Amanda Green stays true to High Fidelity, and Patricia Elliott returns to the stage. Plus: The hottest new CDs, and the ladies of Wicked make the cabaret scene.
Green is thrilled the Lindsay-Abaire, the author of such plays as Rabbit Hole and Fuddy Meers, came aboard. "I had started to do the book myself, but it turned out to be too much," she says. "David has such a twisted sense of humor, which I love. I think telling the story was the hardest part, staying true to the characters and making sure they behaved the way they should. That said, it was important that we just didn't put the novel or the film on stage."
Not surprisingly, Green had the best time writing for the character Laura, Rob's ex-girlfriend and true love (played by Jenn Colella). "She was wonderfully represented in the original book by Nick Hornby," she comments, "but as we were writing the show, it was hard to give her equal weight to the guys. It was important to give her a lot of humor and a smart personality. We didn't want her to be some generic 'great girl.' And Jenn is an old friend of ours; she was the first person to sing any of Laura's songs, when we were trying them out in clubs. So we're thrilled she got cast."
She has equally warm words for the show's main character and his portrayer, Will Chase. "A lot of my male friends are like Rob. He's a complicated guy -- antic, angry, and mixed-up -- but you have to love him," says the happily married Green. "I first saw Will in Lennon. He was so charming and good-looking, and I thought, 'That's it. He's Rob.'"
It isn't easy to get Tony Award winner Patricia Elliott back on stage these days; the former A Little Night Music star routinely says no to any kind of eight-show-a-week run. But Elliott loves doing staged readings -- and when you throw in another chance to portray one of her favorite characters, the opportunity to work with one of her favorite actresses, and the ability to contribute to a good cause, you've found the winning combination. Hence, she'll be happily starring in the No Frills Company's benefit reading of Eileen Atkins' play Vita and Virginia, about the friendship between authors Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, at the Cherry Lane on Mondays, November 27 and December 11.
"Kathy and I first met at a fundraiser where we did some silly little skits, but I knew we would dance together in a piece like this," she says. "Acting with her is like playing a great game of tennis; we're just so present for one another. And we're both going not just for the British reserve, but for the emotional underbelly of the piece." Indeed, Elliott has already got another play in mind for herself and Chalfant: "I'd love for us to do an all-female Waiting for Godot, but I don't know if we could get the rights from the Beckett estate."
She first portrayed Sackville-West in 1985 in Virginia, which starred Kate Nelligan as Woolf. "When we were doing that play," she recalls, "Kate said to me one day, 'You have to act like you were raised in a castle, you need to walk differently.' Vita was almost six feet tall. So I went to the Frick Museum uptown and walked around it like it was my home. The next day, Kate said I did it. But one night, backstage, I really felt that Vita's presence came into me. Not long after, Vita's granddaughter was in the audience. Afterwards, she came over, gave me a hug, and said, 'You are my grandmother.'"
Elliott is still playing her longtime role of Renee Devine Buchanan on the ABC soap One Life to Live, but now she shows up for only a handful of episodes each year. "I love the character and sometimes I get to do great stuff," she says. "I recently had a scene that was like Medea. And I'll be on the Christmas episodes, doing some small bits. When I first started acting, I told Stacy Keach that if my career ever got to the point where I had do a soap, I'd leave the business. But this has been the most wonderful 18 years. I was originally scared of the camera; now I'm addicted to it."
ON THE RECORD
Admirers of the great Stephen Sondheim might want to add Simply Sondheim (Kritzerland) to their collection; though some of the songs aren't all that well sung here, the 2-CD set is amazingly comprehensive, including such lesser-known items as "The Girls of Summer" and "Back in Business." The newest offering from Jamie deRoy & friends, If I Sing (PS Classics), offers some of the world's greatest contemporary songwriters -- among them, Stephen Schwartz, Lucy Simon, Julie Gold, and Maury Yeston -- performing their own tunes. In a smiliar vein is Charles Sings Strouse (PS Classics), in which the famed composer sings two dozen of his songs, including several from Annie.
Speaking of that megahit, Broadway Unplugged 2 (Bayview) delivers such singular pleasures as an all-male version of "It's a Hard Knock Life," not to mention Norm Lewis' "I'd Rather Be Sailing," Liz Callaway's "Be a Lion," and Barbara Walsh's "Losing My Mind" -- with all the amazing vocalists singing live and unamplified. And speaking of the good old days, there are the old-time thrills of Charlotte Rae: Songs I Taught My Mother (PS Classics) and Eartha Kitt: Life at the Cafe Carlyle (DRG).
As if anyone needed further proof that celebrities have better things to do on Sunday and stay home and watch football, November 19 was a very starry affair at the theater. The matinee of The Coast of Utopia at the Vivian Beaumont brought out the play's author Sir Tom Stoppard, Caroline Kennedy, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, actors Phyllis Newman, Linda Emond, Estelle Parsons, Howard McGillin, and Bernard White, producer Margo Lion, and Vineyard Theatre artistic director Doug Aibel.
That evening, the opening of the Manhattan Theatre Club's production of Paul Rudnick's Regrets Only attracted a galaxy of glitterati. Seen partying at the swanky Beacon restaurant were Nathan Lane, Judith Light, Dana Ivey, Edward Hibbert, Claudia Shear, Charles Busch, Peter Bartlett, Terrence McNally and Tom Kirdahy, Celia Weston, Jerry Mitchell, Daryl Roth, Doug Wright, Michael Greif, Jessica Hagedorn, and the cast of MTC's new show The American Pilot, which officially bows on Tuesday.
The peerless Betty Buckley will present a Christmas show at the State Theatre in New Brunswick on December 2; Tony Award nominee Bruce Adler will star in the Folksbiene production of A Yiddish Vaudeville, December 3-17 at the Manhattan JCC; the gorgeous Kelli O'Hara will perform Beauty Bright, a benefit concert for the New York Festival of Song, at Lincoln Center's Kaplan Penthouse on December 9; Donna Lynne Champlin, Eric Michael Gillett, and Jessica Grové will headline the holiday musical Ludlow Ladd to benefit the Elisabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, December 10 and 11 at TADA.
Wicked stars Ana Gasteyer, Juila Murney, and Kate Reinders, plus former Hairspray star Carly Jibson, will join composer-lyricist Andrew Lippa for a special concert at the Metropolitan Room that will include a preview of songs from Lippa's new musical Asphalt Beach, December 11; Oscar winner and Broadway veteran Keith Carradine will be the headliner at Joe's Pub on December 13; former Spamalot star Lauren Kennedy will celebrate the season with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops in Holiday POPS! at Verizon Hall, December 13-23; and the great jazz singer Dianne Reeves will perform Christmas Time is Here at the Community Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey on December 16 and at the Miami Performing Arts Center on December 22.