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Star Keepers

Eddie Bracken and company ride the Paper Mill Playhouse Carousel to glory. logo


Eddie Bracken at the opening night party
for Paper Mill's Carousel
(Photo: Michael Portantiere)
"Millburn is my living room," Eddie Bracken said recently to an audience at that New Jersey town's Paper Mill Playhouse where, in 11 different shows over the past 32 years, he has made himself right at home. The occasion was the 85-year-old actor's 15,000th stage performance, and the Paper Mill duly noted it.

"If I could add up all the appearances I had on just the legitimate stage, all over the world where I've played," explained the honoree, "it would add up to 15,000. That means a lot to me, because it's the most of any actor in the history of the stage." Bracken marked his milestone on a heavenly perch as The Starkeeper of Paper Mill's Carousel. On opening night, an entire row down front was blissfully occupied by his children and grandchildren. "We have five children," he said. "I did it the hard way: One wife."

Carousel grinds down on July 15, which gives its Billy Bigelow--Matt Bogart--a full day off before he fills the role of Radames in Broadway's Aida while Adam Pascal takes a two-week break, July 17-29. Bogart has been Pascal's standby for a year and has gone on 55 times. (It must be quite a switch to go from classic musical theater back to Elton John-style rock.) As for Carousel's Mr. Enoch Snow--Paper Mill's erstwhile Student Prince, Brandon Jovanovich--he will next be essaying the full-out operatic role of Don José in Peter Brook's La Tragedie de Carmen at the Festival Opera in California. By the way, in this Carousel, Jovanovich's character is allowed a song that is usually cut: "Geraniums in the Winder." "I didn't know about it, actually," the singer admits. "It's a gift. I think Robert [director Robert Johanson] left it in to show me in a humorous way."

"Chemistry is chemistry," says Christiane Noll by way of explaining her second Paper Mill pairing with Jovanovich (she's Carrie to his Enoch, and was the love interest of his Student Prince). Her next project, due in July, is a CD full of Ira Gershwin lyrics and the music of the composers he wrote with--all but Aaron Copland and Arthur Schwartz.



You have until Sunday (June 24) to catch Watch Your Step, the 1914 musical that Irving Berlin wrote for Vernon & Irene Castle, now being revived in Mel Miller's "Musicals Tonight!" series on the MainStage of the 14th Street Y. David Sabella, who was the original Mary Sunshine in the Broadway revival of Chicago and is now bound for that Windy City for The Visit with Chita Rivera and John McMartin, figures prominently.

The big hit from Watch Your Step is "[Play a] Simple Melody," one of Berlin's famous counterpoint duets. For a fitting finale to the show, two others--"You're Just in Love" from Call Me Madam and "An Old Fashioned Wedding" from the 1966 Lincoln Center production of Annie Get Your Gun--are added to the mix, then all are sung together. "Don't try this at home," we are warned.

Berlin will be back to cap the 2001-2002 season of "Musicals Tonight!" with his 1932 Face the Music. Also set are George & Ira Gershwin's Girl Crazy, Cole Porter's The New Yorkers, and Harold Rome's That's the Ticket.



Who ya gonna call when you need somebody to play a ghost? Why, Patrick Tovatt, of course. He stood by for the dead scientist role that Philip Bosco filled in last year's Tony winner (Copenhagen). Now, he has inherited from Larry Bryggman the dead mathematician role in this year's Tony winner (Proof). It's a living!


Marcia Lewis
(Photo: Forrest Mallard)

Lee Roy Reams, who had everything to do with Marcia Lewis giving up a nursing career for "something steady like show business," will sing at her wedding on June 24 and has every hope of getting through it without crying. The groom is Nashville businessman Fred Bryan. After the honeymoon, Lewis and Reams will rendezvous (with her groom in tow) for Annie. "When she found out she was doing the show in Sacramento," says Reams, "she called me personally and said, 'Would you play Rooster?' For her, I'd play Annie! We haven't worked together in so long."

Between the wedding and the Rooster, Reams will direct Patrick Quinn (fresh from A Class Act) and Maureen Brennan (a Candide Tony contender) in 42nd Street; John Scherer (who did Reams' original role of Billy Lawler for him at Paper Mill) and David Titus co-star. The show opens July 16 at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine and July 30 at the oldest summer-stock theater in America, the 75-year-old Cape Playhouse in Massachusetts. (July 30 is also when Reams and Lewis will go into their Annie act.)

Jennifer Holliday will be the Broadway Chicago's Mama Morton until Marcia makes it back to the Big House for what may be that long-running revival's countdown, circa the first of the year.



Last night (June 18) at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia, Donna McKechnie got Inside the Music again. Next stop: West Hampton on June 30. Then back to Arci's Place for two weeks (July 24-August 4) and on to the Paper Mill Playhouse for one performance only on October 2. This one-woman show was written by Christopher Durang and directed by McKechnie's fellow Chorus Line original cast member Thommie Walsh. It's one of the Broadway hopes that she harbors. Another--the Mack and Mabel she did in Los Angeles last year--seems to be finally coming to fruition here in January at a Shubert house to be announced, but Douglas Sills is not as certain of playing Mack Sennett as he used to be. And, of course, the real question is: With Jane Krakowski's commitment to TV's Ally McBeal, will her Mabel be able to be seen on B'way?



It looks as if the above-mentioned Christopher Durang's hilarious Playwrights Horizons hit, Betty's Summer Vacation, will get a fall outing at director Nicholas Martin's main base of operations in Cambridge--and maybe an open-ended run in New York, please?--after Martin brings his (and Kate Burton's) Hedda Gabler to Broadway on October 4. As for Martin's own "summer vacation," he's spending it at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, directing Frank McGuinness' Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme (running August 8-19). Christopher Fitzgerald, late of Fully Committed at the Cherry Lane, joins Scott Wolf and Timothy Daly in that show. Any ugly people cast? "Not in a play of mine," Martin shoots back.

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