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Loose Lips

Brian Scott Lipton chats with Maureen McGovern, keep tabs on Lea DeLaria, and tells us that there is life after Prymate for André DeShields, James Naughton, and Heather Tom. logo
Maureen McGovern
(Photo © Michael Portantiere)
While the song is not part of her new act, Sultry Songs on a Hot Summer's Night, Maureen McGovern should be singing "On the Road Again." Tonight, the California native begins a three-night stint at Odette's in New Hope; then she lands at Le Jazz Au Bar on Wednesday for an 11-night run of the show.

While the program features standards such as "Embraceable You," "Fever," and "Blues in the Night," there are two newer songs that McGovern is most looking forward to singing. "I'm doing William Bolcom's 'Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise,' which really defies description," she says. "I consider it my one dementia moment in the show. And I'm opening with Bill Finn's 'Sailing.' He's such a brilliant writer. I did the West Coast premiere of Elegies earlier this year. My dad was really sick while I was doing it -- we lost him on July 4th -- and the show went right to my heart. I think it's a timeless piece and the most tasteful and powerful expression of 9/11 I know. We're a country that doesn't deal with death very well; to have something that celebrates the lives of people and finds humor and passion in this subject is so important."

After a brief return to California, where she'll record a song for an independent film and appear on the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon, McGovern heads to Duke University in Durham, North Carolina on September 7 to begin rehearsals for the pre-Broadway run of Little Women. She's playing the family matriarch, Marmee, in the musical, which will arrive at the Virginia Theatre on December 2. "People ask me which role I'm playing, which I think is hilarious. Don't you think I'm a little long in the tooth for Jo?", rhetorically asks McGovern, who turned 55 last month. "As a kid, Jo was my favorite character, but what I love about Marmee is that she is the real rock of the family."

McGovern is excited to work with the show's director, Susan H. Schulman: "Susan is a real actor's director. She bonds a cast the way few directors do. I saw Sutton Foster do a reading of the show, and she is the definitive Jo. She's beyond brilliant. I think Susan has perfectly cast this show." (The company also includes Megan McGinnis as Beth, Amy McAlexander as Amy, Jenny Powers as Meg, Janet Carroll as Aunt March, Danny Gurwin as Laurie, John Hickok as Professor Baher, Jim Weitzer as John Brooke, and Robert Stattel as Mr. Lawrence.) Adds McGovern, "Susan gave me my first job in the theater when she asked me to do The Sound of Music at Pittsburgh CLO in 1981. I went with enough clothes for two weeks and, while I was there, Joe Papp asked me to come to New York to audition to take over Linda Ronstadt's role in Pirates of Penzance. Three weeks later, I was on Broadway."

Theatergoers will have to wait until the spring to see Emmy winner Alan Alda back on stage, when he stars alongside Liev Schreiber and Frederick Weller in the revival of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. But some folks got to see Alda on the other side of the footlights on Tuesday: He and his wife Arlene attended a performance of Squeeze Box, the Ann Randolph solo show produced by Anne Bancroft.

Myra Lucretia Taylor is having a super summer. The versatile actress not only received the best reviews of her career for Lynn Nottage's Fabulation at Playwrights Horizons, she also received a coveted $15,000 Fox Foundation Fellowship. Actors have to be nominated for this annual honor, and Taylor was put up by her old pal, director Emily Mann.

The money is going to a very good cause. "I'm going to use it to get ready to play King Lear for the all-female Queens Company," says Taylor. "I want to study voice with Andrew Wade of the RSC and also take voice lessons with Victoria Clark. I want to take boxing lessons at Gold's Gym to get in shape, because that's where the real boxers go. And I want to go to England to see the all-female Much Ado About Nothing and to see Corin Redgrave do Lear. I've already seen Avery Brooks and Christopher Plummer do the role. To me, it's just storytelling, and I like it to hear that story again and again"

The production should hopefully be ready to hit the boards next year, dependent on finding a home. "We'd love to be at BAM or The Public," Taylor says. As for casting, she knows of one Tony-nominated star who's ready to climb aboard. "Isabel Keating wants to play Gloucester," she tells me. Meanwhile, until Lear happens, Taylor's looking for her next gig -- and if it's a transfer of Fabulation, so much the better. "It was a great feeling to be in something people really wanted to see," she says. "It was such a fun and challenging play. I think, if we could do it again, we could be the great uniter of New York."

Lea DeLaria
(Photo © Michael Portantiere)
Lea DeLaria has already proved that she can do it all, but she's proving it again. Through Saturday, the sassy singer-actress-comedian will be showing off her jazz chops at Birdland. Next February, she'll be showing off her acting chops when she takes on the difficult role of Winnie in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days in the Worth Street Theater's co-production with Classic Stage Company. Downtown favorite David Greenspan -- who, as we reported last week, is one of this year's OBIE judges -- will star opposite DeLaria in the play, which will be directed by Jeff Cohen.

Fortunately, the dismal failure of Prymate hasn't scared its talented stars away from the stage. Two-time Tony winner James Naughton will star as former West German chancellor Willy Brandt in the American premiere of Michael Frayn's Democracy, which begins performances at the Brooks Atkinson on November 2. The much-anticipated drama will also star Richard Thomas, Robert Prosky, Michael Cumptsy, Terry Beaver, John Dossett, Julian Gamble, John Christopher Jones, Richard Masur, and Lee Wilkof...André De Shields is headlining a revival of the legal drama Inherit The Wind -- yes, another play about a monkey! -- at the Cape Playhouse through August 14...and Heather Tom will star in Moonchild, a new play about the early career of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, at the Access Theater, beginning August 14 in the New York International Fringe Festival.

According to theatrical superstition, you can't say the word "Macbeth" in a theater. This doesn't mean, however, you can't put on the Scottish Play tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Right now, the critically adored Classical Theater of Harlem is offering a production that stars OBIE winner Ty Jones. Beginning August 31, Washington D.C.'s Shakespeare Theatre will tackle the tale of the Thane with former Lion King star Patrick Page (the husband of current Chicago leading lady Paige Davis) and film actress Kelly McGillis in the leads. In January, London's Almeida Theater takes its turn at bat, with the extraordinary Simon Russell Beale and Emma Fielding as the murderous married couple.

What Broadway replacement may have the producers of his show feeling that he's more trouble than he's worth? Not only have they had to keep paying the actor whom he took the role from, but now the replacement has told them that he won't perform during the week of the Republican Convention due to his staunch Democratic politics.

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