While Gary Sandy is best known for the hit 1970s sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, Texas has been his theatrical milieu of late. He recently co-starred in a national tour of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and, on November 21, he arrives at the John Houseman Theatre as Frank Ford in the new musical Lone Star Love, which transplants William Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor to Texas in the late 1800s.
The musical boasts a score by The Red Clay Ramblers, who also function as the show's onstage band, and they were one of the main reasons why Sandy took the project. "I first saw them in Fool Moon and I've wanted to do something with them ever since," he says. The actor also has high praise for the show's British-based director, Michael Bogdanov: "He's never at a loss for an idea. I like to think of myself as an inventive actor, but he constantly comes up with things none of us thought of."
The show marks Sandy's first New York appearance in 18 years, since he replaced Tony Roberts in Arsenic and Old Lace, but he had hoped that the Whorehouse tour would bring him back to Broadway. "I really wanted that production to come into town," he says, "and not just to be back in New York, which I love. It was just a wonderful experience. Ann-Margret [who played Miss Mona] and her husband, Roger Smith, have become two of my best friends. And Ed Earl Dodd was such an incredible character. I don't mean to sound cocky, but I think I really nailed it; I played it much differently than it had been done before, which was an older, aw-shucks kind of guy. But I thought, 'That's not going to cut it with Ann-Margret; he really needs to be someone she could fall in love with.' And I think I succeeded."
It's a good month for fans of the late songwriter Andy Razaf. The extraordinary Paula West sings a definitive version of his heartbreaking "Black and Blue" in her amazing new show at the Algonquin, while Razaf's repertoire will be showcased at the 92nd Street Y, November 20-22, as the first installment of Lyrics & Lyricists' 35th anniversary season. The show is being created by Tony-nominated actor André De Shields and it features a cast of six, including former Drama Desk nominee Debra Walton.
Mary Catherine Garrison rarely did comedy or musicals in college -- which probably comes as a surprise to those who've seen her in the downtown camp hit Debbie Does Dallas, the Second Stage production of Crimes of the Heart, or the Roundabout Theatre Company revivals of The Man Who Came to Dinner and Assassins. Now, she's getting laughs once again in the Roundabout revival of The Foreigner at the Laura Pels.
"I am not a theater nerd, so not only didn't I know how successful the play was the first time, I had never even heard of it," admits Garrison. "What attracted me to the part of the Catherine is that she's so unlikable when you first meet her -- she's really just a brat --but, by the end, she turns into a sweet little flower." Also influencing Garrison's decision to take the role was the fact she would be sharing the stage with Tony Award-winning stars Matthew Broderick and Frances Sternhagen."Matthew is a little devil," Garrison tells me. "He's got this great sense of humor that's always present, and he has charm for days. Frannie is amazing. She is so focused and always gives 110 percent, even in rehearsal. I now understand what a consummate professional is."
The 30-year-old actress is hoping that this run will be a less traumatic experience than she had in Assassins, in which she played Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme. After a major New York newspaper reprinted some of Garrison's correspondence with Fromme, she received a gruesome death threat. "It was terrifying, the weirdest feeling I've ever felt in my life," she says. "And considering that my first entrance in the show was through the audience, it was really scary."
Looking ahead, Garrison has three wildly diverse dream projects on her mental agenda: "I am dying to play a stripper," she says. "I am so intrigued by the emotional complexity of that kind of life. Maybe I was one in a former life! I'd also love to play Cleo in a revival of Clifford Odets' Rocket to the Moon, because she's such a mess. And I would love to do a movie about the late pop singer Eva Cassidy because I so love her music. Of course, I'd be lip-synching!"
The Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts is hosting The Best of Edinburgh from November 5 through 9, a pairing of two award-winning solo shows from the world-famous festival: "Rosebud: The Life of Orson Welles" about the legendary actor/director, and "Sisters, Such Devoted Sisters" about a troubled drag queen....The divine Christine Ebersoleand pal Billy Stritch are hitting the road to Birdland, where they'll appear on November 8 and 15....Jazz wunderkind Peter Cincotti and the legendary Jimmy Scott team up on November 10 and 11 at the newly opened Frederick P. Rose Hall as part of the Jazz at Lincoln Center series. (Click here for details.)
Matt Bogart and Alice Ripley, who played Paul and Amy in the production of Company that was presented in 2002 as part of the Kennedy Center's Stephen Sondheim Celebration, will sing a song of Sondheim on November 17 as part of Zankel Hall's new Orchestra Undergroundseries....Tony winner Judy Kaye and legendary musical director Jack Lee will co-star in the new play Souvenir, beginning November 19 at the York....Musical theater veterans Brian Tom O'Connor and Debra Vogel are bringing their acclaimed cabaret act How to be Perfect back to Don't Tell Mama from November 6 through November 30.
IN THE TILLY
It was raining on prom night for Jennifer Tilly. That is to say, it drizzled on Saturday when the Oscar-nominated actress took in The Awesome '80s Prom at Webster Hall. In between dances, I asked Tilly -- whose latest movie, Seed of Chucky, opens on November 12 -- if she was planning to return to the Great White Way anytime soon. "I've recently been offered some projects and I'm looking into them," she replied. "A show is a big commitment, but there is nothing like theater. I love it!"
SIGHTS FOR SORE EYES
The still fabulous-looking Susan Sullivan went to see the New Group's Sin (A Cardinal Deposed) on October 25th...The next night, Brian Stokes Mitchell and his lovely wife Alyson Tucker, choreographer Patricia Birch, and TV personality Bill Boggs all came to cheer Melissa Manchester as she opened at Feinstein's at the Regency. (Click here for more on Manchester's show)...Last Thursday, Tony Award winner Denis O'Hare, Christine Pedi, and producer Daryl Roth all laughed heartily at Mario Cantone's antics in Laugh Whore, his solo show at the Cort Theatre....Everyone's favorite standby, Maureen Moore, spent Election night seeing The Immigrantat Dodger Stages...Lea DeLaria (who'll be seen in the upcoming New York City Opera production of Cinderella), Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Clea Lewis and Alyson Palmer (of the great girl band BETTY) were spotted at People Are Wrong at the Vineyard on November 3.
[To contact Brian Scott Lipton directly, e-mail him at BSL@theatermania.com.]