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It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

DAVID HASSELHOFF, MICHELE LEE, and JUDY GARLAND celebrate Christmas.

By New York City

O TANNENBAUM, WITH BROADWAY BAUBLES

The 1999 tree in Duffy Square
The 1999 tree in Duffy Square
Well, now I know it's Christmas! That newish holiday tradition, the lighting of the Broadway tree at TDF's TKTS booth in Duffy Square, will continue on December 13 under the auspices of the Theater Development Fund, the League of American Theaters and Producers, and the Times Square Business Improvement District. This year, it'll be a white spruce decorated with lights and ornaments representing every show on and off Broadway.

Two television stars who have recently turned (or returned) to Broadway--Baywatch's David Hasselhoff, now in Jekyll & Hyde, and Knots Landing's Michele Lee, now in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife--have been tapped for the turn-on honors. And a brand-new aggregate, The Times Square Bid Kidz, will offer their debut performance at the ceremony.

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HOLIDAY DEMENTIA

On Monday, December 4 at the Arc Light Theater, a backer's audition was held for Judy's Scary Little Christmas, an imagined Judy Garland Christmas special in which lots of old icons gather around the Yule log--the likes of Ethel Merman, Bing Crosby, Joan Crawford, Lillian Hellman, Liberace, and Richard Nixon. How's that for holiday trappings?

Isabel Keating, a Washington D.C. actress who just won the Helen Hayes Award down there for Tom Stoppard's India Ink, played Garland. The show's music is by Joe Patrick Ward, and the book and lyrics are by David Church and Jim Webber.

Leonard Foglia (Master Class), who helmed the workshop, will next direct The Last True Believer--a drama by new Canadian playwright Robert Sherwood--in London this spring. "We have to start plays in London now," says Foglia. "It's the new Off-Broadway."

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ANGELA'S ANGELS

Angela Lansbury
Angela Lansbury
Angela Lansbury, God love her, at last came in for some Kennedy Center Honors over the weekend, and the Broadway community stood up for her--big time. Encores! musical director Rob Fisher and former artistic director Kathleen Marshall put some numbers together for the Lansbury portion of the program: Marin Mazzie and four Tony winners (Nathan Lane, Karen Ziemba, Len Cariou, and Donna Murphy) saluted the four-time Tony winner with a medley of her hits. Lane also did "The Worst Pies in London," and the finale found 120 men singing "Mame" to La Lansbury. CBS-TV will air the results on December 27, 9-11pm.

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THE BEST IN SHOW

Life is not always a cabaret, old chum. Sometimes, it's a Copenhagen. Bruce Kimmel's new label, Fynsworth Alley, will specialize in the sound of Broadway music, but it has just released a recording of the entire Michael Frayn work that took the most recent Tony for Best Play. On two discs. Starring the original cast: Philip Bosco, Blair Brown, and Michael Cumpsty. Folly? I think not. The play is all talk--fascinating talk, variations on a theme, so to speak--and action free. Perfect for home listening.

Fynsworth is a delicious show business gamble. When producer Kimmel saw that his old label, Varèse Sarabande, was starting to cool it on show tunes, he grabbed back the rights to the solo and cast albums that he had done for the company during the last decade--everything from the last Carol Channing revival of Hello, Dolly! to Polly Pen's Bed and Sofa. And with a lot of blood, sweat and chutzpah, he created Fynsworth Alley. The new label's releases will be available to retail stores, but real savings will come if you join the club (www.fynsworthalley.com). Not only will members be able to purchase those unique early issues at an unheard-of discounted price, they will also get first crack at the new discs offered, three months before the general public gets its shot. The first release was an all-Sondheim disc with new and old material, plus a bonus track available only on the pre-release edition directly from the label. So, hop to that website! Fynsworth Alley is a Christmas present to all theater lovers.

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DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE, DOUBLE YOUR FUN

Score entry #2 for preserving the work of up-and-comers in the worlds of cabaret and theater. This one's called Jerome Records. Its first release is Our Heart Sings, a benefit CD for the Genesius Guild, a new not-for-profit theater company dedicated to nurturing the new generation. Lainie Kazan will host the company's launch party at Second Stage on December 11 at 8pm. Promising to recreate their recorded contributions on that occasion are Alison Fraser, Heather MacRae, Mark Nadler, Christiane Noll, Georga Osborne, Stephanie Pope, Alice Ripley, Emily Skinner, and so on.

The label has solo releases by Laurie Krauz, Phillip Officer, and Sal Viviano. And there's a newsletter, bluebutterfly (e-mail jeromerecords@aol.com or write to Jerome Records Inc., 295 Greenwich Street, Suite 392, New York, NY 10007).

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CARUSO & CO.

Jim Caruso
Jim Caruso
If you haven't yet caught TheaterMania columnist and man-about-town Jim Caruso 's Monday Night madness with Billy Stritch at Arci's Place, you've got two chances left: December 11 (at 9pm) and an only-fantastic New Year's Eve bash which will include guest performers Steven Brinberg (as "Simply Barbra"), Alexandra Haas, Amanda Green, and no less than Linda Lavin.

One of the surprise presents we New Yorkers got this summer was the Caruso-Stritch act, which was happily extended through the fall. Thank God, the show was recorded. That CD, titled Caruso--Live and In Person!, will hit stores in February; but you stocking-stuffers (and you know who you are) can get a jump on everyone else by ordering online from LMLMusic.com or by calling 888-856-9202.

It's difficult to describe the show Caruso does. "A party"--the all-inclusive kind--comes closest to the mark, I think. Suffice it to say that he charms, live or on CD.

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A NEW VICTORY FOR CORA

Cora Cahan is a hero of mine, I confess. As co-founder (along with Eliot Feld) of The Joyce Theater Foundation, she gave a new home to American dance the likes of which--in terms of facilities, production contracts, all-in-one packaging--the field hadn't known before. She redefined the turf. That, folks, is a maverick. And a maverick never rests on her laurels.

Her current venture--The New Victory Theater--marks its fifth year as New York's premier theater for children on December 11. Cahan has taught us that if we scrape away the grit and dust that attaches itself to the term "children's theater," we can offer very young theatergoers a world that is as vital, sophisticated, and alive as the best of adult entertainment. For this special anniversary, she and board chairman Marion S. Helskell will raise a glass to fellow board member Mary Ann Tighe, the Vice Chairman of Insignia/ESG--who, like Cahan, is a believer in exploring new cultural landscapes. A reception and dinner at the New 42nd Street Studios will preface a performance of Circus Oz at the New Victory.


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