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How to Give the Gift of Theater for Mother's Day

Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway get ready to entertain Mom. logo

"I was so worried that I had missed Mother's Day, I ended up sending flowers two weeks early," laughs actor and playwright Charles Busch.

Don't panic! There's still time to remember your mother on her special day--Sunday, May 14--with the gift of theater.

Impress Mom by taking her to see a show dedicated to one of her favorite legends: Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Frank Sinatra, or Barbra Streisand. "My mom grew up with a passion for Dietrich's work," says drag illusionist James Beaman, who stars as the screen goddess in Marlene! Alive at the Café de Paris. "This show is a chance for Mom to 'visit' with Marlene." On May 14, Mickey Coburn (actress, playwright, and Beaman's mother) will introduce Marlene with a poem written by Noel Coward. "Mom has always been very supportive of me," Beaman says proudly.

At Don't Tell Mama, acclaimed Streisand impersonator Steven Brinberg will perform a medley of songs culled from Mrs. James Brolin's "permed-hair days." One song included in Simply Barbra 2000 is "Mother," written by John Lennon. "A lot of fans wish Barbra was their mother," jokes Brinberg.

For Mae-minded Moms:
Dirty Blonde
Claudia Shear brings sassy sex symbol Mae West to life in Broadway's newest play, Dirty Blonde. For fans of Old Blue Eyes, the music of Frank Sinatra is faithfully captured in the cabaret show Our Sinatra.

"I'm not sure what I'd take my mom to see," confesses Jason Catalona from The Bomb-itty of Errors,the hip-hop take on Shakespeare. "She would probably enjoy The Green Bird. I like Julie Taymor; she does a lot of cool stuff with puppets and costumes."

For feline-friendly Moms:
The Lion King
There seems to be a mutual admiration society among The Bomb-itty of Errors' cast and Taymor, who directed The Lion King in addition to The Green Bird. In the current issue of Vogue, Taymor praises Bomb-itty as "theater at its most compelling!"

A fail-safe choice for entertaining Mom, Grandma, or your favorite aunt is a Broadway musical. Contact, Swing!, Aida, The Phantom of the Opera, Cats are excellent possibilities.

"I'd suggest Cabaret," says Tom Gualtieri, a cast member in off-Broadway's provocative Naked Boys Singing. "Like our show, Cabaret offers singing, dancing, and debauchery!" When Gualtieri's mother saw him in the revealing revue, she remarked, "You haven't changed since you were a baby!" To which a chagrined Gualtieri responds, "I hope she was referring to my personality!"

For Bard-bearing Moms:
Kiss Me, Kate
"I would take 'Mommy,' as I call her, to see Kiss Me, Kate," states Aida star Heather Headley. "She loves Brian Stokes Mitchell. And I think she'd love Marin [Mazzie], Amy [Spanger], Stanley [Mathis], and everyone else in the production. After a night at Aida--with all the crying and turmoil--I'd like her to see another kind of 'forbidden love' story."

Headley's dashing Aida co-star, Adam Pascal, recommends an evening of comedy. "I would probably take my mother to see Dame Edna: The Royal Tour because I think she would really enjoy it!" he says simply. Fully Committed star Mark Setlock agrees. "Dame Edna is for moms, dads, children....Everybody should see Dame Edna--she's Broadway's Earth Mother!"

Coincidentally, Setlock and Dame Edna (Barry Humphries) are both nominated for the Drama Desk Award in the Best Solo Performance category. "I hope she wins!" beams Setlock, who recently shared an Outer Critics Award for Outstanding Solo Performance with Rose's Olympia Dukakis. Setlock's showmanship would make any mother proud! Coincidentally, the Drama Desk Awards will be presented on Mother's Day.

For story-saving Moms:
By the way, Rose, which recounts a feisty Jewish woman's life from its beginning in Russia to modern-day Miami Beach, is a dramatic choice for Mother's Day -- as are A Moon for the Misbegotten, The Real Thing, and The Waverly Gallery.

Brinberg offers special praise to Waverly Gallery star Eileen Heckart, who will be given a special Tony Award in June. "She is such a great actress," he says. "It's a very touching performance."

"I would like to take my mom to see A Moon for the Misbegotten," remarks Beamen. "She saw it originally with Colleen Dewhurst and Jason Robards, and it made a big impression on her."

"A mother's heart never hardens, it only breaks!" bellows Mrs. Miller (Joyce Van Patten) to her son Howard (Matthew Broderick) in Elaine May's Taller Than a Dwarf. In an all-star cast, Cynthia Darlow holds her own as the comedy's belabored landlady. Having portrayed mothers throughout her career, Darlow is quick to recognize the talents of other actresses in similar roles. "I would recommend Waiting in the Wings--the cast is full of fabulous women playing moms," she notes. "And Dinner With Friends has wonderful young suburban moms."

Not to be "out-momed," Taller Than A Dwarf features two comic mothers, expertly played by Van Patten and Marcia Jean Kurtz "They bring a lot of warmth and humanity to these very broad characters," notes Darlow, who was last seen in the hit revival of Mae West's Sex. "Mrs. Miller is a dynamo!" interjects Van Patten. "She sees her son as a reflection of her--when he does well, so does she. (She's) a hard mother to have, but a great mother to play!"

Mother's Day could be an opportunity to introduce Mom to your big city, cutting-edge lifestyle. A Taste of Bunny; Enough About Me: An Unauthorized Biography; The Vagina Monologues; Girl Meets City; Naked Boys Singing; I Need a Life are alternatives.

"It's the kind of show your mother would probably like," claims Jennifer Vernon regarding ...Bathroom Stalls, in which she plays a less-than-blushing bride. "But you may be too embarrassed to sit next to her during it!"

"You can take your mom to see The Vagina Monologues," says Busch, whose Broadway-bound The Tale of the Allergist's Wife features Linda Lavin and Shirl Bernheim as a bickering mother and daughter. "Maybe she'll have a stroke and you'll get your inheritance quicker!" he quips.

Nontraditional family values fill Holly Hughes' latest work Preaching to the Perverted, a solid choice to help mom understand your political beliefs. "I'm not sure if I could have brought (my parents) to any theater," remarks the controversial performance artist. "My mother was Archie Bunker in drag...and when my dad heard a show of mine was being presented in Michigan -- where I'm from -- he said, 'Does it have any language?' On one hand he meant four-letter words; on the other hand, he meant exactly what he said! I think they would have enjoyed Kiki & Herb: Playing for Time. At their best, they were Kiki and Herb!"

Be warned: If your mom doesn't approve of these shows, she may invite you to see Jean Cocteau Repertory's Medea--a play which clearly shows that child-rearing can be murder!

Unfortunately, not all mothers are available for theatergoing. Some do not reside in New York; others are no longer with us. "My mom passed away when I was young," reveals playwright and actor Jonathan Marc Sherman, currently co-starring in Marc Spitz's comedy I Wanna Be Adored. "I would like to imagine that my mom can see any show. Her spirit never has to pay, and she always gets the best seat in the house!"

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