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Of Drag Queens, Politicians, and Dead Men Walking

HARVEY FIERSTEIN drags on, TERRENCE McNALLY pouts, and MILLICENT MARTIN celebrates. logo

Harvey Fierstein

It has been 17 years since Harvey Fierstein lit up Broadway with his Tony-winning Torch Song Trilogy, but now a new light seems to be dawning at the end of the tunnel. On November 13, in the second musical workshop produced by Margo Lion of Jelly's Last Jam fame, Fierstein will drag out a role originated by Divine in John Waters' 1988 film-cult classic Hairspray. The songs are by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, and the book is by Mark O'Donnell. The director-choreographer, when he's not sprucing up Seussical, is Rob Marshall. Hovering attentively over the project is Waters. If all goes well, Hairspray could go into rehearsal in January and open by spring.



Linda Hart, who will also be in the Hairspray workshop (playing the shellac-haired Baltimore mom Deborah Harry originated), festered and squirmed through the opening night of The Full Monty. She confessed: "I sat through the whole evening tonight going, 'Oh, my God. Did I make a mistake?' Jack O'Brien offered me that beautiful part of Vicki and I turned it down. But I was so thrilled for the gal who did it [Emily Skinner] and for Jack, and I'm on to other things." One of them is Beautiful, the movie in which she plays "the very young mother" of Minnie Driver. "I was supposed to be 16 when I had her, but they omitted that line from the movie," Hart said, imploring me to dispatch foot runners with the news. "Also, tell America that Sally Field, next to Jack O'Brien, is one of the best damn directors on the planet. I really mean that. The thrill of doing Beautiful is that Sally was offered the part and said, 'I can't direct and be in it,' so she asked me to do it."



Festering for a different reason at the Full Monty premiere was its author, Terrence McNally, who rode the raves home from his San Francisco Opera hit Dead Man Walking. "They've added two extra performances in a 4,000-seat opera house," he exclaimed. "The audiences and critics love it. The New York Times is the only cruel critic--in the world! Reviews called it 'a masterpiece,' 'the great American opera,' and the Times guy totally dismissed it. It's bizarre." Came the cruel dawn, there was some unmerited carping about McNally's book for The Full Monty from The Paper of Record by the otherwise favorably disposed Ben Brantley.

The director of Dead Man Walking (and McNally's Tony-winning Love! Valour! Compassion!), Joe Mantello, is shopping around for a third wheel to complete his Design for Living design. He already has two Tony winners on tap: Cabaret's Alan Cumming and The Real Thing's Jennifer Ehle. "We're talking to someone right now," says Joe. (And, no, Rupert Everett is NOT a possibility.) Roundabout will put the Noël Coward comedy into rehearsal in January.


Charles Durning and Spalding Gray
in The Best Man

What better company than Gore Vidal's The Best Man to host the Broadway community's election-night bash? Charles Durning, Spalding Gray, Chris Noth, Elizabeth Ashley, Christine Ebersole, Michael Learned, et al, are throwing just such a party at Vice Versa--no doubt in the fervent hope that their author's cousin will be the best man. Representatives from the best shows in town will be in attendance: Philip Bosco, Lea Thompson, Tony Roberts, Bebe Neuwirth, Henry Winkler.



Millicent Martin, a two-time Tony contender (for Side by Side by Sondheim and King of Hearts), seems to have landed the coveted title role in the musical version of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?--much to the relief of the show's lyricist. "She was brilliant in Brighton when we workshopped it there," says Hal Hackady who has written the show's lyrics. (The music is by Lee Pockriss, the book by Henry Farrell). If you recall the movie with Bette Davis or the TV movie with Lynn Redgrave, you know Baby Jane Hudson is a demented movie queen lost in her long-gone movie past but, true to the breed, hoping unrealistically for a comeback. Who's to play her sister, the crippled and abused Blanche, will be discussed on November 25 when the show's creators go into a huddle.

After five days of previews, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? will premiere at the Wortham Center, the 2,400-seat opera house in Houston, on July 10. Updated plans call for the show to tour its way to Broadway, arriving in March. London will have to wait.



"When my grandson Matthew was six years old, he had a favorite toy," Cy Feuer reflected recently. "He showed me how it worked, and suddenly he said, 'When I finish with this, you can have it--if you're still alive." It is now seven years later and Feuer enjoyed telling that story last week at a gala marking his 90th birthday. Celebrate Cy! was as good an excuse as any to parade some songs from shows Feuer and his late partner, Ernest H. Martin, produced on Broadway. Roger Bart, Christine Ebersole, Brent Barrett, and Laura Benanti did a delightful "Fugue for Feuer"; Karen Ziemba high-stepped out with "The Boy Friend;" Veanne Cox and Robert Morse did a How To Succeed medley; and Walter Bobbie reprised his "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat" (from Guys and Dolls, natch). The Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers raked in $383,055 from the event.

The next Cy set to be celebrated is Cy Coleman. He's to receive the Achievement in the Arts Awards from the Northwood Institute on November 20 at a Players Club gala hosted by Rex Reed. Lending their voices to the event: Tony Bennett, Gregg Edelman and James Naughton (doing their City of Angels teamwork), Barbara Carroll, Jackie and Roy, Billy Stritch, Ann Hampton Callaway, David Zippel, Julie Wilson, Sally Mayes, and, reprising her Seesaw finale, Michele Lee.


Robert Cuccioli, Judy McLane,
and Lee Roy Reams in Victor/Victoria

The Paper Mill Playhouse is currently pulling off a fuller, yet tighter Victor/Victoria--thanks to the direction of Mark S. Hoebee, who helmed the national tour. Other holdovers from that tour are Tara O'Brien as a stridently ditzy Norma, Jody Ashworth as a gruffly appealing Squash--and the sets. Judy McLane, a long-stemmed lovely, has stepped gamely into the schizophrenic title role once worn by Julie Andrews, Liza Minnelli, and Raquel Welch, and twinkles accordingly. Robert Cuccioli is her rugged love interest, King Marchan (Nicky Arnstein, Nicky Arnstein, further down the road at the Paper Mill?). And, as Toddy, Lee Roy Reams has his best role at the Paper Mill since--well, since La Cage aux Folles. Said Lee Roy: "I traded in my boa in for a big ostrich-plume fan, but I'm still in three-inch heels!"

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