SPARKLING LIKE A CRYSTAL

Crystal Bernardin Annie Get Your Gun
Crystal Bernard
in Annie Get Your Gun
Crystal Bernard got three nicely reviewed weeks on the road in Annie Get Your Gun before The Weisslers threw her into that vast vacant lot left by Reba McEntire. "You just take notes in the wings," she says. "Then, the next thing you know, you walk out and you do it. Yes, I knew I could do it. And no, I didn't know if I could keep it up and repeat it. I always felt that my skill was my spontaneity; it's not about the thinking process. In films, you think and then you talk. In theater, they can't see you thinking before you respond, so you have to respond and talk at the same time. You speed up your thought processes."

Bernard's beau is Tony Thomas, a producer of TV shows (Golden Girls, Empty Nest) and films (Dead Poets Society, Brian's Song) and the bro of Marlo Thomas. So Bernard went to the latter for some sage stage advice. "So much goes on backstage--people in and out, notes and this 'n' that--right up to the time I do my entrance," says Bernard. "I told Marlo about that and she said, 'You must have that 30 minutes to yourself, to concentrate and pull yourself together and get your strength from within.' That's what I'm working on."

The "pow" of immediate audience response is the thing that's currently curling her hair: "I've been in television since I was 17. I did Happy Days for a year, then It's a Living for four years and Wings for eight years. People thought I lived such a glamorous life! You go to work every day. You're on a soundstage, you work many hours, you go home. And, on Sunday, there's a piece of paper that says this many millions of people watched you last night. It's just a number on a piece of paper."

Is that all there is? If that's all there is, then let's keep dancing, sez the theater's new convert.

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EVEN STEVENS

Guess who's coming back? Shane. As a Broadway musical, co-produced by Rocco Landesman and his ex, Heidi Ettinger. The latter, who has had designs on 19th-century Americana from her Tony-winning Big River to her recent Tony-nominated The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, will sketch in the Grand Tetons backdrop.

In the classic 1953 western, Alan Ladd played the title role of a professional gunslinger who sides with oppressed homesteaders in a range war. The film was directed by the late, great George Stevens , who also famously directed Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun and Giant. As it happens, several of his movies have been or are being turned into Broadway musicals: see also Woman of the Year and I Remember Mama. A tuner based on another Stevens opus, the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers confection Swing Time (1936), just got a staged reading directed by Rent's Michael Greif and choreographed by The Full Monty's Jerry Mitchell.

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TRILOGY TRILOGY TRILOGY

Martin McDonagh's Leenane trilogy (The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Lonesome West, A Skull in Connemara) just completed its cycle in New York this summer, so perhaps it's a mite early to imagine where our next trio of modern Irish plays is coming from. McDonagh has already introduced his Aran Island trilogy here (via The Cripple of Inishmaan), launched the middle installment (The Lieutenant of Inishmore) in April at Stratford-on-Avon, and is now writing his way home (The Banshees of Inisheer).

But another county has been heard from. Billy Roche's first three plays, The Wexford Trilogy, just finished a successful three-month run in London. Sagas of small-town life that reflect the influence of Rebel Without a Cause, Hud, and early Brando, all are set in the same county in the republic of Ireland, but characters don't interrelate as they do in McDonagh's works. Handful of Stars takes place in a snooker hall where pool is played, Poor Beast in the Rain in a betting office, and At the Belfry in the sacristy of a church. Wilson Milam, a Texan with Steppenwolf credits and credentials, directed. He also helmed the premiere of McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore as well as the New York revival of Tracy Letts' Killer Joe, and gave Roche his solitary American stage exposure thus far: Calvacaders, in Chicago. (Roche's only screen exposure to date was 1996's Trojan Eddie, a gangster set-to with Richard Harris, Stephen Rhea, and Brendan Gleason.)

Peter McDonald, who plays the bush-league firebrand in the Wexford project, has been talking up Roche's plays during a stateside visit to promote his films When Brendan Met Trudy and Blow Dry. "We've got the reviews to take us over," he crows. "I would do everything in my power to come over with them. To bring Billy Roche to New York would be enough incentive. Ask any Irish playwright who has come after him and they'll speak of how they have been influenced by Roche. His plays are classics."

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John Patrick Shanley
John Patrick Shanley
REQUIRED READING: PLAYBILL BIOS

In the Playbill for The Dinner Party, Larry Miller does standup for his biography. "In more than 40 movies and hundreds of comedy specials and TV shows," it begins, "Larry has carved a strong reputation as a character actor, particularly among chubby young men with bad complexions."...And here's what John Patrick Shanley has to say for himself in the Lab Bill for his Where's My Money? at the Labyrinth Theater Company: "John Patrick Shanley is from the Bronx. He was thrown out of St. Helena's kindergarten. He was banned from St. Anthony's hot lunch program for life. He was expelled from Cardinal Spellman High School. He was placed on academic probation by New York University and instructed to appear before a tribunal if he wished to return. When asked why he has been treated in this way by all these institutions, he burst into tears and said he had no idea. Then he went in the United States Marine Corps. He did fine. He's still doing okay."