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Here's an Idea: An Oklahoman for Oklahoma!

No Ado Annie yet for Oklahoma! on Broadway? Well, hey--what about Kristin Chenoweth?

By New York City

Kristin Chenoweth
Kristin Chenoweth
MUCH NOTHING ABOUT ADO

Casting is starting to trickle out for Oklahoma! Follically challenged Patrick Wilson of The Full Monty will definitely be Curly, and Shuler Hensley (currently Javert in Les Misérables on Broadway) is to re-cook the Olivier Award-winning Jud Fry he did in London. But there has been no official word on who'll do that darlin' vamp of the plains, Ado Annie. I submit that no one could be ditzier than an authentic daughter of The Sooner State, Kristin Chenoweth.

It'd be a fitting homecoming, too, for the pert blonde who got a Tony for You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, then went West and found only fool's gold in Sitcomland. She may be ready for a media change by the time (February 23, 2002) choreographer Susan Stroman and director Trevor Nunn transplant their London Oklahoma! to the Gershwin Theater. Meanwhile, Chenoweth is said to be in negotiations to play a musical icon from Iowa: Marian Paroo, the River City librarian, opposite Matthew Broderick's Music Man on TV.

Robert Sean Leonard has graduated to Professor Harold Hill on Broadway, quite a jolting jump from his just-Tonyed work as A.E. Housman in The Invention of Love. Say what you will about Housman, he was no Music Man. But Stro herself instigated the casting and installed Leonard, who's doing a crackerjack job in his belated musical bow. The only rub is that he seems so young--he's 32 and looks 22--making Rebecca Luker's Marian appear almost matronly. Their love scenes come off like the sunniest Summer and Smoke you've ever seen.

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FROM APES TO UNDIES

Paul Giamatti, last seen on Broadway as one of the habitués (along with the aformentioned Robert Sean Leonard and Kevin Spacey) of Harry Hope's tavern in Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh and, before that, in the Roundabout's all-star recital of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters, was hoping to return to the scene of that scene-stealing in a production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard that was to start at New Haven's Long Wharf and end on Broadway. Alas, those plans went kaput, and he has lowered his sights somewhat to The Underpants. This 19th-century German farce by Carl Sternheim has been adapted by Steve Martin, the playwright (Picasso at the Lapin Agile), novella-ist (Shopgirl), and sometime comic actor (The Jerk). Giamatti will play a man who is mortified when his wife's undies drop during a royal procession, creating some immediate and quite ardent suitors. Chekhov, it's not.

The Underpants will be presented March 20-April 28, Off-Broadway at Classic Stage Company, directed by CSC artistic director Barry Edelstein. Opening night is April 4. Since Three Sisters, Giamatti has been concentrating on films. You'll currently find him acting his way through some elaborate orangutan makeup, stealing Planet of the Apes.

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Len Cariou
Len Cariou
CARIOU CARRIES ON

Come September 1, the (dinner) party's over, and Len Cariou will go from Neil Simon's Broadway comedy to some very heady after-Dinner talk: He starts up the national tour of Michael Frayn's Tony-winning Copenhagen. (Frightening thought, that: Sweeney Todd as an atomic scientist!) His co-stars will be Mariette Hartley and Hank Stratton. (The latter played Harriet Harris' newspaper-man swain in the Roundabout's recent Man Who Came to Dinner.)

Three Thursdays ago, Cariou played the Vincent Gardenia part in a workshop of Moonstruck, which Oscar-winning author John Patrick Shanley has converted into a musical with lyrics by Susan Birkenhead and music by Henry Krieger. The roles that won Oscars for Cher and Olympia Dukakis were essayed by Rent's Idina Menzel and Major Barbara's Dana Ivey. Also starred: Robert LuPone and Christopher Innvar.

Saturday Night Fever's Orfeh, who was part of a comic Greek chorus in the Moonstruck workshop, is off to do Me and Mrs. Jones with Darlene Love and Lou Rawls at the Harold Prince Theatre in Philadelphia. Written by Blue's Charles Randolph Wright, the show will utilize the catalogue of songs by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff ("Love Train," "I Love Music"), in much the same way that Smokey Joe's Café drew from the works of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Rehearsals start in October--and, after the Prince (November-December), B'way?

Another musical by Dreamgirls' Krieger--this one co-authored by his Side Show sidekick, Bill Russell--is set for lift-off in the spring at Theaterworks in Palo Alto, California. It's called Kept, and it plops Camille down in New York City in the late 1970s-early '80s.

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LOST (BOYS) AND FOUND

Eduardo Machado left Cuba for the United States in the "Peter Pan" flights of 1961, and he returned 40 years later--on the very day that another "lost boy," Elian Gonzalez, washed ashore in Miami. "There's a play in this," said Machado, who already had 26 plays to his credit. And he proceeded to write it. The result was presented last year (to raves) under the title When the Sea Drowns in Sand at the Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of their Humana Festival. Now, on October 9, Angelina Fiordellisi will present it at her Cherry Lane Theater in association with Barbara Ligeti under a new title, Havana Is Waiting. Ed Vassallo of The Sopranos, who accompanied Machado home to Havana, is a character in the play and will, indeed, play himself. Felix Solis has been cast as the Cuban cab driver who chauffeurs them around. Director Michael John Garces will be putting the show into rehearsal next month.

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HAIR TODAY, SPRAY TOMORROW

"Whoever thought hairspray would be a meaningful word in your life?" quipped a friend to playwright Mark O'Donnell, another follically challenged individual. O'Donnell and The Producers' Thomas Meehan are currently adapting the John Waters movie Hairspray into a musical which The Full Monty duo of director Jack O'Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell will stage.

It's expected that the show will be ready to workshop by April. Harvey Fierstein will have the housewife frump role which a "deglamorized" (if that's possible) Divine played in the movie. Fierstein is dead-on casting, of course, but Waters was pulling for Dolly Parton. "Barring that," he offered as an afterthought, "Anthony Hopkins."


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