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Loose Lips

Kate Shindle goes all girly for Michael John LaChiusa, Judy Kuhn moves into The House of Mirth, and Euan Morton of Taboo fame is only one of the stars headlining at Joe's Pub this month. logo

Kate Shindle
(Photo © Michael Portantiere)
For The Girly Show, Monday night's finale to Lincoln Center's "American Songbook" series, Kate Shindle will join more than a dozen leading ladies in singing the songs of composer Michael John LaChiusa. Many of them, including Carolee Carmello, Mary Testa, Lea DeLaria, Julia Murney, and Michele Pawk, will perform selections from the composer's shows that they've appeared in, such as Hello Again and The Wild Party. Shindle, however, is taking a different route: "Michael John asked me to sing 'See What I Wanna See' from his upcoming musical R Shomon [which will premiere in Williamstown this summer starring Audra McDonald]. He first gave it to me to sing at the Embrace benefit for Matthew Shepard this spring and I just fell in love with it."

Shindle first met LaChiusa when she played Amelia Earhart in the West Coast premiere of his First Lady Suite. "I was out in Los Angeles for pilot season and I almost didn't go into the audition," she relates. "Your agents always think you're crazy to do theater out there. But I went, got the part, and now we're great friends. Just imagine what would've happened if I stayed on the couch watching General Hospital! The only bad part of the experience was that I wore what is hopefully the worst wig I will ever have to wear. It was short, spiky, and ashy in color -- and I only function in a limited range of colors," she notes drily.

She'll be looking much different in the Storm Theater's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which begins a three-week run on May 20: Shindle, who is also known as Miss America 1998, is playing the beautiful Helena. "This is my first time doing Shakespeare professionally," she notes. "I'm not one of those Shakespeare-crazed actors; I am much more of a Chekhov girl. I would really love to play Masha in Three Sisters -- well, once I am more seasoned. But I think this part is a good fit and I've really been trying to do more comedy."

Shindle certainly learned something about comedy on the set of The Stepford Wives, written by the always-uproarious Paul Rudnick. "Paul is a lot quieter than I expected from his work and so much more overtly kind than his writing, which is so sassy," she remarks. Playing one of the titular characters in the film -- scheduled to open on June 11 -- proved to be a delicious irony for her. "I had never seen the original film before we shot this version," she admits. "But the whole time I was on the Miss America circuit, they always told us that they didn't want us to look like Stepford Wives -- and I never knew exactly what they meant!"

Those of us who've been wishing that Judy Kuhn would bring her glorious voice back to the Broadway stage -- her last full run was in the Roundabout's 1993 production of She Loves Me -- take heart. There's a glimmer of hope on the horizon. As you read this, Kuhn is in Yulee, Florida along with such other marquee names as Howard McGillin, Marla Schaffel, and Karen Mason in the Sundance Institute Theater Lab's workshop of The House of Mirth.

The new musical by A.R. Gurney, Michael Torke, and Mark Campbell is based on the famed Edith Wharton novel about a woman destroyed by her refusal to marry for money. Kuhn took up the project on little more than faith in its creators. "When they offered it to me, there was no script, no music, just an outline of the first act," she says. "And I hadn't even read the book, though I had read Wharton's other novels, Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence. But I've read it now and it's so sad."

If you can't wait to hear Kuhn, just buy a ticket to the Vineyard Theatre's annual benefit on May 24. She'll be serenading the guests at the TriBeCa Roofrop -- including honoree Kathleen Chalfant -- with selections from her critically adored cabaret act. (And here's another piece of good news: She's planning to record a new album soon with some of the act's selections.)

Kuhn has not only performed twice at the Vineyard -- in the Tina Landau-Ricky Ian Gordon musical Dream True and in the Laura Nyro revue Eli's Comin', which earned her an OBIE -- she is now on its Board of Directors. "Someone joked that I keep getting so involved, the next thing they know I'll be manning the concession stand," she says with a laugh. "I think the Vineyard is one of the few theaters in New York that is really dedicated to risk-taking, unusual work. I think we should be honoring Doug Aibel [the company's artistic director] because he's someone who not only loves artists but who also makes a home where actors, writers, and directors can come and stretch and not worry about the pressures of commercial theater."

Joe's Pub is playing host to an unusual number of theater stars this month. Jackie Hoffman continues her record-breaking run of The Kvetching Continues on May 16 and 24; Billy Porter will perform his rip-roaring At the Corner of Broadway & Soul on May 17; Isabel Rose, who starred Off-Broadway in Beau Jest and gained much attention last year for her movie musical Anything But Love, offers up a new show of songs and stories, The Single Life, on May 19; Tony-nominated Taboo star Euan Morton takes to the Pub's stage on May 30, and another talented Brit, Eliza Lumley -- who never speaks during her role in Jumpers -- shows off her voice at Joe's on May 31.

Since there are no actual nominees, the winners of the 49th Annual Village Voice OBIE Awards will be a total surprise until their names are announced on Monday night at Webster Hall. But I won't be the least bit surprised if co-hosts Swoosie Kurtz and Raúl Esparza, presenters Lili Taylor and Viola Davis, and special guest performer Tonya Pinkins take home the coveted prizes for their outstanding Off-Broadway work this year. Other celebs scheduled to be on stage and in the audience include Denis O'Hare and Idina Menzel -- who along with Kurtz, Esparza, and Pinkins were nominated for Tonys this week -- plus Menzel's handsome hubby Taye Diggs, funny lady Amy Sedaris, and model/actress Shalom Harlow.

Nobody should accuse Sal Lumetta of thinking small. This is who the actor-turned-writer envisions in the lead roles of his film Jungleland: "My dream cast is Anthony LaPaglia for Al and either Giancarlo Giannini or Danny Aiello for Joey Reds." The screenplay, co-written by Robert Lenihan, is based on the 1989 murder of Yusef Hawkins and it has already generated interest from a number of male character actors and producers. Expect some of them to be in attendance at four readings (open to the public) of the screenplay at the Gene Frankel Theater on May 15, 16, 22, and 23.

Donna Murphy, Anne Heche, Kathy Brier, Marty Richards, Lonny Price and Jeff Blumenkrantz, Gay Talese, Eric Krebs, Eric Rockwell, David Lewis, Steven Brinberg, Jamie deRoy, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg were among those in attendance at Monday night's gala benefit performance of the City Center Encores! production of Bye Bye Birdie.

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