By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
Having sat through so many shows that my butt blisters should get a special Tony Award, I'm now ready to emit my esteemed thoughts on the Broadway season. Most of this year's musicals were revues pretending to be shows (Putting It Together, Kat and the Kings, Swing!), Shows pretending to get good reviews (Saturday Night Fever), or splashy, tacky homages to great spiritual dignity (Aida). High-kicking above the pack, Contact will certainly win the Best Musical Tony, though no one's sure if it is a musical or a dance concert pretending to be a pastiche. (It apparently has more plot than last year's Best Musical, Fosse, if less than a Britney Spears video, though I wouldn't know yet since it's never up at the half-priced ticket booth.)
Marie Christinea musicalwas dark, dense, and ambitious, but the critics trashed it because it was too dark, dense, and ambitious. The Wild Partyis morbidly cleverat least until they get to the party, when it diesbut the critics said it was mild and unspeakable. Meanwhile, Swing!is like a glorified Lawrence Welk Show, but the scribes loved it, and will now go on to complain about the state of the American musical!
Straight plays were also aimed at the old, so much so that half the audience at Waiting in the Wingsgets cremated at intermission. True Westdoesn't havean intermission, but critics fell for it, and they also knelt before the drollish new The Real Thing, even though the female lead is one of those actressy types who plays with her face a lot and the play-within-the-play is still better than the play. But I loved the revivified A Moon for the Misbegotten, stayed awake through Copenhagen, and was happy to find that The Green Birdcombines exquisite artistry with toilet jokes (much like this column). The two biggest star turns of all? Dirty Blonde's Claudia Shear, who makes every day Mae Day, and Dame Edna Everage, who left a gladdy imprint on my foreheadand my heart.
All the above, plus their publicists, commingled over chilly eggs at the annual Tony nominees brunch at Sardi's, where the luminaries literally ate off their plaquesthe ones they'll be dining off for years. I tortured them with inane questions, asking The Music Man's hot-looking Craig Bierko if he was at all happy to get nominated, duh. "I was appalled, quite frankly," Bierko smirked. "I hold you personally responsible. I was taken abackthat'll sound good. And then say, 'He made a swooning gesture.' " His costar, Rebecca Luker, told me she wasn't taken aback when John Simon started screaming at blathering children in the audience during her big ballad. "I didn't hear one thing," insisted Luker. "But I don't blame him. I hate it when I hear talking in the audience." And he showered her with a star-making review afterward anyway.
Aida's Heather Headleywho's also been fending off ravestwirled around and said, "Elton John sent me this dress." But it's not his size, I cracked. "No, it's not," she said, laughing. "That's why he sent it. It's a sign of good luck! I'll call him about the actual Tonys too and see if he has anything elsenot in his size."
Also looking dressed by a queen, Misbegotten's luminous Cherry Jones told me this isn't her 12th nomination"It's my little third. I'm not Audra. Who is?" (Audrais Audra, and probably was getting another nomination just for eating the chilly eggs nearby.) Jones's costar, Gabriel Byrnewho's definitely Gabriel Byrnewas surprisingly warm, telling me, "It's been an amazing, terror-filled, exhilarating roller coaster of a part. It's draining. I can never believe I can do it again. It's like trying to empty the ocean with a fork. I can't wait for the second of July when I can wake up and not have to do it anymore!" But he's really, really enjoyed it too.
Finally, as I tried to empty the ocean of fruit salad with a fork, Wrong Mountain's Daniel Davis cuddled up and told me, "I was stunned out of my seven senses when I heard I was nominated. It took me two minutes to realize what the publicist who called me was even talking about. I was like, 'Who is this madwoman?' " He can hold me personally responsible.
Theater week was by no means over yetthere were plenty more needy people turning cartwheels for my bloated approval. The Public Theater threw a wild partya Late Night Benefit with entertainment consisting of a drag A Chorus Line, an operatic Hair, and Sandra Bernhard singing "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" and telling us to enjoy our pot pies. After dinner, MTV's Serena Altschul, who had just judged that tiara-filled, exhilarating roller coaster called Miss Universe, agreed with me that the winner, Miss India, was so outrageously poised she must have been born holding a scepter. "She's politically savvy and socially conscious," said Altschul. "I think she could be the prime minister of India." In other words, the woman rules.
At the New Dramatists luncheon, I asked the queen of all showbiz media, Angela Lansbury, about her upcoming Broadway vehicle, The Visityes, amusicaland wondered if Dürrenmatt really lends itself to singing and dancing. "The way wedo it, it does," she said, with her usual twinkle. But does Kathie Lee Gifford? The event's gift bags included the professional gabber's new CD, Born for You, prompting a lot of unintended guffawing among the crowd. West Wing's Allison Janney even asked me if I wanted her copy and smirked, "It might make a good joke gift." But I was just going to slip her mine!