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Loose Lips

Brad Oscar to the Max! Plus: Paul Newman returns to the stage in Westport and Kiki & Herb are set to play Carnegie Hall. logo
Brad Oscar
(Photo © Michael Portantiere)
Some actors complain about long runs, but not Brad Oscar. Having spent more than three years with The Producers, first as Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind and then in his current role as Max Bialystock, Oscar is having the best summer of his life. "I swear I'm not bored, just occasionally tired," says the actor, who has logged about 800 performances as Max here and on the road. "The show is so fulfilling in an artistic, creative way and I have such a sense of accomplishment every night. I feel that I've finally found my Max -- as funny as that sounds. It was a lot harder for me spending four years in the ensemble of Jekyll & Hyde, where I didn't feel like I was making that kind of contribution."

One thing that makes the show so much fun for Oscar is his ever-changing variety of playing partners. "There are my A-class bitches: Matthew Broderick, Steven Weber, Roger Bart -- and Andy Taylor, who was my Leo on the road and whom I just adore," says Oscar. "And now I have Hunter Foster, who is so smart and funny. We're totally simpatico. It's nice to have someone to buddy around with off stage and I think that shows up in our on stage chemistry."

So, how did Oscar take the news that he lost the role of Franz in the upcoming film version of the musical to funnyman Will Ferrell? "I was a little upset, but then I thought of all the great people who didn't get to recreate their Broadway roles on film," he says with a laugh. "I think Will Ferrell will be hysterically funny and I really hope to be part of the movie in some way."

If Julian Fleisher and Martha Plimpton's Together Again For The Third Time is half as funny as their phone conversation, we should all use our frequent flier miles to head out to L.A, where the show begins an eight-performance run on Friday at the Actors Gang El Centro theater. This seemingly unlikely pairing of the nightclub entertainer and the award-winning actress -- which began with Plimpton's one-song guest spot in Fleisher's show at Joe's Pub -- could end up with the dynamic duo becoming the next Steve and Eydie.

Their repertoire comprises originals, standards, and pop favorites, including a medley of "Nine to Five" and "Movin On' Up" that Plimpton deems her favorite moment in the act. But audiences will delight in the pair's patter as well as their music. "The young swath of people who come to see us are too canny to believe something pre-packaged that you put in front of them," says Fleisher, stressing the show's semi-improvisational nature. "So we want to give them an authentic experience, something very spontaneous, as well as a lot of great songs. And, let's face it, my relationship to standards is odd; I didn't grow up listening to Gershwin."

That Plimpton has musical chops is only surprising to those who don't know her lineage: Her dad is Oscar-winning actor-singer-songwriter Keith Carradine and her mom is original Hair star Shelley Plimpton. "I sang in musicals as a kid," says Martha, "but as an adult, I've mainly loved to sing in my house. Julian has changed my life by letting me to do this, although I still think it's not so much that I can sing but that I can act like a singer. Our voices complement each other even if our keys do not. Our other problem is that I'm not good with beginnings and endings, and Julian's not good with middles."

On the subject of performing in L.A., Plimpton and Fleischer are philosophical. "As much as they love digital cable, we know California audiences will come because they think that it's fun to be hip," Plimpton remarks. "We just want to go and bring some joy to the sad people of Los Angeles!" The gig will give the pair a chance to catch up with some old friends, some of whom may appear as special guest stars in their act. Any clues as to who might share their spotlight? Jokes Plimpton: "Well, no one on stage can be more talented than us, so that limits the possibilities!"

Mickey and Jan Rooney
Is there anyone out there who doesn't want to his/her life story on stage? The coming weeks will bring a deluge of autobiographical solo shows by everyone from legendary MGM star Mickey Rooney and his umpteenth wife Jan (at Irish Rep, beginning August 10) to semi-famous celebrity daughter Rain Pryor, poet/activist Staceyann Chin, and comedians Jessi Klein and Julie Goldman (all part of the "Women Center Stage" series at 45 Bleecker) to cabaret entertainer John Flynn's Themepark Superstar (at Upright Citizen's Brigade).

Three particularly interesting solo entries are part of the annual Midtown International Theatre Festival: Elisa DeCarlo's Toasted tells of the aftermath of the night that she came home to find a horrific confession to a murder in her e-mail; Andrea Kolb, once named "America's Funniest Mom" on The Oprah Winfrey Show, examines her somewhat difficult journey toward motherhood in Sometimes Over The Summer...; and Antoinette LaVecchia focuses on her Italian heritage in In Spite of Myself, which played last fall at Urban Stages.

"Mario Cantone couldn't be here because he got a bad case...of floor tickets to the Prince concert," quipped Amanda Green during her show on Monday night at Birdland. No matter; she and songwriting partner Tom Kitt had plenty of other famous friends on hand to present selections from their stage musical adaptation of Nick Hornsby's High Fidelity: Matt McGrath (who will star in Tom Waits's The Black Rider at ACT next month), Jenn Colella, Greg Naughton, Alice Ripley, and Amy Spanger rocked the packed house. Truly funny as these songs were, the set's highlight was Nancy Opel's hilarious rendition of "Let America Come" from last summer's Fringe Festival hit For the Love of Tiffany.

The star quotient got even higher when Jim Caruso's Cast Party took over the room a few minutes later. On hand were Kathy Najimy and husband Dan Finnerty, Stephanie J. Block (who's doing a one-nighter at Birdland on August 2), Karen Mason, Max von Essen, award winning singer-songwriter Victoria Shaw, and new age "piano genius" Jim Brickman, who actually stayed away from the Steinway.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? (I know what you're thinking!) If you're Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman -- a.k.a. Kiki & Herb -- you spend nearly two decades playing downtown bars, seedy clubs, and eventually more respectable spots like Westbeth and the Cherry Lane before you make it to West 57th Street for your "farewell" concert: Kiki & Herb Will Die For You (September 19). Of course, this may be no more a true farewell concert than any of Streisand's or the Rolling Stones' supposed swan songs, but Bond is heading off to London to study something called sceneography.

Paul Newman takes on the title role in Trumbo at the Westport Playhouse through July 21...Former sitcom/reality show star John Lehr will perform The Lehr Curse: A Series of Comedic Lectures at the Zipper on Mondays, August 16-November 8...Kevin Anderson will co-star with Eden Espinosa in John McDaniel's Brooklyn, which bows at the Plymouth on September 23...Eric Millegan, currently on the boards in Insomnia, has been cast as Harold in Paper Mill's 2005 production of Harold & Maude opposite the legendary Estelle Parsons.

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