she came out for them, like a true Star, eight times a week, not missing a single performance (contrary to what you might have read on Page Six). Carol Lawrence--like Bacall's understudy in Applause, Gretchen Wyler--never got a chance to go on.
The case of champagne Crista Moore delivers in the second act turned out to be the real thing at the closing matinee, and the cast stayed on stage after the final curtain to partake of some bubbly and brie--just the thing to help that lump-in-the-throat go down. Rosemary Murphy was the only one of the performers who knew where her next role was coming from; she departed for Madagascar on Friday to film Dust. "My scenes take place in New York, but they'll be filmed in Germany," she said, accepting cinematic logic with remarkable matter-of-factness.
Two member of the cast, Simon Jones and Anthony Cummings, lost their mothers during the run of the show. (Cummings' mom was Mary Elliott, a pert MGM starlet who played Gene Kelly's sister in As Thousands Cheer before she married actor Robert Cummings.) Graham Payn, who created Jones' role in the original production of Wings, London, lost his mother during that run. And, of course, Waiting in the Wings was the 101st and final production of the late, great Alexander H. Cohen. His titian-haired partner, Chase Mishkin, proposed the closing toast in the absence of yet another partner, Leonard Soloway, who had to rush to Florida to be with his ailing father. "If this keeps up," remarked Jones, "Waiting in the Wings is going to be known as The English Play."
A SHOT OF SCOTCH
The Scottish Play (aka Macbeth, but don't ever speak that title while you're in a theater) is on the brink of a Broadway comeback, set to begin a 60-performance run at the Music Box on June 9, starring Kelsey Grammer and Diane Venora as Mr. and Mrs. M. Although Grammer played the role 20 years ago (and got some better response than Philip Anglim, whom he understudied), Venora has emerged the critics' darling during the Boston run of the present production. Even the show's controversial (and clever) logo seems to be pushing her center stage: Depending on how you look at it, that logo is either a crown or a bodice.
In related news, one of the ads Worldwide Cinemas runs prior to its feature films poses the question, "What Shakespearean role did Mel Gibson play in 1990?" The answer given is McBeth. Even if that were spelled right, the answer would still be wrong; Gibson played Hamlet.
NEW MOON RISINGLovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen, the Stan Freeman-Franklin Underwood musicalization of The Teahouse of the August Moon, folded so fast on Broadway that it never got recorded, but producer Robert Sher of Original Cast Records is remedying that oversight as we speak. The Sher album was to have featured M. Butterfly's Tony-winning B.D. WongKenneth Nelson in the musical, by David Wayne and Burgess Meredith in the play, and by Marlon Brando in the movie), but a last-minute arm-wrestle over billing caused Wong to be replaced by the former King of Siam, Lou Diamond Phillips. The roles originally played during that brief Broadway run by Ron Hussman, David Burns, Eleanor Calbes and Remak Ramsay are being sung by John Schneider, Mickey Rooney, Eleanor Calbes (again!), and that chap with the lovely name, Charles Nelson Reilly. After Sher gets this one waxed, he'll turn to Sherry, the musical version of The Man Who Came to Dinner, soon to be seen (the play, not the musical) at the Roundabout. Nathan Lane, who will strut his stuff in the title role for the Roundabout, will sing the musical version of the same role on the Sher recording, which will also star Carol Burnett as his movie-star pal and Bernadette Peters as his perpetually exasperated gal Friday.
BITS AND BYTES
This week's award for Chutzpah in Advertising goes to the producers of Taller Than a Dwarf, which--with 10 negative reviews, one mixed and no favorable--now declares in its ads that it "must close June 11!" . . . .Michael Stuhlbarg has taken up A Winter's Tale this summer up in Central Park, having left the role of Ernste in Broadway's Cabaret to Martin Moran. But that still leaves two other Mikes--Michael Hayden and Michael Hall--to welcome Joely Fisher to the Sally Bowles role on Sunday, June 2. . . .
. . . . There's certainly no shortage of Ann Browns in the company of The Music Man: Ann Whitlow Brown plays the mayor's teenage daughter, Gracie Shinn, and just plain Ann Brown plays the matronly Mrs. Squires. . . .
. . . . Given Angela Lansbury's arctic response when her big 11 o'clock number from The Visit was introduced locally by Chita Rivera at a recent benefit, one wonders how she feels about three more songs from her upcoming Broadway musical surfacing this coming Monday night at the York Theatre Company's salute to The Visit's tunesmiths, John Kander and Fred Ebb. Also making its New York debut will be "At the Rialto," from Over and Over (the team's musicalized Skin of Our Teeth), which closed last year in Washington on the way to Broadway; Aida's Sherie René Scott will do the honors, as she did in D.C. Mario Cantone will host the affair, but there are supposed to be a couple of Tony-winning Cabaret emcees running around loose--plus Phyllis Newman, Charles Busch, John McDaniel, Lauren Bacall, Lea DeLaria (doing Bacall's "One of the Boys" from K&E's Woman of the Year, natch), Olympia Dukakis, George S. Irving, Christiane Noll, Ann Reinking, Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman, Tommy Thompson,and Bruce Vilanch. All in all, it promises to be a heady night of song. . . .
. . . . To understate the case, Elaine Stritch and director Jerry Zaks didn't exactly see eye-to-eye during the recent workshop for the musical version of The Royal Family of Broadway, which co-starred Tovah Feldshuh and Bryan Batt. "Working with that woman," Zaks is said to have remarked of Stritch, "has taken two inches off of me"--prompting Feldshuh to quip to Batt: "And he's not talking about his height, either!"