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Stritch's Next Step

A Broadway deal for Elaine Stritch, a rising Shinn, a new Childs, and a new child.

By New York City

Elaine Stritch: At Liberty(Photo: Michal Daniel)
Elaine Stritch: At Liberty
(Photo: Michal Daniel)
Well, they've finally hammered out a doable (and maybe even profitable) schedule for Elaine Stritch to bring her Public Theater show uptown to the Neil Simon, four days after her 77th birthday on February 6. The number to remember is five: That's how many performances of Elaine Stritch: At Liberty she will do each week, according to Carol Fineman at the Public, though a six-a-week schedule has been reported elsewhere.

Broadway can really cut into a girl's extracurriculars--and Off-Broadway is draining as well, it seems. On Thursday, Stritch didn't show at Sardi's for the American Theater Wing's Christmas party to help carve up the ATW funds among needy theater groups. Her director, George C. Wolfe, offered a witty explanation for her absence, harkening back to the recent, dark days of negotiations: "Elaine won't do more than five luncheons a week." The next stop for Stritch after her Broadway gig will be a London reprise of the show.

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SHINN UP, EVERYBODY!

"For my money, Christopher Shinn is the best American playwright in 15 years. He is The Real Deal. This is a 26-year-old kid. If I were running a theater now, I'd say, 'I'll do all your plays.' He's Mamet-like, Richard Nelson-like. He will be The Next Guy." Thus spake Gregory Mosher, who has no axe to grind (and, alas, no theater company at which to grind it these days), though he has brought his share of playwrights to the fore.

Who will bring forth Shinn is anybody's guess. The Worth Street Theater company provided an introduction last June with his troubling four-hander Four, and New York Theater Workshop has done a reading of another Shinn piece, What Didn't Happen, with Sean Dugan (the redheaded Mercutio in R&J, that prep-school version of Romeo and Juliet that was directed and adapted by Joe Calarco). Until the middle of January, Dugan is doing more conventional Shakespeare--David Patrick Kelly's Henry IV--at the American Repertory Theater. Then he's off to Oz for the beginning of that prison series' new season.

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Kirsten Childs
Kirsten Childs
CHILDS' PLAYS

Speaking of Joe Calarco, he is collaborating with Kirsten Childs on a show they now call Ben Vereen. It'll be an autobiographical piece, and Ben Vereen himself will perform it.

Childs reached prominence last season with The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin and has been wrapping herself in awards ever since. On her own, she is working on an adult version of the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin, which she'll present on April 11 at Lincoln Center. "It's just an evening of some songs right now, then maybe it'll get to become a piece," Childs says. The title character will be played by Darius de Haas, who is currently recording an album of Billy Strayhorn songs for PS Classics.

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A STAR IS AYCKBOURN

If the character Stiffy Byng struck you as a tad overstuffed when By Jeeves bowed on Broadway at the Helen Hayes, your eyes were not deceived. It seems she and Bingo Little had been consorting between scenes, and the dear girl was pregnant. No need to be scandalized: The actors playing those roles (Emily Loesser and Don Stephenson) are unequivocally married and have been contemplating a family since they were shipmates on the unexpectedly long-running Titanic.

The pair spent most of this year on Jeeves' stop-start voyage to Broadway, which was less than conducive to beginning a family. At one point during the work stoppage, director-bookwriter-lyricist Alan Ayckbourn gave the all-clear signal and the couple became pregnant--only to learn that the show would open after all. Ayckbourn did the right thing and rehired both. Loesser-was-more than the role called for until she went on maternity leave and Ana Maria Andricain became Stiffy.

On November 28, Loesser gave birth to a four-pound, nine-ounce daughter who would have made a most happy fella of her grandfather, the late, great Frank Loesser. Granny is the still-glamorous Jo Sullivan.

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SOMETHING ELSE BY JARVIS

Martin Jarvis, who plays By Jeeves' eponymous, indispensable manservant, spent his day off last Monday (December 3) by basking in the limelight. First he flew his show's colors in the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Gypsy of the Year competition with a number called, inevitably, "All That Jeeves." Then he stopped by to lend some glitter to the re-opening of The Drama Book Shop at 250 West 40th Street, where a whole display was devoted to his autobiography, Acting Strangely.

Jarvis's Jeeves is the next best thing to the late Arthur Treacher, who played P.G. Wodehouse's droll valet in a couple of movies in the mid-'30s. But Jarvis claims he's never seen Treacher do the role--or any of his roles, which were rarely much of a jump from Jeeves. The only true Brit in the cast, Jarvis thinks he knows where his next job is coming from when Jeeves closes on December 30--from George Clooney, who is directing a film to be called either Mad Chance or Confessions of a Dangerous Man. The story is based on the autobiography of Chuck Barris, the Gong Show creator who claims to have been an undercover operative for the C.I.A. and to have murdered 32 people. "I've been approached to play a British man who works for the C.I.A.," Jarvis says. "It's a very nice character and really up my street. The script is quite brilliant, I must say."

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CASTING ADJUSTMENTS AND OTHER NEWS

Crista Moore landed a lucrative concert gig in Florida, so now the female lead in the benefit reading of Here's Love, Meredith Willson's musical take on Miracle on 34th Street, will be played by the ever-reliable Debbie Gravitte. (In the 1963 Broadway production, Janis Paige filled this role.) The one-night-only reprise on December 17, benefiting The Lark Theater Company, will be held at the Lucille Lortel. Co-starring are Chuck Cooper, Mary Testa, Jeff Blumenkrantz, Robert Creighton, and Ann Harada.

Chances are excellent that, if Kevin Bacon is not in An Almost Holy Picture when you see that one-man show at the American Airlines Theatre during its January-April run--word is that he'll be missing "some Wednesdays and some Sundays"--the role will be played by John Dossett, last seen as Becky Thatcher's preacher pop in Tom Sawyer....Rob Sedgwick, the bro of Kyra and the bro-in-law of Bacon, is bound for Bliss, a new American play that Marion McClinton will direct in May. David Strathairn, who was menaced by Bacon in The River Wild, may co-star.

Another new American play, Surviving Grace, is set to follow Bat Boy into the Union Square Theater after a Kennedy Center tryout. The first two actors cast are James Hindman (currently of Roadside) and Jerry Grayson (who made headlines in his last Broadway gig, On the Waterfront, by having an on-stage heart attack during a matinee preview). Hindman, between acting stints, is quietly becoming a writer: He debuted last season via the book for Pete 'n' Keely, which has just come out in CD form.

The first preview of Homebody/Kabul, Tony Kushner's first stage epic since Angels in America, tipped the scales at four hours. "We didn't give notes," said one executive at New York Theater Workshop, "we went out and got drunk." The show opens on December 19.


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