British comedian and talk show host Graham Norton has named his new stage show Graham Norton: Know All, but he says that audiences shouldn't expect it to live up to its title. "I'm pretending we didn't do that, because I know very little," he laughs -- even though the 75-minute show hilariously traverses such topics as George Bush, Pope Benedict, the avian flu, British school exams, and plastic surgery.
Would Norton himself go under the knife? "My constant obsession is about getting older," says the 42-year-old entertainer. "I know that aging is most people's obsession, but to make it worse, I'm dating someone who's 24. As they say, youth is there to mock you." Dating someone nearly 20 years his junior would seem to be a big enough responsibility, but Norton's also been thinking about getting a dog. "I'm considering a Labradoodle. Did you know you can find them on Ebay? They come up in both the new and used categories. What's a used Labradoodle look like?" (To find out the answer, you'll have to see the show.)
Norton loves being back in New York, but he can't stay too long; he's busy in his native land, filming a new television show that unfortunately won't be broadcast in the U.S. "It was supposed to be more of a panel show than a talk show," he tells me, "but then they booked all these celebrities, and you can't do anything but interview them. Cate Blanchett was really nice. So was Steve Carrell, who is really funny. We also had Elijah Wood on -- and, yes, I met the girlfriend!"
Most actors find it stressful enough to perform one show and rehearse a different one at the same time, but Kate Baldwin sounds remarkably calm on the phone even though she's starring in the musical revue Bush is Bad at the Triad, rehearsing for the upcoming San Francisco production of Irving Berlin's White Christmas, and preparing for a number of one-nighters including the October 10 Broadway Babies concert at Symphony Space and Songs by Sam: The Music of Sam Davis at Joe's Pub on October 23. Truth be told, she really should be on her honeymoon: Baldwin married fellow actor (and White Christmas co-star) Graham Rowat on October 2! "The wedding was fun," she says, "but people are right; you never get to eat or really talk to anyone."
She has been a big fan of Bush is Bad creator Joshua Rosenblum since they met through the New Voices concert series in 2003; the idea for the revue, which pokes fun at the current administration, was born when they reunited last year while working on Wonderful Town. "We were grumbling after the election about what was going on," Baldwin says, "and we decided that, instead of just getting angry, he'd write these political songs and I'd sing them. I know we're preaching to the choir, especially being on the Upper West Side. Al Franken even came to the first show; we could hear him laughing. It's great to see Josh's talent being so well used."
Baldwin has to leave the show after the October 30 performance, since White Christmas will begin its two-month run on November 9: "I'm playing the Rosie Clooney part, and I just worshipped her. The trap is that you can't do an imitation. Our director, Walter Bobbie, has done a really good job of telling us that we need to stay true to ourselves. Graham's playing the Bing Crosby role, and since he's a true baritone, he would have loved to have sung it in Bing's keys -- but he has to do it in Brian d'Arcy James' keys instead." (James, who originated the role last year, will be doing the show in Los Angeles this fall while another company led by Stephen Bogardus plays Boston.)
So far, the couple's only plans for 2006 are a belated honeymoon in Cancun. In fact, Baldwin laughs when told of the chat-board rumor that she's up for the role of Babe in the Roundabout production of The Pajama Game. "I think I'm a bit too young for Harry Connick, Jr.," she says. "I saw Karen Ziemba at Encores! and I think they should have her do it. She was wonderful." If Baldwin makes it back to Broadway, she knows the role she wants. It's one she already played to great acclaim at Arena Stage: Ensign Nellie Forbush. "I could happily do South Pacific for the rest of my life," she says. "That story, and that production, has a special place in my heart."
BARD TO DEATH
It's Shakespeare, Shakespeare everywhere -- often with a twist. For example, all-male casts are featured in Naked Macbeth (which contains very little actual nudity) and in the Watermill Theater production of The Winter's Tale, coming to BAM next month. If you can't wait until November, The WInter's Tale is now being presented by the Magis Theater Company with only seven actors (of both genders).
Elsewhere, the Looking Glass Theater is serving up a gender-bending Measure for Measure that highlights the issue of gay marriage, and The Queens Company will soon give us an all-female version of Taming of the Shrew. Even more ambitious is the Resonance Ensemble; that company is presenting a new adaptation of The Tempest in repertory with Larry Lobell's La Tempestad, which transplants the play to Vieques, Puerto Rico.
The Bard is being treated a bit more traditionally outside of New York. The legendary Alvin Epstein is taking on King Lear in Boston, while audiences in D.C. have the opportunity to take in the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Othello (with Avery Brooks and Patrick Page), the Folger's Much Ado About Nothing, and Amy Freed's hilarious comedy The Beard of Avon, which asks who really wrote the 36 plays attributed to Shakespeare.
Down in La Jolla is Lee Blessing's farce The Scottish Play, about a cursed production of Macbeth. Blessing was on hand last week when The Scottish Play was given a spectacular staged reading in NYC by the Red Bull Theater Company, with outstanding performances from Boris McGiver, Anthony Rapp, and the priceless Laila Robins. Can a full New York production be far behind?
STAR FOR THE COURSE
Five is turning out to be John Bolton's lucky number. He spent the first part of this year as the standby for the five leads in Monty Python's Spamalot, going on about 50 times. Now, he's playing five different characters in the new Off-Broadway musical Five Course Love. "I get to use every part of my voice," says Bolton, "since I sing pop, opera, even mariachi. It's a real vocal workout."
The actor, who has starred on Broadway in Titanic and Contact, first did the show at the Geva Theater in his hometown of Rochester last summer, in between regional productions of Señor Discretion Himself and The Opposite of Sex. "Who knew this would be the show to make it to New York?" he says. "But it has an adorable score, and the audiences at the Geva were literally in a frenzy every night."
Asked if he has a favorite character in Five Course Love, Bolton replies: "I love Gino, the Italian thug, because he's the furthest from myself -- and because I can talk in this funny accent." In fact, doing funny accents was the reason he most loved filling in as Lancelot in Spamalot, though he went on more often as King Arthur. "That was really the most challenging role because you couldn't be Tim Curry, and because Arthur is the straight man," he says. "My initial thought was that I didn't want to be a standby again, but it was great to be able to go out and play with those amazing people. I would love to go back to the show someday."