NY Mirror

At first, I resisted the machinations of In AmericaJim Sheridan's remembrance of moving his shattered Irish family to scary New York—but as the sentimental drama went on, I noticed my pants were wet, and not because I'd peed myself; tears were streaming down my face as if I were one of those holiday apparitions on a suburban window. It's useless to fight this one. Just go with some hankies, a roll of paper towels, and maybe even a couple of diapers. Real-life sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger, 12 and 8, steal the movie, and they hijacked the premiere too, proving even more fun at a party than the Hiltons. Pesky little Emma introduced Sheridan to the crowd by cracking, "I directed it. He just stood there." Then, at the after-party, Sarah sang "Desperado" and Emma grabbed the mic to whinny, "Everyone have beers and get drunk!" Everyone did—and I directed it!

A winning sister team is at the core of Broadway's Wonderful Town, which is only not-wonderful in its weak opening and abrupt ending. Virtually everything in between is spiffy and fizzy, particularly the astounding, hand-her-the-Tony Donna Murphy as the writer who sings about being too butch and openly smart to catch a man. (Correct a guy's grammar, she croons, "then mark your towels hers and hers." Well, the show also has an ode to Christopher Street.)

Henry IV isn't exactly fizzy, but it's definitely vigorous, which helps carry one through the long sit—and so does the program, which includes the backstory, a lengthy synopsis, and even info about "recruitment and ransom" in the 15th century. My head was swimming before the thing even started, but then I gave in to the glorious acting and wacky wimples and felt like a much better person (and more informed kidnapper) afterwards.

Downtown, Caroline, or Change is the best musical I've ever seen about a Jewish boy who leaves coins in his laundry. I found it quite high-reaching—even if the person next to me kept going, "What the fuck?"—and particularly adored dignified Tonya Pinkins and pert Veanne Cox. Afterward, I heard audience member Richard Kind lamenting, "I've been looking for work." Interestingly, one of Webster's definitions for Bounce is "to dismiss from employment."

Looking for more customers, I Am My Own Wife—a/k/a Charlotte, or Sex Change—recently had a promotional gimmick whereby if you brought a wife, anyone's wife, she got a free faux-pearl necklace. That seemed so straight for a trannie play, so I showed up with my talons out and made sure I—my own fishwife—got one too. (I'm wearing it as we speak.) The play—the success d'snob du jour—has Jefferson Mays doing more characters than Tovah Feldshuh, Ellen Burstyn, and Jackie Mason combined. You'll just love his adorable little Stasi informant!

More promo gimmicks? Filth2go.com reported that Taboo's producer, Rosie O'Donnell, might step into the role of Big Sue to help ticket sales. (Her people denied it.) But at a press event before the show opened, Rosie said Big Sue is "the role I salivated over, but wasn't talented enough to pull off." I pressed her about it and Rosie said, "As a producer, I wouldn't cast me!"

Moving right along, I'm glad they cast Karen Ziemba in Never Gonna Dance; the little trooper has the kind of hard-boiled zing the show desperately needs more of. A sort of Crazy for Thoroughly Modern 42nd Street, the nostalgia-ain't-what-it-used-to-be musical is too often lifelessly bland, even though it eerily plays the gay and ethnic stereotypes even broader than in the '30s.

From Broadway to HBO, Angels in America is a massive achievement, but it speaks volumes that Jeffrey Wright—the only holdover from the still definitive stage version—steals the whole Oscar-winner-studded thing. The TV movie's timing is impeccable, though; we still have a Republican government in domestic AIDS denial, one that's even lobbying to make sure gays can't marry. Maybe they can give marrying straights a free necklace.

Nostalgia singers Bette Midler and Donna Summer, who'd be scrubbing toilets without gays, aren't the biggest supporters of same-sex marriage either, shockingly enough. On Larry King's show, Midler endorsed the idea, but said she's concerned that "gay men . . . like to move around"—i.e., be promiscuous. (And straight men don't? I've fucked hundreds of 'em.) On the same subject, Summer gave the Washington Blade a no comment and added, "People are entitled to whatever they want to do, but it is none of my business." That's hideous, but I guess it's better than her usual: "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." (No, wait, she never said that, I swear!)

Proof that gays can settle down: Barebacking porn star Jeff Palmer announced—on World AIDS Day, poetically enough—that he's giving up the jizz, I mean the biz, to be monogamous with his new papito. I could just start crying again.

Proof that "straights" can't settle down—David and Liza—gave us a good laugh when he accused her of spousal violence. Still, when Ruby Wax interviewed the Gests on British TV earlier this year, Liza did get a little cantankerous. Gest went on about how he prefers Liza's left breast ("Look at how firm," he oozed, pointing it out) and his deeply uncomfortable wife started hitting him and Wax—in jest, but with some real underlying angst. I'm scared, mama.

How about trannie marriage? Well, the world's best Israeli transsexual dance singer, Dana International, tells me she's not the marrying kind. (Yep, she's her own wife—and husband.) "Actually, I had a big love," Dana said by phone last week, "but we were separated by his parents. It's too complicated, with the transsexuality, not having children, and the families. Frankly, if there was a man who wanted to marry me, I believe he couldn't be so normal." "But you're normal," I insisted. "Define normal," she replied. She had me there.

Dana's story is certainly unique enough to merit a Jefferson Mays show or at least a free necklace. The chanteuse—who's performing at the Beacon on December 13, with an after-party at Escuelita—was once Yaron Cohen, an Israeli youth with ribboned hair and a dream. She officially became a woman 10 years ago and ended up winning the Eurovision song contest, thereby spinning provincial minds on several continents. "It was very hard to change people's heads," Dana said. "People hate things they don't know and can't explain. But without the high heels and wig, you explain yourself calmly and people accept it. It was beyond my dreams!"

Dana's stage act is exotic yet accessible—Shakira with a twist—and, to add to the gender diversity, she's got six male backup dancers and two female ones. "My manager added the girls," Dana explained, "to look softer or there'd maybe be too much connotation of homosexuality onstage." Define too much homosexuality.

I'll leave you with the definition of the two worst invites of the year. First was the Big Fish premiere bash at the Hammerstein Ballroom, where the abusive doorman looked at my invite and barked, "That's not a ticket! Move to the side!" (I moved to a side street and got a cab home.) Worse was the one for the same flick's "V.I.P. after-party" at some new dive called One. After I RSVP'd, I got an e-mail saying, "To guarantee immediate entry, we ask you to reserve a table for bottle service. Bottle prices at One range from $225 to $375." Oh, really? Well—brace yourselves for trenchant wit—you can suck my dick for free, honey!


musto@villagevoice.com

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