Theater News

Scandals Sighted, Mountains Righted, Seuss Gets the Goose, the Cantata Armada and More…

A Scandal for TONY RANDALL; DAVID HIRSON’s Wrong Mountain Tony person; Goosing Seussical the Musical, and more.


Say this for Tony Randall: he doesn’t behave like an octogenarian. Two years ago, when he was only 80, he subjected himself to the relentless performance grind of A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden. Before and since, he has been an active participant and frequent player (as with Jack Klugman in The Sunshine Boys) in the National Actors Theatre which he founded. Now, he says he’s going to do Scandals, a collage of “songs, sketches and burlesque bits” not unlike the Sugar Babies that Mickey Rooney trail-blazed to Broadway over 20 years ago. Dick Van Patten got the show up and operating in Richmond, and Randall will take it from there–on tour, and probably to Broadway. The Randall Scandals (wouldn’t you love to write the ad copy for that one!) has Danny Daniels for director-choreographer and Peter Howard in charge of music. Meanwhile, Randall is less forthcoming about the Judgment at Nuremberg that will return his National Actors Theatre to Broadway. Written by Abby Mann–first for TV’s Playhouse 90 in 1959, then for a feature film in 1961 (winning Mann an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay), and now for stage–this postwar courtroomer will be directed by John Tillinger–but casting, says Randall, is still up in the air. The biggest hurdle, of course, is the lack of Spencer Tracy-like stars these days…about the only person who could come close to filling those judicial robes is the actor who did court battle with George C. Scott in National Actors Theatre’s biggest hit, Inherit the Wind–Charles Durning. Let’s keep that thought!


Right Slope:Wrong MountainTony nomineeDaniel Davis
Right Slope:
Wrong Mountain
Tony nominee
Daniel Davis

This year’s Tony nominators did so many things right that it’s hard to complain about the decisions–unless, of course, you’re Jason Antoon, Olympia Dukakis, or Harris Yulin. The happiest surprise, however, was a Best Featured Actor nomination for Daniel Davis, even though the show he was nominated for, David Hirson‘s Wrong Mountain, was fast to topple. Davis played a grand ham, a theatrically over-the-top regional director in a performance that was both hysterically funny and poignantly touching (albeit, with the emphasis on the former). Davis said at the time that he meant his performance to be an homage to some Real McCoys. “It’s based on a lot of people I have worked with over the years–artistic directors and actor-managers like Ellis Rabb and [American Conservatory Theatre founder] Bill Ball and Garland Wright,” he admitted. “Those are my antecedents in this character. I’ve been directed and taught by them. They lived their lives in the theatre this way. They were very full, flamboyant men, and they always saw the glass half-full.”

Television is taking its toll of theatre stars. Daniel McDonald and Lisa Banes, once of such shows as Steel Pier and High Society, now slum with series: You’ll find him–and John Benjamin Hickey–in D.C., while Banes plays the evil town-mayor in a Baywatch spoof called Son of a BeachSusan Egan, the first Belle of Beauty and the Beast as well as a recent Sally Bowles in Cabaret, is waiting to see if her Galaxy Quest takes off as a series. Sam (Ah, Wilderness!) Trammel is likewise sitting tight about his law school series, Sullivan Street (which is filmed, of course, in L.A.)…And two Tony winners–Edward Herrmann (of Mrs. Warren’s Profession) and Kelly Bishop (of a small musical called A Chorus Line)–have their fingers crossed that their pilot for the WB Network, The Gilmore Girls, will be a go…And another Tony winner, Seven GuitarsRuben Santiago-Hudson, awaits word on a pilot that Harold Ramis has developed: The D.I.G. (which stands for the Department of the Inspector General).

Director Christopher Ashley and playwright Paul Rudnick will enter Valhalla at Vassar’s New York Stage and Film Workshop this summer. “We’re going to work on it there and see what happens after that,” says Rudnick

Peter Bartlett, who earned a Drama Desk nomination for their last team-effort (The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told), will help Ashley–and Eric Stoltz–in Light Up the Sky this summer at Williamstown Theatre Festival…

…If all goes according to schedule, Seussical should be trying out in Boston by August. All the roles are cast, except for Andrea Martin‘s. She withdrew because she couldn’t commit to anything longer than a six-month contract. “I completely respect that,” says the show’s lyricist, Lynn Ahrens. “She has a son, and her son is her priority–she couldn’t be away for a year–and the show is like our son, and we needed somebody to commit to a longer period of time.” Well, okay, but Andrea Martin‘s don’t exactly grow in bunches like celery…

Sara Gettelfinger (from the Tenderloin edition of City Center Encores! ) and Natasha Diaz (from the Second Stage’s Saturday Night) comprise two-thirds of The Bird Girls vocal trio narrating Seussical. “It should be a very busy July,” predicts Gettelfinger, who’ll spend a couple of weeks rehearsing Seussical by day and finishing off Pippin‘s Fastrada at the Paper Mill Playhouse by night…

Jack Noseworthy, who starts strutting his stuff as Pippin on June 7, has a nice part in the current submarine blockbuster U-571

…A good role is hard to find, and Christopher Sieber won’t let go of his: At the Sacramento Light Opera this summer, he’ll reprise the blocky hero he originated on Broadway in the unjustifiably short-lived Triumph of Love

Maury Yeston, the Titanic Tony winner, is still thinking big: he just composed a cantata for 2,000 voices, and it’ll be delivered July 1 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Whew!…

…The next Yeston? It seems Tommy Tune said yes to Yeston about a new show–they won Tonys together for Nine–which means the long-stemmed director-choreographer will be back on the road to Broadway “in about three months,” following a long gig in Las Vegas. Tune will also be “participating” in Ann-Margret ‘s revival tour of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas–though just how Tune will participate is very much in negotiation right now. Songwriter Carol Hall is writing some new ditties for A-M to do; hopefully, she’ll dust off and recycle the exquisitely haunting “Keeping Books,” which was replaced on Broadway by “Hard Candy Christmas”…

…Contrary to our last column and despite the deluge of Best Actress awards that Eileen Heckart has been harvesting of late, The Waverly Gallery will close as originally scheduled on May 21. The 81-year-old actress says she’s retiring from the stage with that performance. Lord knows, it’s a wonderful one to ride out on.