Patti LuPone prepares to step into Alma Schindler?s Austrian shoes, while TACT dares to air a Priestley play other than An Inspector Calls.
THE MARRYING KIND
Patti LuPone, who took some knocks for her Canarsie Cockney in Noises Off, is about to try out a new accent. Would you believe Austrian? She will shortly be starring in a Lincoln Center workshop of Doll, a musical biography of the much-married Alma Schindler (1879-1964) to be directed by Graciela Daniele. You might deduce from the title that writer Scott Frankel is taking an entirely different tack than did director Bruce Beresford and screenwriter Marilyn Levy in the movie they made of that life, Bride of the Wind. The film, released last June, stars Sarah Wynter, Jonathan Pryce, and Vincent Perez. Schindler's list of husbands included some of the most influential men of the 19th century: composer Gustav Mahler, architect Walter Gropius, and The Song of Bernadette author Franz Werfel. But her great love got away: painter Oskar Kokoschka.
BARK OF THE BART
It may or may not surprise you to hear that Oskar Kokoschka will be played in that workshop by Roger Bart, the Tony-winning Snoopy of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Currently Bart can be found at the St. James in a Tony-nominated performance, playing bottom to Gary Beach's Tony-winning top in The Producers.
Such a dizzy duo, those two--and they're spilling over into post-Producers projects, like the duet they do for Centaur Entertainment's seasonal salute album Broadway Cares: Home for the Holidays. All proceeds go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and disaster relief organizations associated with the World Trade Center tragedy. More than 20 Broadway artists came out caroling for the occasion--among them, Alan Cumming, Liza Minnelli, Christine Ebersole, Audra McDonald, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Victor Garber, and Jane Krakowski.
Bart & Beach are one of only a few twosomes on board. They even got to pick their own holiday tune: "Silver Bells," a little something that Jay Livingston and Ray Evans dashed off and added to an already-filmed Bob Hope flick of 50 years ago, The Lemon Drop Kid. The day Bart & Beach recorded it, an obit on Livingston, 86, appeared in The New York Times and noted that the tune was originally called "Tinkle Bells." It seems the first Mrs. Livingston demurred; her exact words were, "Are you out of your mind?" The change was made and the song sold 140 million records.
LENDING HELPING HANDS
Journalist-turning-impresario Scott Siegel has come up with another great idea worth producing. His first great idea was the Broadway by the Year series, which he initiated earlier this year with two concerts at Town Hall and which he plans to perpetuate--and double to four concerts--next season. Songs from 1933 will be done on March 18, the ones of 1940 on April 15, the ones of 1951 on May 13 and the ones of 1964 on June 10.
His new notion is called Broadway's Helping Hands, to be presented on November 19 at Town Hall--and, yes, it's a benefit that splashes about in the Broadway pool. "The purpose," says my TheaterMania confrere, "is to raise money to buy theater tickets in January and February--when Broadway needs it the most--and then give those tickets to the firemen, policemen, and victims of September 11." Among the first stars Siegel has signed for the event are Chita Rivera, Carolee Carmello, Liz Callaway, Ann Hampton Callaway, Judy Kuhn, Stephen Schwartz, Andrea McArdle, Priscilla Lopez, Bryan Batt, Emily Skinner, and Emily Loesser.
More names will be posted closer to the date of the benefit. Thommie Walsh will direct the procedings and the musical director is Mark Hartman. Scott's producing.
The Signature Theater Company has yet to nail down its upcoming, all-Lanford Wilson season, but The Book of Days (published before a New York premiere) looks most probable for presentation among the quote new plays unquote. After that, it's anyone's guess. Signature's artistic director, James Houghton, is hoping to take a whack at directing the first New York revival Burn This (1988). And who is he paging to play Pale, the explosive chef who ignites the drama? None other than three-time Oscar nominee Edward Norton, who is riding very high indeed in movies these days. If he comes down off that high horse, it would be his first New York stage appearance since his struggling-young-unknown days with the 29th Street Rep. He couldn't ask for a more dynamic role: John Malkovich was positively Brandoesque as Pale, and Eric Roberts followed with his take on the character. But the Tony went to the leading lady who was on the receiving end of Pale's blistering rage: Joan Allen, whose career has swerved in a cinematic direction in recent years.
All Wilson remembers is the Tony errors-of-omission: Malkovich, the play, and director Marshall Mason failed to get nominated, and Lou Liberatore lost the Tony for Featured Actor in a Play to B.D. Wong's performance in the title role of M. Butterfly. "The day after the nominations were announced, [B.D.] came down to the theater and apologized to Lou," Wilson recalls. "He said, 'This is so wrong because I have the lead and you're in a supporting category. By all rights, I should be up for Best Actress.' "
TACT-FULLY PUT PRIESTLEY
Those of you who never realized that J.B. Priestley called again after An Inspector Calls are advised to check out his seldom-seen 1937 opus Time and the Conways, which The Actors Company Theater (TACT) will reprise for three concert performances this weekend at the New-York Historical Society (2 West 77th Street) at 7:30pm on Friday, 2pm on Sunday, and 7:30pm on Monday. Simon Jones, Delphi Harrington, Eve Michelson, Margaret Nichols, John Plumpis, Scott Schafer, and Lyn Wright comprise the cast.
When the play was first (and last) seen on Broadway in 1938, it starred Sybil Thorndike and Jessica Tandy (pre-Hume Cronyn). At the time, Tandy was wed to Jack Hawkins.