Juliette Binoche in Betrayal(Photo: Joan Marcus)
Juliette Binoche in Betrayal
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
LULU LOST?

While Juliette Binoche was spending time in this country, winning nominations for the Oscar (Chocolat) and the Tony (Betrayal), a role she had her eye on was snapped up by Closer's Anna Friel: namely, the title role in Lulu, which Friel did in London's West End and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. That still leaves Binoche with the possibility of essaying the part on Broadway, and she says that this "might be possible in two years' time."

Binoche has long nursed a desire to play Frank Wedekind's classic wanton. "I find her different relationships with men so interesting," she says. "There are comic moments and tragic ones at the same time. It's about spirit and sexuality and how they go together."

Although she was trained for the stage, Binoche didn't hit the London boards until after she won the Academy Award for The English Patient. "I need breaks," she says. "I need to do other things. Otherwise, you get stuck into one way--and, for me, that's death." She made her West End bow two years ago in Naked, winning more acclaim than was won here by Mira Sorvino (who took the Supporting Actress Oscar the year before Binoche.)

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CALLING CARRAFA

This year's Jerry Mitchell--i.e., The Hot New Choreographer in Town is--John Carrafa, who collected a Drama Desk nomination for Urinetown last spring and will likely be up for a Tony for it next spring, when his competition could be himself. Not only will he be putting the Assassins through their paces, he'll second that notion with another Sondheim revival, Into the Woods, which will open in December at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles under the direction of its original book writer and director, James Lapine. If that goes as well as is hoped, you could see Woods on Broadway as early as February.

By then, Carrafa will have beaten a retreat to Off-Broadway, where he'll choreograph The Big Time. Mark Brokaw is directing Douglas Carter Beane's musical book about a cruise ship taken over by terrorists. Evan Pappas (from My Favorite Year) and Kerry O'Malley (who recently covered for Reba McEntire in Annie Get Your Gun) are top-lining that one as fifth-rate Steve & Eydie types. In support: Jonathan Freeman (now working 42nd Street) and Michael McCormick (currently of Kiss Me, Kate).

Lyrics for The Big Time are the work of Douglas Cohen, who's in Italy now, attending the premiere (near Genoa) of his No Way To Treat a Lady. Next, he will write lyrics to the music that Birds of Paradise's David Evans has already provided for Children's Letters To God. That show will lift off at the Lyric Stage in Dallas in December.

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WENDY GOES GERSHWIN

An American Daughter author Wendy Wasserstein is currently adapting for Broadway An American in Paris, the Gershwin songfest that got the Oscar for Best Picture 50 years ago when Wendy was one. Jerry Zaks has already directed a workshop of the first draft of the musical under the aegis of Lincoln Center, and the buzz among the 100-or-so invited guests was good enough to warrant more work.

Howard McGillin, Vanessa Williams, Peter Jacobson, and Jan Maxwell had roles that roughly correspond to what Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, and Nina Foch did in the movie, but Wasserstein's rewrite of Alan Jay Lerner's Oscar-winning original script throws a broad Parisian canvass that includes Simone de Beauvoir (Tovah Feldshuh), main-squeeze of Jean-Paul Sartre, who's also a character; a countess (Charlotte Moore); a Paris Opera bigwig (John Cunningham); and some local-coloring provided at the workshop by Jonathan Freeman and Stephen DeRosa. The glorious Gershwin score got plenty of TLC from Rob Fisher. "Stairway to Paradise," which Georges Guetary gave a classic sell in the movie, has been reshuffled to the leading man's turf, and McGillin closed the first act with it.

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Michael West and Clif Thornin Mr. President(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Michael West and Clif Thorn
in Mr. President
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
ALESSANDRINI FOR PRESIDENT

Don't let those reviews dissuade you from seeing Mr. President as "conceived, rewritten, and politically corrected by Gerard Alessandrini." It's really a lot of fun, and Mr. A. needs all the encouragement he can get. What he's doing is incredibly difficult: creating some topical fun in an elephantine flop and reprising Irving Berlin's songs from it, both retouched and unadorned, plus a few Berlin bonuses where the wholly overhauled book allows. Bravo to Stuart Zagnit (who seems to have just gone from Mayor of Whoville to First Mother), Clif Thorn (as George double-D Shrub) and Michael West (as stodgy Al Bore).

What Alessandrini is proposing here is a series called "Gongcores" that will spoof City Center's much-loved "Encores!" series. The idea is to take a forgotten-but-not-altogether forgiven flop, prop it up with a spoofy book, and give the score another airing. Alessandrini is letting the audience vote on the next victim, which will be performed in repertory with his regular Forbidden Broadway 2001 at the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre. Ripe for the ribbing: Bajour, Breakfast at Tiffany's ("the dark, Edward Albee version"), Lost Horizon (the flop musical film version) and Rockabye-Hamlet. You must decide!

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CLASSICALLY LINKED

Did you hear the one about Ophelia and Guildenstern? Carrie Preston and Michael Emerson met and married while doing those roles in Hamlet at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. "It doesn't usually go that way," allows Emerson. "But then we discovered a lost manuscript in which Guildenstern is considerably more integral to the plot and there are actually scenes of him comforting her. That's why she goes crazy--because she can't have Guildenstern. We had some late-night rehearsals where we explored those lost texts."

And what the Bard hath joined together, let no man put asunder--although some have tried. Preston is coming from one chaotic marriage at the Guthrie in Minneapolis (playing Honey to Bill McCallum's Nick in the much-acclaimed and still rumored to be Broadway-bound Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with Mercedes Ruehl and Patrick Stewart), and Emerson is en route to a doomed one (as Tesman to Kate Burton's Hedda Gabler, bowing October 4 at the Ambassador). Off-stage, the couple couldn't be happier.

Then there's the time that Cyrano actually got the girl. Three years ago at the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, Gabriel Barre was Cyrano de Bergerac opposite Tricia Paoluccio's Roxanne. He proposed six months later, and they were married a year to the day after their opening performance. That production's Christian (Steve Wilson) also got his Roxanne: A year after Barre married Paoluccio, Wilson married Roxanne Barlow, late of Follies.

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FROM BABY TO BARD

The Play About the Baby will be followed into the Century Center by the play about the Bard--i.e., a revival of that fast-talking funfest The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr--on October 15. Jeremy Dobrish, artistic director of the Adobe Theater Company, will give the piece a re-spin with a new batch of New Faces: David Turner, Jeremy Shamus, and Peter Ackerman. (The last-named fellow is also a playwright of some note, with Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight and The Urn to his credit). Hopefully, they'll "pan out" as well as the first batch did in 1995: namely, Peter Jacobson, Christopher Duva, and Jon Patrick Walker. The lead producer is (again) Jeffrey Richards.