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A Different Drum

Guest Who I Saw Today?

Why shouldn't famous performers and characters make guest appearances in other shows?

By New York City

Elaine Stritch(Photo: Michal Daniel)
Elaine Stritch
(Photo: Michal Daniel)
While listening to the cast album of She Loves Me, I recalled the first time I ever heard the title song--sung by Barbara Cook as "He Loves Me"--on The Andy Williams Show. Ah, those were the days of TV variety programs where you could see stars making "guest appearances." The Judy Garland Show, on which Barbra Streisand sang "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered." The Perry Como Show, where Georgia Brown sang "As Long as He Needs Me." The Garry Moore Show, which sported Julie Andrews' rendition of "Love, I Hear" during the same week that A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum opened on Broadway.

Well, all of those variety shows are gone, so performers can't make guest appearances on them anymore. But then I started thinking, hmmm...wouldn't it be fun if performers and characters from Broadway shows made guest appearances in other Broadway shows? What if Mayor Shinn of The Music Man dropped by Les Misérables, even if just to sing Valjean's line "I am the mayor of this town." What if Roxie Hart made her immortal Chicago utterance "I gotta pee!" while waiting in line with everyone else in Urinetown?

So many Full Monty patrons have complained about the blinding light that keeps them from seeing the guys actually shed their inhibitions. All right, then: How about having the cast of Naked Boys Singing (soon to play its 1,000th performance, by the way) show up and give theatergoers what they want? These guys ain't shy. Maybe Hedda Gabler could visit Sophie in Mamma Mia! and warn her about the hazards of marriage. Then she could do the same for Tony 'n' Tina, now that their wedding has resumed performances at St. Luke's Church on West 46th Street.

There are those who would urge Kate Levering to leave Thou Shalt Not and revisit 42nd Street, where she could again play the ingénue; but she shouldn't because her successor, Meredith Patterson, is so good in the role. Hey, Levering made her bed, so let her lie in it--though it can't be comfortable, considering how it keeps spinning. So let's have Fraulein Schneider from Cabaret visit that bed and say what she says after Herr Schultz gives her a pineapple: "My head is spinning!" (Or, as Lotte Lenya originally said it so charmingly, "My head is shpinning!")

Maybe Sarah Brown of Guys and Dolls (currently touring in a production starring Maurice Hines) could visit Havana Is Waiting; after all, she has first-hand experience with that city since Sky Masterson took her there. Conversely, Tony Roberts--the allergist in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife--could drop in at Guys and Dolls and determine if the cold that Miss Adelaide has developed is psychosomatic or just the result of some ragweed.

The extraordinary Elaine Stritch, in her new smash hit Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, reprises "Broadway Baby," the song with which she brought down the house in the 1985 Follies in Concert (well, every song did). In this classic, she sings: "Hell, I'd even play the maid to be in a show." If she's true to her word, Stritch could visit Noises Off and fill the role of the maid with which Dottie Otley struggles in the play-within-a-play called Nothing On. I'll bet that La Stritch would do better at remembering when to take the sardines and when to leave them on stage, for the lady does yeoman duty in the two-and-a-half hour show in which she currently sings, dances, cavorts, struts, and, in a word, stars.

All right, Stritch was a beat or so behind when redoing "The Ladies Who Lunch" and, yes, she missed a few words in "I'm Still Here," causing virtually every man in the audience to jump in horror as if he'd just had his neck sliced by Sweeney Todd. I mean, we know all the words, and it's hard for us to believe that not everyone else does, too. But this was the extent of Stritch's miscues, which means that she was 99 and 44/100ths percent perfect at the performance I attended. That's an A+ where I went to school. If you can get a ticket to Elaine Stritch At Liberty (and it's not easy), pray that the star doesn't visit Noises Off on the night you go to see her at the Public Theater.

Peter Gallagher (center) and the cast of Noises Off(Photo: Joan Marcus)
Peter Gallagher (center) and the cast of Noises Off
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
Speaking of Noises Off: Director Lloyd Dallas gets so upset at the way his cast is performing Nothing On, perhaps he'll quit. No problem! Roger DeBris, who staged the smash hit Springtime for Hitler, could succeed him. Given DeBris' Ed Woodish level of competence, it's entirely possible that he'd be pretty pleased at what the Nothing On cast is doing. (By the way, having Peter Gallagher playing Lloyd Dallas is one of the more inspired moves in the fine new Broadway revival. In 1983, Dallas was portrayed by old-timer Brian Murray, who seemed to be a director on his way down. But Gallagher still represents youth, and there's more anguish involved if it's a young director who is failing and worrying that his future will be affected rather than a guy who's already been there and back.)

Other guest appearances? How about Jennifer Tilly of The Women visiting The Vagina Monologues? If she can show hers on stage that readily, she can certainly talk about hers and everybody else's in the Off-Broadway hit. Of course, given the performance Tilly is giving in The Women, maybe she shouldn't be handed any more lines. Nah...I blame Scott Elliott for myopically seeing Tilly solely as the dumb gun moll she so brilliantly played in Bullets Over Broadway. Trouble is, that's not Crystal in The Women. Cynthia Nixon is miscast, too, but the rest are right on target, and Mary Louise Wilson couldn't be better as Nixon's mom.

Finally, for each and every one of these shows, the entire company of Beauty and the Beast could show up before the performers' arrival to sing at least a few lines of "Be Our Guest." And, when all is said and sung, every person and character named above--along with you and I--could go down to the Pearl Theatre to make cameos in Iphigenia in Aulis. For, when you think of it, there's a little Iphigenia in Aulis.

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[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at pfilichia@aol.com]


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