Reaching New Heights
The moors the merrier: LAURA BENANTI plays Cathy in a workshop of the new Wuthering Heights musical.
THE FULLER BRONTË
Last week started with Tony nominators giving a second wind to the Broadway musical version of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and ended with The Nederlanders giving a workshop to Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights as musicalized by The Secret Garden's Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman. "We have a wonderful idea of how to present the story that I think is very original," says Gabriel Barre, who directed the workshop. "I would have to say that this is based on neither the  movie or the book but draws from both. In the very best sense of the word, they have departed from the source material and made it their own in many ways."
The workshop star-crossed Laura Benanti (late of Time and Again and Swing) and Tony Vincent (Judas in the recent Jesus Christ Superstar) as Cathy and Heathcliff. Also in there flogging away were The Full Monty's Jason Danieley as Edgar, Violet's Lauren Ward as Isabella, The Immigrant's Cass Morgan as Ellen, The Phantom of the Opera's Stephen Lee Anderson as Hindley, and Titanic's John Cunningham as Dr. Kenneth. The Nederlanders are thinking about a regional production early next year.
NICE PLACE TO VISIT
One of our best musical actors, John McMartin, is thinking of going to Chicago for a visit--or, rather, The Visit. He has been asked to play the object of Chita Rivera's deadly disaffection in the John Kander-Fred Ebb-Terrence McNally musical, which will finally set sail this fall in the Windy City at the Goodman. If you saw the original Follies--and, these days, who didn't?--you'll recall McMartin's magnificent on-stage breakdown (something that requires a major lighting short-circuit for Gregory Harrison to pull off in the Roundabout revival of the show).
Meanwhile, Harvey Evans, who played Young Buddy (youthful counterpart of Gene Nelson) in the original Follies, will be spending July in St. Louis, co-starring with "my dream person of all time, Karen Morrow"--to say nothing of Jim Walton, Paige Price, and Wesla Whitfield--in a from-the-ground up original Gershwin revue. Eat your heart out, Hershey Felder!
HORNE PLAYS TAPS FOR COMO
The passing of Perry Como was not lost on Lena Horne, who told a friend of mine that the crooner was one of the nicest people she'd ever known. In her post-Jamaica career slump, Horne had trouble getting gigs and found herself virtually "banned from the airwaves" because she was so frontal on Civil Rights issues. Nobody would have her on TV...till Como. He booked her not just once on his Kraft Music Hall, but several times. At the height of racial unrest, he'd kiss her cheek after their duets right on camera, sending the net execs into apoplexy; but their anger never ruffled the unflappable Como. Horne "never forgot the graciousness" of that gesture. Como was a beau geste, indeed.
WILDHORN GOES BATS
Your next Frank Wildhorn musical will be Dracula--the daddy of Bat Boy--and will likely happen sometime in the season ahead. It won't star Linda Eder (Mrs. Wildhorn), who has a concert and recording career to look after, as well as a 20-month-old son. But Eder expects to be back on the Broadway boards the following season in the title role of Camille Claudel, Wildhorn's stage musical remake of the 1988 Isabelle Adjani-Gerard Depardieu film about the French sculptress and her chaotic relationship with Auguste Rodin. Last month Eder was pressed into service--along with The Scarlet Pimpernel (Douglas Sills) and the second Jekyll & Hyde (Rob Evan)--to do a demo recording of Wildhorn's Cyrano.
ZING FOR YOUR SUPPER
The most emotionally nutritious meal an actor working in the theater can hope for every year is the flashy feed Julia Hansen provides when she and her minions corral a double dais full of stars and divvy out Drama League Awards en masse. It makes for a very pretty picture, and the only hitch in being so cited is that you have to get up and say thank you (or witty words to that effect). This year's ceremony on Friday, May 11--the 67th annual, by the way--set some kind of record for conspicuous humor. For example:
Tom Hewitt of The Rocky Horror Show, on playing Frank 'N Furter: "It's every small-town Montana boy's dream to grow up and play an alien transvestite on Broadway."
André De Shields of The Full Monty: "I dance myself silly eight times a week, which surprises me because, when I was growing up, I always thought I was going to be Sidney Poitier. When I dance, I dance with the feet of my mother, who dreamed she was going to dance but did not. And, when I sing, I sing with the voice of my father, who dreamed he was going to sing but did not. What they did was get together and have 11 children."
Veanne Cox of The Dinner Party, on being in a hit Neil Simon comedy: "I'm really a very happy girl because I...I actually could have paid for my own meal today."
Blythe Danner of Follies, on suddenly turning into a Broadway-musical star: "There are endorphins being released that I didn't even know I had."
Michael Cumpsty, late of Copenhagen and now of 42nd Street: "I'm a musical performer--and I know that because I'm sitting between Faith Prince and Reba McEntire.
Kate Levering of 42nd Street: "I had nightmares last night that this would be alphabetical and I would have to speak after Nathan Lane."
George Grizzard of Judgment at Nuremberg, on the losing struggle to keep the play on Broadway. "I tried to talk our Nazis into learning how to sing and dance, but they refused."
Matthew Broderick of The Producers: "Sorry your Nazis didn't sing, George. Some Nazis are like that."
Kevin Chamberlin of Seussical, on his early calling: "Twenty-one years ago, I came to New York on a high school class trip to see my first couple of Broadway shows. It was a matinee of Sandy Duncan in Peter Pan, and the evening show was Sweeney Todd. That night I went back to my hotel room and thought, 'Flying children! Cannibalism! I want to be on Broadway!' "
Conleth Hill of Stones in His Pockets, on how to differentiate between him and his co-star, Seán Campion: "Good afternoon. I'm the fat one from Stones in His Pockets."
Richard Easton of The Invention of Love, opting for modesty: "I've never been an award-winner. The last award I won was Danny Blum's Theater World Promising Personality Award for 1957. So, now, I guess I've come through."
Dick Cavett of The Rocky Horror Show: "I want to thank the Drama Desk for allowing me to do their promos and their nominee announcements and their awards show and not nominating me for one damn thing--so I can enjoy this prestigious award totally unencumbered."