Chenoweth goes Hollywood, Campbell goes Down Under, Gallagher goes Psycho
Charles Nelson talks TV with KRISTIN CHENOWETH, spends opening night with ROSEMARY HARRIS and JENNIFER EHLE, and talks musicals with PETER GALLAGHER.
Quick, get me a new Kristin Chenoweth! It is now definite: Last year's Tony winner (for You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown) says that NBC has picked up her pilot--quaintly called Kristin--and this means the Broadway-bound production of Thoroughly Modern Millie is now minus a Millie. It also means Fort Worth's Casa Manana is minus a Mabel (as in Mack & Mabel). Similarly, the Manhattan Theatre Club version of The Wild Party went on without her because television, it seems clear, has first dibs on her time and talent. The upcoming TV series--which sources say has been shrewdly cut to Chenoweth specifications--is about an Oklahoma girl who comes to New York to become a star. Unlike the real Kristin, however, she doesn't make it, and soon has to take A Real Job as a personal assistant to a young Donald Trump-type, played by Jon Tenney. (Move over, Ann Sothern, wherever you are.)
The Mack & Mabel resurrection was to have co-starred Jeff McCarthy, but, truth to tell, it was put on hold because composer Jerry Herman is ailing and couldn't be as involved as he would like to be. "I really want to do that role," Chenoweth says (as she did about Millie). Otherwise, Kristin will be in New York until mid-July, when she has to return to California to shoot 13 more episodes. While here, she'll busy herself doing some Carnegie Hall--plus an album of '30s songs for Sony. Her first Carnegie gig is with the New York City Gay Men's Chorus on June 12; then, on June 14 and 15, she'll reprise some numbers from her Encores! turn in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever in concerts celebrating the songs of Alan Jay Lerner. The lineup for Concert One includes Mary Cleere Haran, Elaine Stritch, Christine Andreas, and Fred Hersch; the second program doesn't skimp on stars, either: Andrea Martin, Robert Goulet, Brent Barrett, Jennifer Holliday, Debbie Gravitte, and Julia Migenes--and the guest lists are growing.
There's another Carlsbad Caverns-size hole inThoroughly Modern Millie's star lineup: David Campbell, who did such a jim-dandy job of Jimmy (Millie's slapstick swain) when the show had its invited reading at the Lamb's Club a few months ago, won't be with Millie when it goes into rehearsal August 22 at the La Jolla Playhouse. He has opted, instead, to return to Australia to become a rock star: "It was a hard decision to make--not easy at all, because I believe in the piece a lot--but I feel great about it because it was my decision. I'm only sad because I have made a lot of friends here." Neil Patrick Harris (T.V.'s Doogie Howser, M.D., and currently Toby in the New York Philharmonic Sweeney Todd) is now being paged to play Jimmy.
SIMPLY SONDHEIM/LOESSER NOTES:
Stephen Sondheim, whose first musical (Saturday Night) wound up being Campbell's lone theatrical credit here, gave Steven Brinberg the nod to do new lyrics to "In Buddy's Eyes" from Follies. In the context of Brinberg's Simply Barbra 2000, a rueful salute to the art and ego of Barbra Streisand, it comes out "In Brolin's Eyes." Not only did Sondheim like the idea, he may second the motion with new lyrics of his own. . . . You'd think, given the number of times that John Standing and Matthew Delamere groan through "[I'd Like To Get You on a] Slow Boat to China" in Peter Greenaway's latest screen abstraction (8 1/2 Women) that somebody would give proper credit to the song's author. Alas, the tune is credited to one "Frank Looser." So much for song clearance. Frank Loesser wrote that song for Esther Williams' big splash of 1949, Neptune's Daughter, but, according to Esther, the movie censors of the time cried havoc over the phrase "get you" and wouldn't allow it--so Loesser released the song as a single, and it became a huge hit. To replace it in the film, he dragged out an old trunk song that he and his then-wife (the legendary "Loesser of two evils") used to sing at Hollywood parties, and that ditty--"Baby, It's Cold Outside"--wound up winning the Oscar for that year's Best Song.
BROADWAY'S MOTHER-DAUGHTER ACT:
It's hard to imagine a more radiant sight than Rosemary Harris, figuratively Waiting in the Wings at the opening-night party for The Real Thing, the Tom Stoppard play that marked the Broadway debut of her daughter, the star: Jennifer Ehle. "The Outer Critics Circle people were so kind," says Harris. "They nominated us in separate categories so we wouldn't fight." (No telling what Tony will do.) Ehle projects a maturity on stage far beyond her years and, indeed, goes on in the play about how much older she is than her young lover, played by Oliver Pearce. "Actually," she admits off stage, "I'm only a year older." Pearce was properly impressed when, at a recent gala, he was introduced to the actor who originated his part in the first Broadway production of The Real Thing: Peter Gallagher.
PETER AND PETE:
Gallagher is now old enough to play the titular head of a dance company (in Nicholas Hytner's buoyant new flick, Center Stage) and a rock star in mid-life crisis, questioning his relevance and place in the world (in Psychoderelic, which rock legend Pete Townshend is readying for Broadway). "Hopefully, in about a year's time, we'll have a show together," says Gallagher, who first gained national attention in the rock-themed film The Idolmaker. "We were in the studio in the fall, and it's moving ahead. Working with Mr. Townsend has been one of the peak musical experiences of my life." Gallagher looks forward to developing the musical although he finds the Broadway grind "just diabolically painful. I think I've probably done 1,500 performances on Broadway [notably in Jerry Zaks' Guys and Dolls revival], and, after a certain point in your life, doing a musical for eight shows a week is rough. Just getting out of bed--you have no idea how painful it is. But it's also the only place, for an actor, where you're actually present at those divine moments--moments when, if the director and writer and designers have done their work and you've done your work, maybe once or twice a week you'll [experience] that explosion of laughter or that deep penetrating silence where you know something's occurred and you've helped facilitate it. It's as close to divine as you can come. It's almost like a church. It establishes in that second a moment of community that's absolutely palpable--and that is the sense of power an actor feels."
Although Tower Records dropped all shoplifting charges against him, Rex Reed is e-mailing friends that he still feels pretty banged up from having been accused of filching a few CDs. "I will survive and move on," the critic says, "but what a horror to realize life can be worse than The Wild Party."