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Loving Lee

The Actors' Fund celebrates Lee Strasberg, Jana Robbins spells Michele Lee, and Kurt Weill goes to the library. logo

Lee Strasberg
The Actors' Fund of America is celebrating the 100th birthday of the late Lee Strasberg, almost three months after the fact, with a starry little to-do in the mezzanine lobby of the Minskoff on Monday, February 11. They'll use that occasion to announce the committee for the inaugural Lee Strasberg Artistic Achievement Award, which will be given annually to an outstanding colleague in the entertainment community. Two who co-starred with the Actors' Studio guru in movies--Al Pacino from The Godfather II and Sophia Loren from The Cassandra Crossing--and Strasberg's widow, Anna, will head up the anniversary celebration.

Among those on tap to attend: Joe Bologna, Phil Donahue, Geraldine Ferraro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Harvey Keitel, John Lithgow, Elaine May, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Estelle Parsons, Meredith Patterson, Renee Taylor, Marlo Thomas, Marisa Tomei, and Diane Von Furstenberg.



Richard Eyre, who's now directing Liam Neeson and Laura Linney in The Crucible, directed Judi Dench to the Tony his last time on Broadway--and now it appears he's directed her towards the Oscar. She's certain to be among the Best Actress contenders for Iris, Eyre's harrowing account of Iris Murdoch's descent into Alzheimer's, when the Academy Award nominations are posted on Tuesday...and Jim Broadbent, who was Gilbert to Allan Corduner's Sullivan in Topsy-Turvy, stands an even better chance of winning for his supporting performance as Murdoch's sweetly steadfast spouse.

A novelist of note, Murdoch collaborated on a few plays (with, among others, J.B. Priestley) but only once did she solo as a dramatist, adapting her novel The Black Prince into a play. It has never been presented in this country, but Sabra Jones has her attorney looking into remedying that: She wants to resurrect The Mirror Repertory Company for the first time in a decade with this project, and she has spoken to Ian McKellen about guest starring.

McKellen and Helen Mirren, who recently co-starred on Broadway in The Dance of Death, may both wind up in supporting Oscar categories--he for Lord of the Rings and she for Gosford Park, which already got her the New York Film Critics' vote of approval.


Jana Robbins

Eve Harrington was accused of sending out foot-runners to alert the media that she was going on for Margo Channing; Jana Robbins just uses a word processor. (So much less wear 'n' tear on the soles, I say.) This very talented lady tells me she'll be going on for Michele Lee in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife tonight (Friday, February 8), twice on Saturday, and on Sunday afternoon--plus she's braced to go on for Valerie Harper should the star not make it back to the Barrymore for Tuesday night's performance. That's right: Jana stands by for both, and if that's not an indication of how gifted she is, check her out on Sunday nights at Arci's Place (March 10-31, 8pm). Turns out she is a terrific cabaret performer, to boot.

Anna Manahan is apt to evoke a lot of double-takes Sunday night when she hits the boards here--in The Matchmaker at The Irish Rep--for the first time since her Tony-winning performance in Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane. She has dropped 40 pounds, for starters; and, even if she's still not quite beauty contestant caliber, she looks great. In fact, you see glimmers of the gamin who found her way to Broadway (and Tony competition) in 1969 in Brian Friel's Lovers. Of course, the dark, deliciously malicious aspects of her Beauty Queen role severely curtailed "the cutes." You'll no doubt recall the show's promo art: Manahan festering slovenly in a ratty bathrobe.

It's a new Manahan in other respects, too: the lady's in love with the doctor who saved her life. During her Beauty Queen reign, she went to a New York physician who discovered a previously undiagnosed (and life-threatening) viral heart ailment, then successfully treated it. Incidentally, the Matchmaker she's in is not the one of Thornton Wilder's invention but of John B. Keane's. Dicky Mick Dicky O'Connor is the male Irish variant of Dolly Levi, and his correspondence is the gist of this multi-charactered two-hander. Manahan shares the stage, as she did in Dublin, with a splendid and charming conspirator, Des Keogh.


Kurt Weill

Another timeless talent, composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950), is being honored at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts with an exhibition called Kurt Weill: Making Music Theater in the Donald and Mary Oenstager Gallery. The free exhibition, which runs through May 4, opened on February 7 with Paula Laurence, Mamma Mia!'s Judy Kaye, and Peter Howard performing some of Weill's best-loved works. Special attention is given to the composer's astonishingly varied contribution to the musical theater: e.g., Lady in the Dark, Street Scene, Love Life, The Seven Deadly Sins, and the landmark Threepenny Opera.

Five special events in the library's Bruno Walter Auditorium will supplement the exhibit. Kaye and her husband, actor David Green, will read correspondence between Weill and his collaborators in a program called Speak Low When You're Working on a Show. On March 7 at 6:30pm, soprano Jennifer Goode and baritone Jacob Langfelder will offer Unsung Weill, songs cut from his Broadway shows and Hollywood musicals. Rob Fisher, musical director for City Center's Encores! series, will lead a panel discussion titled Kurt Weill and the Golden Age of the American Musical Theatre on April 4 at 6:30 pm. Weill's work will also be on display in the screening on April 18 at 6pm of the rarely seen film Where Do We Go From Here? (1945), which starred Fred MacMurray and June Haver a dozen years before they married. Lastly, on May 13 at 6:30pm, winners of the 2002 Lotte Lenya Competition will perform in concert Theater Songs by Weill and His Contemporaries.

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