Hail and Farewell...and Welcome
Broadway bids adieu to GWEN VERDON and JASON ROBARDS, and prepares to welcome ERIN DILLY.
GOODBYES TO GWEN AND JASON
The Broadhurst will be the scene of memorial services for two of Broadway's classiest acts: Gwen Verdon--who, with Angela Lansbury, shares the distinction of winning the most number of Tonys for her musical trouping (four)--will be remembered on February 20 at 11am. Jason Robards, the only person to win two Best Supporting Actor Oscars in a row (for Julia and All the President's Men) and the theater's foremost interpreter of Eugene O'Neill (The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey Into Night, A Moon for the Misbegotten, Ah, Wilderness!), will be honored on February 26 at 12 noon.
MINDING YOUR PEES & Q'S
Fancy a time in the future when water is a scarce commodity, when the government takes over public facilities and charges you to go to the bathroom. Fancy all that set to music and you have the gist of Urinetown, an outrageous comedy (book by Greg Kotis, songs by Mark Hollmann) that was a big hit when it debuted at the Fringe Festival. Now, it appears to be pointed toward Broadway after Labor Day. Director John Rando, fresh from Neil Simon's The Dinner Party and soon to revive Herb Gardner's A Thousand Clowns, is putting together a spring dry run of the property at the American Theater of Actors on West 54th. Rehearsals commence February 20 and the show will close on Memorial Day. John Cullum may be on board. Confirmed for the young-lover roles are Jennifer Laura Thompson (the lead in Footloose) and Hunter Foster (author of the musicalized Summer of '42). Also in the cast: Triumph of Love's Nancy Opel, 1776's Daniel Marcus, Footloose's John Deyle, Side Show's Jeff McCarthy and Ken Jennings, and Spencer Kayden. The songs are said to be super and the comedy is supposed to have an edgy anger to it, à la Threepenny Opera.
THE STARS ARE GONNA TWINKLE AND SHINE
Sinthea Starr, who shined so brightly with Lypsinka last Fourth of July in a one-day-only drag edition of the Mary Martin-Carol Channing Legends at Sag Harbor's Bay Street Theater, will return to the scene of the crime on November 3 with a new legend--Patricia Neal, the Oscar- and Tony-winner--for an evening of songs and stories they call Old Friends....The likewise Tony-winning Donna McKechnie, back from playing Mama Rose at the Great Lakes Theater Festival and biding her time till Mack & Mabel returns to Broadway, tried out in Palm Springs the one-woman show she wrote with Christopher Durang. It's called Inside the Music, after Ed Kleban's first draft of Cassie's solo in A Chorus Line (final draft: "The Music and the Mirror.") Thommie Walsh, also of A Chorus Line ("Suicide in Buffalo is redundant"), directed....Currently, Walsh is directing and choreographing the Ann-Margret tour of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas; he was only the assistant choreographer (to Tommy Tune) the first time around. A-M, by the way, is playing Miss Mona in an arm sling after a fall from her motorcycle. What does it take to keep that girl off motorcycles?....The original publicist for A Chorus Line, Bill Schelble, is rounding up members of the original cast for the opening night of Kleban's second musical, A Class Act. Like A Chorus Line, it has been deliberately titled to come first in the ABC listings.
THE DILLIE THAT WAS MILLIE IS NOW PHYLLIS
Thoroughly modern Michael Mayer, who just did Thoroughly Modern Millie in La Jolla, is finally back among us in New York and ready to direct The Credeaux Canvass for Playwrghts Horizons--but he's waiting until we get closer to the Hollywood strike to cast it. (Rehearsals begin April 10, so he has a little time to play with.) If there is a strike, chances are excellent that the play will star Boys Don't Cry Oscar winner Hilary Swank, who did the reading. It's about a will and an art forgery, and its author--Keith Bunin--is already being trumpeted as "the find of the season."....Did ya notice that Erin Dilly, who began rehearsals in the title role of the aforementioned Thoroughly Modern Millie but didn't make it to opening night, is about to come to Broadway sooner than Millie as Young Phyllis in Follies?....The "old Sally" in Follies, twice-Tonyed Judith Ivey, admits to " 'Losing My Mind' these days. I haven't sung since 1984," she moans--and that was a workshop (which never went beyond a workshop) of Philco Blues, about a soap-opera fan. Not to worry, Judy--you are, after all, Judith Ivey, and you're perfect for Sally. "Everybody says that," she shoots back with a quizzical, "beats me" expression....Louis Zorich, the Ziegfeld-like impresario of Follies, looked around the rehearsal room the other day and saw half the cast tearing up over Joan Roberts rendition of "One More Kiss." Roberts is, of course, part of musical-comedy history: She was Laurey in the original Oklahoma!
RISES AND FALLS
Robert Falls, who recently helmed both Death of a Salesman and Aida on Broadway, is back in Chicago, directing traffic--i.e., the mad scramble of actors rushing back and forth at the new twin-theater facility at the Goodman, doing two plays simultaneously: the American premieres of Alan Ayckbourn's interconnected hits, House/Garden. One of the few places where that feat could be duplicated in New York is Manhattan Theatre Club's City Center facilities. It is also the most logical place; MTC has a happy history with Ayckbourn, running from Woman in Mind to the recent Comic Potential, so Falls may rise again there next season.
Other news from Chicago: Theatergoers usually play it close to the vest there, ambling rather than stampeding to the box office, but The Producers has already "gone clean." It made $797,436 in its opening week at the Cadillac Palace. One source who has seen the show there says that, in addition to being an assured hit, "It'll put Nathan Lane back on top." Also, Matthew Broderick is in fine form and "carries all the romance in the story." Do you have your tickets yet??? This is your last warning!
FAMILY ROWS, RUSSKIE STYLE