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Ziegfeld Stardust

Starry, Starry Morning

Stars come out for Morning, Brad Anderson steps up for Proof, Mary-Louise signs up for Man and Angels--plus a very special Summer of '42 memory.

By New York City

Frances Sternhagen
Frances Sternhagen
Apparently, only prize winners need apply for Mornings at Seven, Paul Osborn's affectionate comedy of Americana; beginning April 21, Lincoln Center Theater installs its new production at the Lyceum, where the Tony-winning 1980 revival of the play ran an impressive 564 performances.

Frances Sternhagen, Elizabeth Franz, and Estelle Parsons, who have three Tonys and an Oscar among them (for work as disparate as The Good Doctor, The Heiress, Death of a Salesman, and Bonnie and Clyde), will comprise the small-town sister act that Nancy Marchand, Teresa Wright, and Maureen O'Sullivan formed so effectively 22 years ago.

The original Broadway production of Mornings at Seven, in 1939, folded after only 44 performances. Dan Sullivan, who just got his long-overdue Tony for Proof, will direct the Lincoln Center revival.

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LEADING WITH HARTS

John Hart was a producer of Broadway shows before he started producing Best Actresses for the movies. Last year, he gave the New York Film Critics their choice for Best Actress of 2000 (Laura Linney in You Can Count on Me) and, the year before that, he provided Oscar's pick (Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry). So you can see where his head is.

Now, hedging his bets a little, Hart has snapped up the screen rights to David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning Proof, which has already resulted in a Best Actress Tony win for Mary-Louise Parker. Whether Parker will second that motion for the movies is a matter of some conjecture right now. Hart is leaving the decision to the man he just tapped to direct Proof--the young, up-and-coming Brad Anderson, who helmed the recent Happy Accidents with Peter Mullan and David Caruso as well as Next Stop Wonderland with Hope Davis and Roger Rees.

"It's up to [Anderson] whom he wants to use," says Hart, who expects to have Proof before the cameras by spring. [Could it be Gwyneth? See Follow Spot--Ed.]

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Mary-Louise Parker in Proof(Photo:  Joan Marcus)
Mary-Louise Parker in Proof
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
OF ELEPHANTS AND ANGELS

The aforementioned Mary-Louise Parker might just be too busy in other media this spring to do the Proof picture. Not only is she supposed to headed back to Broadway in The Elephant Man (opposite her main squeeze, Billy Crudup, and in the role that won Carole Shelley a Tony), she has also signed up for Angels in America, which Mike Nichols will begin directing for HBO on April 1. She and her romantic partner in Proof, Ben Shenkman, will form a quite different romantic configuration--that of rivals, for Justin Kirk--in this TV movie of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize winner. This is the second Pulitzer play in a row that Nichols has brought to the little screen: Margaret Edson's Wit got him an Emmy last month and a Golden Globe nomination this month. Emma Thompson, who is also up for a Golden Globe for Wit and previously flew Nichols' Primary Colors, has been recruited for Angels, too--along with Al Pacino and Meryl Streep.

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HEROIC CALLING

A benefit to support The Family Assistance Fund for FDNY--in particular Ladder Company 3, which lost 12 members on September 11--will be held on Friday, December 28, at The Triad Theater (158 West 72nd Street). Headliners include Polly Bergen, Tony Roberts, Louise Pitre and Judy Kaye of Mamma Mia!, Andrea Marcovicci, ESPN's John Riggins, KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler of American Rhapsody, Julie Gold, The View's Angela LaGreca, David Gaschen, and Beth Southard of Phantom of the Opera.

Tickets are available at $80 and $100 from Telecharge at 212-239-6200 or in person at The Triad. All proceeds for the event will go directly to the Family Assistance Fund.

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...AND ANOTHER GOOD THING...

Smart group, The New Group. To get Chris Messina's terrifically well-reviewed performance in Good Thing, the company sprang for an understudy so he could get married tomorrow and head for the

Good and smitten:Hamish Linklater
Good and smitten:
Hamish Linklater
Berkshires for a five-day honeymoon. The bride-to-be acts, too: She's Rosemary DeWitt, whom Messina met in acting class six years ago.

There must be some sort of love epidemic over at the Theater at St. Clements. Hamish Linklater, another good thing about Good Thing, will use that space on January 21 (when the show is dark) to wed the play's author, Jessica Goldberg. "Two and a half years ago, I auditioned for one of Jessica's plays, which she didn't cast me in," he says. "But I got a date instead."

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WRITTEN ON THE WIND

Knute Rockne had his pep talks. Then there's Herman Raucher, on the evening when his Summer of '42 opened as an Off-Broadway musical: "I told the cast before the show, 'We've now done it every possible way--except go out and piss it in the snow!'" Which makes some sense when you consider that Hunter Foster, who wrote the book for this musicalization of Raucher's Oscar-winning movie memoir of 1971, plays a rabble-rouser in Urinetown.

Thirty years have elapsed since Raucher's loss-of-innocence confessional hit the screen, and it was another 30 years before that when he actually lost his innocence, so I had to ask him on opening night if he ever heard again from that older woman who relieved him of his virginity. (Her name really was Dorothy, by the way, but he never learned her last name.)

"Oh, I did," he says. "When the picture first came out, I got a letter from her, postmarked from Canton, Ohio. You have to understand, I got a lot of letters from ladies who said they were Dorothy. But (a) I recognized her handwriting, and (b) she didn't sign her last name. And she was the only one who was worried about whatever happened to me. She said something like, 'The ghost of that night 30 years ago is better left undisturbed.' She had obviously remarried and had children and grandchildren. There was no return address."


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