Adriane Lenox has proved that the old cliché about there being no small parts is absolutely true. Her brief scene in Doubt as Mrs. Muller, the mother of an African-American student who may have been molested, has earned her the Lucille Lortel Award as Best Featured Actress in a Play -- an honor she shared with Hurlyburly's Parker Posey and Modern Orthodox's Jenn Harris in an unusual three-way tie -- as well as nominations from the Outer Critics Circle and the Drama Desk (winners yet to be announced).
Rather amazingly, Lenox was a last-minute addition to the cast, joining it just three days before the show's first Off-Broadway rehearsal. She is actually much better known for her work in musicals than her dramatic forays; she has spent much of the past two decades in such shows as Ain't Misbehavin', Kiss Me Kate, and Caroline, or Change. Still, some of her new fans are completely unaware of Lenox's musical past. "I was singing at this event," she tells me, "and some guy came up to my friend and said, 'She sings too?!'"
Just because Lenox doesn't appear until more than halfway through the 90-minute play doesn't mean that she can show up at the Walter Kerr whenever she pleases. "The producers like to see me get there before the curtain goes up," she says. "So I spend the next 45 minutes or so in my dressing room exercising, watching DVDs, or just singing before I get dressed. But once, when we were performing at the Manhattan Theatre Club, I got to a matinee about 40 minutes late because of a snowstorm. My understudy was all dressed and I was happy to let her go on -- but they decided I still had enough time to get ready, so I went on anyway."
It's been quite a ride for Fat Pig star Ashlie Atkinson this season.She was nominated for both a Lucille Lortel Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award, and is one of the winners of this year's Theatre World Awards. And taking on the role of a woman who is remarkably comfortable with her plus-size figure in Neil LaBute's much talked-about play has turned out to be a life-changing experience.
"The way I feel when I go out to audition and the way other people see me when I audition has definitely changed for the better," she says. "I have so much more confidence. Let me tell you, validation is a wonderful thing. But my part on the television series, Rescue Me, is over, so I'm still waiting tables for a living." Hopefully, some playwright will change that situation soon -- and Atkinson knows just who that person should be. "I think Nicky Silver should write a play for me," she states. "He's just twisted enough to really understand me."
Another sublime actress receiving due recognizition this season is Judy Kaye, who gave an incredible performance as the sadly deluded real-life songbird Florence Foster Jenkins in Souvenir. Kaye earned a Best Actress nomination from the Lortels and a Drama Desk nomination. Additionally, she's one of more than 60 actors in the running for the Drama League's annual Distinguished Performance Award, to be announced on May 13. And she's not through with her to-die-for role yet: Kaye tells me that Souvenir will be seen this summer at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in a production that will feature an expanded script and, more importantly, an expanded wardrobe.
Until then, Kaye will be showing off her real, glorious singing voice, rather than the wretched squawk she uses to emulate Jenkins' sound. On May 11, she'll join fellow Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose, Bruce Adler, and Darius De Haas for Lost Tribes of Vaudeville, a concert celebrating works by Jewish and African-American composers at Merkin Hall. Then on May 23, she'll perform in the 92nd Street Y gala It Started With A Dream: A Celebration of the Life and Music of Cy Coleman, which will also feature such other wondrous women as Randy Graff, Michele Lee, Elaine Stritch, Lillias White, and Chita Rivera.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Russian leader Vladimir Ilych Lenin, the Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara, and the novelist James Joyce live! Well, at least on stage, in Tom Stoppard's Travesties. The Long Wharf Theatre is now reviving the play with an all-star cast headed by Sam Waterston, Tom Hewitt, Don Stephenson, and Isabel Keating. Also back for another go-round is Nefertiti. A revisal of the musical, which opened and closed in Chicago in 1976, has just settled into Fort Lauderdale's Parker Playhouse for a 12-day run. Nicole Leach has the title role (originally played by the fabulous Andrea Marcovicci) and original cast member Ann Crumb is Queen Tiye.
Here in the Big Apple, the bodies are buried everywhere. Those controversial figures Le Corbusier and Robert Moses are the central figures in the inventive Boozy at 45 Bleecker; the glamorous Lypsinka takes on the equally glamorous Joan Crawford in The Passion of the Crawford at the Zipper; and famed aviator Charles Lindbergh is the focus of Flight, a new play starring Gregg Edelman and Brian D'Arcy James at the Lucille Lortel. Later this month, Australian actress Lenore Zann resurrects Marilyn Monroe in The Marilyn Tapes at Don't Tell Mama; thrill killers Leopold and Loeb come vividly back to life in Stephen Dolginoff's chamber musical Thrill Me at the York Theatre; and everyone's favorite intern is lampooned in Monica! The Musical at the Mint Theater Space.
Ana Gasteyer, Cady Huffman, and Dick Latessa at the April 28 performance of A Streetcar Named Desire...Florence Henderson, Bryan Batt, and Ann Hampton Callaway (who added two more MAC Awards to her already overcrowded shelves last week) at The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on April 29...Fiddler on the Roof's Andrea Martin in search of rice pudding at Dean & Deluca on April 30...Mark Hamill at that evening's performance of Spamalot...Nightlife queen Amy Sacco at the May 1 matinee of Sweet Charity...Steve Martin, Matthew Broderick, Edie Falco, Phylicia Rashad, and dozens of other stars at the May 1 opening of Glengarry Glen Ross.
[To contact Brian Scott Lipton directly, e-mail him at BSL@theatermania.com.]