A STAR IS RE-RE-RE-RE-RE-REBORN
Hollywood has always been terribly territorial about its self-made myths, so gird yourself for yet another retelling of A Star Is Born--the fifth!--this one a black film version to be directed by Oliver Stone (although what A Star Is Born has to do with Viet Nam and conspiracy theories, I'll never know). Actually, this Star/Stone hook-up makes some kind of sense because the actor he wants to be his Maine man is Jamie Foxx, who made something of a star arrival in Stone's football flick Any Given Sunday. Foxx has agreed, out of gratitude; his Stone stint convinced the WB network to reprieve The Jamie Foxx Show, and his star has been on the ascent ever since. "Mrs. Norman Maine" hasn't been cast, but Foxx is banging the drum for Lauryn Hill. The script for the new Star is being readied as we speak by Reggie Rock Blythewood, who authored Spike Lee's Get Back on the Bus in 1996.
None of the above can be good news for the stage version of A Star Is Born, which Andrew Lloyd Webber plans to produce--and, shucks, just when Audra McDonald was expressing an interest in pursuing the project! This stage Star marks a reunion of the Tony-winning City of Angels triumvirate of composer Cy Coleman, lyricist David Zippel, and book writer Larry Gelbart, but it is by no means their only iron-in-the-fire. In another part of the forest, these gents are concocting an appropriately extravagant stage biography of movie choreographer and director Busby Berkeley, called Buzz!! The double exclamation marks are warranted, as the concept calls for 100 dancing girls! When (indeed, if) the show lifts off, it likely won't be on Broadway. Maybe in Vegas?
BERGEN'S MORGAN--AND BEYOND
"Oliver, Oliver, what about Vicki for the Morgan story?" That's a line you probably missed in the Judy Garland version of A Star Is Born, coming as it does in the fallout after the "Born in a Trunk" number (so you're excused). A seasoned Hollywood reporter says this to studio chief Oliver Niles (played by Charles Bickford) who is, at the time, escorting his new star (soon to be Mrs. Norman Maine) from her triumphant preview. The inside joke was that Warners indeed was then preparing The Helen Morgan Story--quite conceivably for Garland herself to do--but what limped lamely to market three years later starred Ann Blyth. If there was a singer more unlike the real Helen Morgan, it was Gogi Grant--and she was tapped to dub the songs for Blyth! (It was Blyth's last flick, and Grant went nowhere in Hollywood.) Compounding this debacle was the fact that a perfectly fine Helen Morgan was conspicuously on view earlier that year on Playhouse 90, and Polly Bergen was rewarded with an Emmy for her Morgan impersonation. At least P.B. got a got an album out of it, Bergen Sings Morgan--a huge hit which was recently released as a double-album CD with Bergen's The Party's Over (Collectibles Records). Rest assured, Our Ms. Bergen will be dipping into these for her upcoming (Oct. 10-21) gig at Feinstein's at the Regency, Act One, Sing Two. (Cute, that!)
The party's only beginning for Polly, who did, in fact, get into the Roundabout's Follies--as did Betty Garrett. I hear that Karen Morrow may be on board, too. And let me be the first to tell you that, contrary to the way the song has usually been sung, "Broadway Baby" will be delivered uniquely by Carol Woods. It'll be a nice step forward for Woods, who talked herself out of the Show Boat role that won Gretha Boston a Tony Award!
WILLIAMS BY WILLIAMS: ANOTHER ASCENT
The Real Thing may be gone, but Elizabeth Williams and her producing partners are making plans to return to the well from which their recent Tony-winning revival came. The Donmar Warehouse's much-heralded revival of Orpheus Descending, directed by Nicholas Hytner and starring Helen Mirren, is being lined up by them for a Broadway importation. The Tennessee Williams drama was last done on Broadway 10 years ago by Vanessa Redgrave. La Williams (Elizabeth, that is!) and Co. are also planning to bring over (from Vienna) Dance of the Vampires, Jack Steinman's musicalization of the 1967 horror spoof, The Fearless Vampire Killers or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck. The show was directed in Vienna by the man who helmed the original film, Roman Polanski; he won't repeat that chore here (!!), so a name director is being sought to share credit.
HUSH . . . HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE
A well-known brother-and-sister Broadway-dancing act is about to embark on a project about Fred and Adele Astaire. Another qualification: She is a past recipient of TDF's annual Astaire Award....Being Lebanese gives Contact's Jason Antoon some extra casting latitude. He recently went out for the role of Ali Hakim, the Persian traveling salesman in the now-delayed revival of Oklahoma! And soon you'll see him on the screen as a Cuban croupier in Company Man, in a short scene in which title player Douglas McGrath gets his tie caught in the roulette wheel. Peter Askin, who directed McGrath's one-person show at the Promenade (Political Animal), helmed the film, which also features Woody Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Anthony LaPaglia, and John Turturro....Even the understudy cast for The Man Who Came to Dinner sounds like a lot of fun. Covering for Nathan Lane and Jean Smart are Robert Ari and Julie Halston....Speaking of Ari, there's a very funny story concerning the musical version of Exodus by that name, which was forming while Ann Miller was on Broadway in Mame. After one matinee, goes the myth, she sent out a bulletin. "Listen, kids, I got news," Miller supposedly said, huddling the gypsies about her: "A new show called Ari is coming, and I'm having my agent put me up for Jackie Onassis!"