Paging Jean Smart! You are needed (again) at the Roundabout! Christine Baranski just nixed the role of Sylvia, the chief cauldron-stirrer of Clare Boothe Luce's The Women, being revived this fall by director Scott Elliott. (Smart is in Tony contention for a role Baranski rejected in The Man Who Came to Dinner in order to do that short-lived television series, Welcome to New York.)
Another Scott--Wise, the Tony-winning actor-dancer-turning-choreographer--gave a highly appropriate "dance spin" to The Astaire Awards this year. Next he choreographs Camilla at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theater. The director is (after The It Girl) the new wunderkind on the block, BT McNicholl.
IS ALAN CUMMING FOR ANOTHER VISIT?
"We're assembling a cast now," says Gore Vidal about the second Broadway coming of his comedy Visit to a Small Planet. "The plan is to do it in the fall of '02. We're eager to have Alan Cumming, who did the reading, do the lead." The Cumming casting is right on the money. Who else could follow Cyril Ritchard and Jerry Lewis in the same role?
Vidal also has a new play in the works. The rub is that it comes from an old novel--his own Burr. And, when it comes to adaptations, he holds staunchly to The Golden Rule: "It's much easier doing it to somebody else. Not the easiest thing, adapting yourself."
MARCHING ON WILLIAMSTOWN
John Tillinger, who is set to direct the new Visit detailed above, is currently preparing A.R. Gurney's Buffalo Gal for its world premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, June 13-24. Mary Tyler Moore, the star of Gurney's only Broadway offering (Sweet Sue), was to have had the lead, but a foot infection has forced her out of the running. Mariette Hartley will star, supported by Michael Gross, Becky Ann Baker, and two actors Tillinger used in Judgment at Nuremberg: Michael Mastro and Peter Francis-James.
Dylan Baker, Becky Ann's hubby, is summering at Williamstown in A Winter's Tale, July 4-15. Kate Burton and Kristine Nielsen co-star, and Darko Tressnjak directs.
Before he presents Burton's Hedda Gabler on Broadway (October 4) and after he launches John Guare's Chaucer in Rome at the Mitzi Newhouse (June 7), director Nicholas Martin will get in a Williamstown gig: Frank McGuinness' Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme (August 8-19). Scott Wolf, from TVs Party of Five and Broadway's Side Man, will star.
GIVE ME SOME EYRE
Jane Eyre is such a dark (and brooding) horse that at lot of people were startled when title player Marla Schaffel waltzed off with the Drama Desk Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Now, suddenly, it makes a certain amount of sense--and a Tony to that effect would provide a happy ending for those determined producers who've fought valiantly to keep the show afloat. This has been a turbulent six-year voyage for them, for Marla, for Mary Stout and others in the cast. Incidentally: Their more recently arrived Rochester, James Barbour, has a filming date in Toronto in mid June. He plays a funeral parlor employee who applies makeup to cadavers in a low-budget independent film-noir called Revelation. (Before showbiz, Whoopi Goldberg was a funeral home cosmetician.)
SHADES OF AUBURN
"There's a play I really want to tackle and write this summer, which I've been doing preliminary work on, but I don't want to talk about it," says David Auburn, who is not resting on his already considerable laurels for Proof and is awaiting Tony's blessing. He just finished his first draft of Triage, a film adaptation of a Scott Anderson novel he did for Sidney Pollack's company. (The title is the medical term for making choices about who will receive medical care in an emergency.) He is also doing work on the Jonathan Larson musical tick...tick...BOOM!, which goes off June 13 at the Jane Street Theater, starring Raul Esparza, Amy Spanger, and Jerry Dixon and directed by the man who gave you Jane Eyre and Bat Boy in the same season: Scott Schwartz. "My name is on it as script consultant, which is pretty accurate," says Auburn of the Larson piece. "I'm really editing the five different drafts of his script. I think it's going to be a really good show." And, yes, "I've another script that I don't want to send out until Proof has finished its run in New York."
By the way, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote that Proof is the first show since The Beauty Queen of Leenane to have its whole cast Tony-nominated. I was wrong--and that passage has been corrected in the TheaterMania archives. The fact is that Dirty Blonde did the same thing a year later. And its three Tony nominees--Claudia Shear, Kevin Chamberlin, and Bob Stillman--may be reunited for an upcoming London production.
SEARCHING, SEARCHING, SEARCHING...
The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe continues beyond the Booth on Broadway--maybe to London. "I've never gone to London," says Lily Tomlin. "I had a dog the last time, and I didn't want to leave my dog." To which partner-writer-director Jane Wagner adds: "She has a dog this time, but she doesn't mind leaving it." Both are pleased with their Tony nomination for Best Revival; the first time around, the Tony nominators didn't even consider The Search for Signs a play. The new nomination implies "Ooops!"
Tomlin did manage to get away once during her six-month Booth run; she bolted back to L.A. for some fast filming on a Scott Rudin picture called Orange County. Kevin Kline, Catherine O'Hara, and John Lithgow co-star. The lead boy and girl are the offspring of Oscar winners: Colin Hanks (son of Tom) and Schuyler Fisk (daughter of Sissy Spacek). Tomlin plays a high school guidance counselor who gives bad guidance: "I send the wrong transcript, and he doesn't get into college, and he wants to kill me," she says.
TUNICK'S TUNE-IT TRICK
Jonathan Tunick, who won the first Tony ever handed out for orchestrations (for 1997's Titanic), is up for another in that category this year for Stephen Sondheim's Follies--essentially for reducing his original 1971 orchestrations for use by 14 musicians in the pit. "Were it that simple!" he sighs heavily. "That's like making a Hieronymous Bosch into a charcoal sketch. I'd like to say it was easy, but it wasn't. It was really hard."
Tunick has been tuning up Sondheim since Company in 1971. His work on the film version of A Little Night Music earned him an Oscar, and also gave him an intimate moment with a screen goddess. It seems that director Hal Prince talked Tunick into a bit part in the film. "They got me up as Johann Strauss and I took a bow," Tunick explains, "and the movie ends with me in a clinch with Elizabeth Taylor." On screen, "Send in the Clowns" produced at least one rude, unexpected snicker when Taylor, moonbeams bouncing off her breasts, utters the line, "Are we a pair?"