Front and Center
Tovah Feldshuh is not letting go of Golda and Bobby Steggert gets a second chance at Yank.
"Now, I can bring Golda to London or Australia or even the English Theatre of Vienna," she says. "But it will be a pared-down version, without all the Broadway bells and whistles, so I can do it at benefits or with other pieces. Basically, it needs to travel in a suitcase. It will be interesting to be the producer, but I've come to that moment in my life where I want to decide the menu. As an actor, you just sit around and wait for the call."
Meanwhile, if you need your Golda fix right away, Feldshuh can be seen as the mighty Meir in O Jerusalem, director Elie Chouraqui's film adaptation of the famed novel by Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre about the friendship between a Jew and Arab, set against the formation of Israel. Chouraqui offered Feldshuh the role after seeing her in the play, and she immediately accepted the offer. "I got a chance to travel to a beautiful island of Rhodes with my mother -- where the movie was shot -- and to hang out with my co-stars Tom Conti and Ian Holm," she says. "That's what I call an actor's dream."
Unfortunately, the filming didn't go completely smoothly. "We were often shooting on a wing and prayer because of finances, so some of what I wanted to do in the film never got shot," says Feldshuh. "But it was a worthy cause, because the film shows the principle that the narcissism of believing only in your own cause tends to lead to death. I don't have the solution to the Middle East peace problem, but I do think we need to begin the process one live body at a time."
Until Feldshuh can return to playing Golda she will be keeping herself busy by portraying Katharine Hepburn in Matthew Lombardo's solo piece Tea at Five in brief engagements in Chicago and Florida. "I played Hepburn early in my career opposite Tommy Lee Jones in the TV movie The Amazing Howard Hughes and I was very good. But I know my work is about to start," she says.
She may also work with Lombardo on another theatrical piece about another famed Hollywood star. "I may play Tallulah Bankhead in Matthew's new play Looped," she reveals. "It's very different than my piece on her, Tallulah, Hallelujah. It's a two-hander that takes place when Tallulah comes into a recording studio to loop some lines, and she's drunk, and her life story spills out."
Feldshuh even has a grand plan in which she can showcase her skill at capturing these legendary ladies. "My dream one day is to do Hepburn, Tallulah, and Golda in repertory at the same theater three nights in a row. You couldn't find three people any further apart. Then again, it might be nice to do a play with other people some day."
Two years ago, the musical Yank, an unusual love story about a pair of soldiers in World War II, was the hit of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Now, Yank is getting a full production from Brooklyn's acclaimed Gallery Players, with Bobby Steggert -- who earned a 2007 Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for his work as Jimmy in 110 in the Shade -- as Stu, the more naive half of that couple.
"I had actually been asked to audition for the show back then, but I was only doing plays and I was kind of skeptical about the material," he says. "But when I saw it, I was so pleasantly surprised by how the music was so stylistically true to the period but also fresh, and how strong the book was, that I really wished I had done it. So the fact that it's coming along at this point in my career is great."
Steggert says he has real respect for his theatrical alter ego. "Stu has such incredible bravery, despite seeming weak and insecure; he has a real peaceful understanding of who he is," says the actor. "It's so easy today to take our relative freedom for granted, but I am thrilled to be responsible for a character who fights for what he believes in."
Yank fits in with Steggert's focus on doing new and interesting work -- terms that definitely apply to the musical Saved at Playwrights Horizons, in which he will appear next year. "They took the movie, but gave it a little more depth and a little more heart, while making sure it's still funny," he says.