In Playwrights Horizons' production of A.R. Gurney's Crazy Mary, Sigourney Weaver plays a seemingly custom-made role, Lydia, a wisecracking, slightly jaded divorcée forced to take her college-aged son to visit a mentally ill if very rich relative, with rather unforeseen consequences. Weaver says the part wasn't written for her, despite her long friendship with the author. "I think Lydia is just based on Pete's powers of observation; I doubt he had me in mind," she says. "He's been writing so many political plays lately and this one just suddenly materialized in his mind. But it's a really juicy part and I'm so thrilled to be working with Kristine Nielsen (who plays Mary). I'm such a fan of hers."
The three-time Oscar nominee is also working again with her husband, director Jim Simpson. "We enjoy working together, though every project is different for us," she says. "The important thing is that I trust him as a director. It's not just that he respects the actor's process, it's that he's there when you need him but doesn't otherwise get in your way."
Weaver has a non-stop list of projects on her slate, including a one-night-only reading of Gurney's Love Letters with Jeff Daniels to benefit the Flea Theatre, where Simpson is the artistic director. Meanwhile, the actress -- who has just starred in the films The TV Set and Snow Cake -- has a whole slew of films coming up, including the sure-to-be-blockbuster Avatar, helmed by her Alien director James Cameron.
But the one she's most excited about is The Girl in the Park, due out later this year, written by Pulitzer Prize winner David Auburn. Weaver plays Julia, a woman whose daughter disappeared 15 years earlier and believes (mistakenly) that she's found her again. "I found the script amazing for the roads it didn't take," she says. "Julia is not a person you can understand easily, and as an audience member, you're terrified for this woman, because you know the girl (played by Kate Bosworth) is a con artist. But the film really shows the intricacies of how the human heart heals itself, which is a really mysterious process."
In 2008, she will produce and star in Gypsy and Me, an HBO telepic that focuses on the unusual mother-son relationship between the famed stripper Gypsy Rose Lee and her illegitimate child Erik Preminger. "She was this incredible woman, charming and funny; she even documented her own life in pictures," says Weaver. "Erik, who was her stage manager at one point, brought me the book a long time ago and we took it around to a lot of studios. But I wanted to tell this amazing story where they would support it for what it is -- and where there would be a budget for costumes. HBO really responded."
Having achieved success in everything from Long Day's Journey into Night and Guys and Dolls to Sex, Lies, and Videotape and The O.C., you wouldn't think much would scare Peter Gallagher. But fear was a big factor behind the creation of the celebrated actor's first cabaret act, Songs and Stories at Feinstein's at the Regency, which features tunes by Frank Loesser, Randy Newman, Cy Coleman and Leon Russell -- and a damn fine imitation of Peter O'Toole, to name a few of its many charms.
"All my life, I've known I wanted to do an evening like this, where I tell a bunch of stories and sing a bunch of songs; but when I was younger, the size of the challenge was daunting," he says. "But now there was this potentially terrifying notion of stumbling to 92 and never doing it. That was a far scarier threat. And the fact is there's nothing more powerful than performing live."
Gallagher has been singing for well over 30 years, starting as a member of Tufts University's famed a cappella group, the Beelzebubs. The fledgling actor landed his first Broadway gig just six months after he graduated college in December 1976. "My first two auditions in New York were for the 1977 revival of Hair and Grease, both of which were open calls," he says. "I ended up auditioning for Hair many times, and I was eventually cast as a member of the Tribe and the understudy for Claude. We did months of previews, and eventually I got a callback for Grease. So I decided to sing "Put Your Head on My Shoulder" and right afterwards, while I'm walking back up Eighth Avenue, Vinny Liff, the casting director, calls out to me that they want me to play Danny Zuko on tour. So I went to Tom O'Horgan, the director of Hair, and he was nice enough to let me go."
A longtime New Yorker, Gallagher moved his family -- including his teenaged children -- to California to star in the now-cancelled O.C. So it might be awhile before he returns to Broadway. Still, he could be tempted to return by the right project. "My wish list is to work on a new play or musical. As for revivals, my days of being Hamlet are over. But I would like to do a few more Eugene O'Neill plays. It was always a dream of mine to play Edmund, and being in close contact with O'Neill has really informed my life and my work."
OVER HERE, OVER THERE
Daphne Rubin-Vega, John Gallagher, Jr.'s band Old Springs Pike, The Tom Kitt Band, The Petersons (featuring Keira Naughton) and Tastiskank (made up of Kate Reinders and Sarah Litzinger) will compete in NYMF's Broadway Battle of the Bands on May 18 at the Zipper; On May 19, Broadway leading man Bryan Batt will be honored in New Orleans by the Louisiana Chapter of the Human Rights Campaign. Harvey Evans will moderate a panel discussion In the Company of Friends: Dancers Talking to Dancers on May 20 at the New Dance Group.
Cabaret star Mark Nadler will perform when legendary songwriter Cole Porter gets his star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame the morning of May 21. Also that evening, Ann Hampton Callaway, Sam Harris, Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli, and Neil Sedaka will perform at the 92nd Street Y's annual gala Let Me Entertain You, meanwhile, Sam Waterston, Jason Danieley and Marin Mazzie, John Glover, Beth Leavel, Orfeh, Josh Strickland, and Barbara Walsh will star in the New 42 Follies at the New Victory.
Heading on to next month, Shoshana Bean and Susan Egan will be among the singers joining songwriter Georgia Stitt for a concert devoted to her new CD This Ordinary Thursday on June 2 at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood; Lee Meriwether and James Noble will star in Love Letters at Playhouse on the Green in Bridgeport, Connecticut on June 3; that same evening, Transport Group artistic director Jack Cummings III will have a conversation with Tommy Tune. Mabou Mines will preview its new piece Song for New York as part of the Sundance Institute at BAM on June 4; Lawrence Wright's acclaimed solo show My Trip to Al Qaeda will play The Town Hall on June 5-6; and Matt Bogart, Jessica Bogart, Shoshana Bean, and Jodi Benson will be among the stars performing in One Night Only at Atlanta's Gwinnett Center on June 7.