Good Morning, Starshine
TOM PLOTKIN has gotten himself into a Hair-y situation at City Center.
There would have been no justice if Tom Plotkin, who sports the most unruly blond mop on Broadway (first in Footloose, now in Seussical), didn't land the lead in the Encores! reprise of Hair, May 2-7. But he did: He'll play Berger in the quick concert revival.
The cast of this go-round of the American Tribal Love Rock Musical also includes Kevin Cahoon, Luther Creek, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Brandi Chavonne Massey, Michael McElroy, Idina Menzel, Miriam Shor, and Jessica-Snow Wilson. Encores! artistic director Kathleen Marshall will direct and choreograph.
What's that ticking? Must be the minutes Amy Spanger has left in Kiss Me, Kate. She's leaving "Lois Lane" to her understudy, JoAnn M. Hunter on Sunday (April 22). Two days later, Spanger will start work on tick, tick...boom!, the little musical Jonathan Larson wrote before his Pulitzer Prize-winning Rent. The late Larson is himself a character in this opus and will be played by the Raul Esparza, the reigning Riff Raff of The Rocky Horror Show. Jerry Dixon, fresh from the short-lived newyorkers, completes the cast. And Scott Schwartz, hot-hot-hot since Bat Boy, will direct this slight case of Larson-y, due next month at the Jane Street Theater.
Hunter may soon be dancing with her real-life hubby, Kevin Neil McCready, who understudies the about-to-depart Michael Berresse in Kate. By the way, the offer is on the table for all four of the show's original principals--Spanger, Berresse, Marin Mazzie, and Tony-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell--to reunite this September in London for a Kate date.
THE BRIT IS COMING
Omigosh! Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment has turned, 35 years later, into The Munitions King: British actor David Warner (The Sea Gull, The Ballad of Cable Hogue) will make his belated Broadway debut this summer, playing Undershaft to Cherry Jones' Major Barbara, when Roundabout revives that Shavian comedy under the direction of Dan Sullivan (A Moon for the Misbegotten). Dana Ivey, the driven Miss Daisy, will play Warner's wife; Denis O'Hare, whom Sullivan just directed in Ten Unknowns, will play Jones' rich swain. Casting is nearing completion, and rehearsals begin in three weeks. Previews begin June 15, leading up to a July 12 opening at the American Airlines Theater.
When the curtain came down on Ten Unknowns for the last time at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theater on Sunday, a car was waiting for Donald Sutherland to whisk him away to Canada, where he delivered the eulogy for an old and dear friend who died on Friday. He'll be back in the fall to do the play on Broadway; by then, Sullivan and author Jon Robin Baitz hope to have the second act whipped into better shape.
Jean Louisa Kelly is having an easily charted career, from The Girl in the film version of The Fantasticks to the title role of The IT Girl, the Michael Small-Paul McKibbins musicalization of a classic Clara Bow movie. Stephen DeRosa of newyorkers, Jessica Boevers of Rent, and Jonathan Dokuchitz of The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin co-star in the show's premiere run at the York Theatre at St. Peter's Church, April 17-May 27. BT McNicholl directs.
********************END OF AN EARFUL
For the past 13.5 years, Leila Martin has been living The Actor's Dream: playing a role on Broadway, eight times a week. But, on April 21, she will "take off the velvet handcuffs" after she turns in her 4,798th--and last--performance as Madame Giry, the ballet mistress and confidante to The Phantom of the Opera.
"They sent me to L.A. as a Band-Aid a couple of times," Martin says. But, otherwise, all of her performances have been at the Majestic. The lady is a Broadway vet (from Wish You Were Here to The Rothschilds), perhaps best known prior to Phantom as a City Center Sarah Brown and the first road-company Maria in West Side Story. After her final bow in the Andrew Lloyd Webber marathon hit, she plans to see some ballet for a refreshing change, catch up on other shows, review her options, and audition a lot. One role that keenly interests her is the Olympia Dukakis character in the forthcoming Susan Birkenhead-Henry Krieger-John Patrick Shanley musicalization of Shanley's Moonstruck.
SO SUE ME
The original Sue of Susanswerphone, Jean Stapleton, came calling at Bells Are Ringing's first Broadway revival--much to the pleasure of the show's current Sue, Beth Fowler, who embraced her warmly as she entered Sardi's for the opening-night party. And there were Ella Petersons all over the place at that event (two, anyway): Phyllis Newman and Sheila MacRae. Newman met Adolph Green, who wrote the show's book and lyrics with Betty Comden, when she went out for the job of Judy Holliday's standby about a year into the run. She got the gig--and Green.
MacRae made her musical-theater bow when she took Bells on the road: "Before that, I was doing straight plays and Shakespeare," she says. Her touring partner was her then-husband, Gordon MacRae. As an enticement, composer Jule Styne threw him a new song that Styne had preferred not to risk on the Broadway leading man, Sydney Chaplin: "How Can You Speak to an Angel?"
In the current Bells, David Garrison plays Sandor, the racetrack-betting roué who woos Sue as the bogus head of Titanic Records. Garrison was last on Broadway aboard the good ship Titanic. One of his shipmates from that show, Martin Moran (the telegraph operator), plays one of Susanswerphone's most colorful customers, a zany dentist who writes songs on an air hose. "I spent last year playing a Nazi in Cabaret, so there's something incredibly releasing about doing this wacky dentist," says Moran. He claims he got there without watching a single Jerry Lewis film, but he allows: "Maybe, from a cultural point of view, Jerry is in my bones somehow. When I started out in the business, I trained as a dancer--and, although I'm primarily an actor, I found that the physical stuff came to the fore [in Bells]. It's definitely a part where 'over-the-top' doesn't exist. It's sort of 'over-the-over-the-over-the-top,' but somehow there's permission to do that in this uncynical, sweet-hearted world of Comden and Green. I felt great liberty to leap."
********************BOUQUETS AND NOSEGAYS
Previewers are already conceding to The Producers every single Tony award that isn't nailed down; brace for a BIG sweep. Nathan Lane has such a lock on the Best Actor prize that the only question seems to be whether they'll knock Matthew Broderick down to Featured Actor--a not-unprecedented move, since Gene Wilder, who originated Broderick's role in the film version, contended for an Oscar as Supporting Actor. But wouldn't such a move deprive Gary Beach of his potential prize?
Ovations are greeting 76-year-old Ruby Dee for her wonderful portrayal of a flinty Southern abortionist in Bridgette A. Wimberly's new play for the Women's Project, Saint Lucy's Eyes. The performance can only be called indestructible....Ovations are also constant--and immediate--for Faith Prince & Co. at the aformentioned Bells Are Ringing, possibly an audience backlash to those tepid reviews. It's a crowd-pleaser!
Marian Seldes is following one acting lesson in The Play About the Baby with another. After her deeply comical performance in the play proper, she makes a pitch for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and rarely has the cause been pleaded with such heartfelt eloquence. Most actors who deliver this speech choose to "wing it," but Seldes treats it as yet another opportunity to make an audience feel something, to remind them of the seriousness of the situation. I almost gave her the pin code for my ATM card.