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Shepherd and Her Flock

Cybill Shepherd brings her own brand of blonde ambition to the Café Carlyle in her return to cabaret.

By New York City

"GOTTA SING" CYBILL HITS TOWN

Cybill Shepherd
Cybill Shepherd
Before The Last Picture Show, there was Cybill Shepherd the chanteuse, as the lady is quick to remind us. "I was a singer first," says the silky blonde star of screens big and small. "So, for me, to keep singing is the way I've survived. It's, like, you know--I have to sing."

We know. And, come September 25, Cybill will be settling into a run at the Café Carlyle, doing what comes naturally to her. It's her first cabaret gig here since she did Rainbow and Stars four years ago, and she takes to the venue like a swan to water. (The official opening of the Carlyle engagement was postponed to September 25 due to the World Trade Center tragedy, but Shepherd will perform there on the 22nd because that show had already been sold out.)

Right now, cabaret seems the best venue for Cybill as it offers the most practical agenda for a working, single mother of two newly teenaged children. The theater is out, but not because she wasn't asked--three times: "I was offered Kiss Me, Kate if I was willing to do it for a year, then The King and I at the Palladium in London and, recently, Bells Are Ringing on the road. I love all three of those shows, but I've got 13-year-olds to raise." Hence, cabaret.

"I love cabaret because it gives me a chance to be up close and personal with the people who've come to see me," Shepherd continues. "It teaches me and humbles me and excites me. I've done cabaret for 25 years! It's the most wonderful thing to do, and the hardest, because people are so close to you. If they don't really dig your stuff--if they really don't want to be in your living room--it's so apparent. But, in any group, you'll find someone who's open to you."

Musically, Cybill has always put out a pretty eclectic spread, and this gig will be no exception. She'll offer some Gershwin ("S'Wonderful," "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "But Not for Me"); something by Coward ("Mad About the Boy"); a new song by Carol Hall ("Only a Broken Heart"); a tribute to Alberta Hunter (with whom she split performance nights at The Cookery back in '77); a funny Dietz & Schwartz item ("Confessions"); a classic by Arlen & Mercer ("That Old Black Magic"); a new song Shepherd wrote with her musical director, Tom Adams ("Graceland Revisited," a sort of sentimental journey home to her Memphis roots); and previews of new numbers she does in her role as a piano-bar singer in her next movie, Marine Life.

"To me, this is like rolling up my sleeves and digging in the garden again," trills the happy tiller. "It's a direct way of giving to my fans--and taking, because I get a lot back."

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Brian Cox
Brian Cox
TWEAKING THE TIMES

Brian Cox can't resist ragging The Paper of Record when you ask him if he'll be appearing in a play in New York anytime soon. "According to The New York Times, I am," he says, "but The New York Times has not mentioned that there's a television series I'm doing. I don't know what to believe anymore." Translation: Bruce Weber, in his preview of the 2001-2002 theater season for the Times, jumped the gun a bit when he wrote that Cox would be starring in Conor McPherson's Dublin Carol at Primary Stages in May.

This may very well happen, and Weber was right to assume it would. After all, Cox did the one-man show in London to considerable acclaim; McPherson wrote it for Cox, and Cox appeared in McPherson's St. Nicholas at Primary Stages three years ago. But the official party line is that Cox is "in negotiations" to do the piece here, meaning he'll have to wait and see if he's free from his TV commitment in the spring.

"I'm going to live in L.A., either for the next three weeks or for the next five years," he declares lightly, heading West to do the pilot for a series that ABC may slip in at midseason. Called The Court, it will star Sally Field as a liberal Supreme Court Justice; Cox is her crotchety adversary on the bench. "Because I play somebody questionable, he'll probably be a Republican," cracks Cox. "An iconoclastic, old-fashioned, Yankee Republican with his own agenda--John Huston out of John Houseman via Justice Scalia." One recurring character, a trouble-shooting attorney, will be played by Mandy Patinkin. "It's a good series," opts Cox. "The potential is enormous."

Cox has collected two Olivier Awards in Britain, having been named Best Actor for the RSC's Titus Andronicus and for the Royal Court's Rat in the Skull, but he is best known as the screen's first Hannibal Lecter; he originated the role in Manhunter, a 1986 adaptation of Red Dragon (which is about to be remade under its original title, starring Anthony Hopkins, the Oscar-winning Hannibal of 1991's The Silence of the Lambs). Last Friday, Cox netted some magnificent notices for his latest acting feat: winning audience sympathy for a practicing pederast in a low-budget flick initialed L.I.E.

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JUSTIN TIME

Justin Chambers in The Musketeer
Justin Chambers in The Musketeer
Less blessed last Friday was Justin Chambers, whose title portrayal of The Musketeer (i.e., D'Artagnan) drew scalding vats of criticism from the movie reviewers down upon him. But that didn't stop the picture from being the week's top grossing attraction.

In January, Chambers will pop up (sans sword and plumage) as a Jersey jerk who can't dump Uma Thurman in an HBO movie based on Laura Cahill's Off-Broadway play Hysterical Blindness. Thurman produced the piece herself, steered Cahill through her script drafts and hired Juliette Lewis, Gena Rowlands, and Ben Kazan to complete the cast.

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FUNNY GIRL MEETS BAT BOY

Leslie Kritzer, the Funny Girl at the Paper Mill Playhouse last April, went on as Bat Boy's girlfriend four days after she signed up for understudy duty. She celebrated the next day by auditioning to be an Assassins understudy, but that show got postponed indefinitely before her callback; in light of Tuesday's terrorist attacks, Stephen Sondheim felt the show had to be shelved. That still leaves Sondheim with one show Broadway bound: Into the Woods, which looks even more likely to have Vanessa Williams in the lead, lifts off in February at Los Angeles' Ahmanson. One can't help but wonder if this casting will cost Williams the lead in the Encores! reprise of No Strings, a role for which she seems much more qualified. We'll see...


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