By Anna Merlan
By Roy Edroso
By Carolyn Hughes
By Chuck Strouse
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Weinstein
By Tessa Stuart
I've sat through so much theater lately, my 'roids are on fire, but in the most cultured way imaginable. Alas, Sixteen Wounded was an inept Lifetime-movie-meets-Chico and the Man reduction of political issues, set in a bakery without customers. The plot had a ticking bomb placed onstage. The bomb was called Sixteen Wounded.
More musically lethal, Assassinsa/k/a Sixteen Woundersis wildly uneven, with strong parts that are among the best you'll ever see and bad parts that are among the ickiest. On the negative side, the ambitious show seems to have about as much regard for the victims as their killers do; the presidents are usually either absent or oafs. (An eleventh-hour production number mourning a dead prez comes off as strangely insincere.) Worse, the script has both an assassin and Emma Goldman tossing off strained one-liners, followed by "It's a joke." And even lamer than the love duet to JODIE FOSTER and Charles Manson is the climax so drawn out it has you yelling "Kill JFK already!" (Relaxit's a joke! By the way, with this and Caroline, or Change, whoever thought there'd be two musicals involving the Kennedy assassination?)
But SONDHEIM's genius transcends the book's pop psychology and forced assassin interaction. Who else would dare end a number with an electrocution? Or manage to put "Damn you, Lincoln, you righteous whore" to music? Or allow a psycho to be driven over the edge by Sondheim's own work? (The nut's obsessed with West Side Story.) Assassins should be in either worse taste or better tasteand it should definitely be combined with First Lady Suitebut it still left the most haunting impression since the JACKIE MASON musical. One question, though: When the psychos eat KFC and drink Budweiser, you wonder who approved that product placement?
Should He, Would He, Diddy?
Guzzling beer in the A Raisin in the Sunrevival, SEAN COMBS plays a chauffeur, but no, not the one who accused him of attempted bribery regarding gun possession. How does he fare? Well, Combs brings a convincingly surly edge to his gruff daddy rolethen again, I liked QUENTIN TARANTINO in Wait Until Darkbut he's still the weak link, not connecting the dots into a cohesive characterization. Towering around him are the moving PHYLICIA RASHAD (though Mama's preachiness eventually grates) and the sublime AUDRA MCDONALD, who irons with more dignity than anyone since, yep, Caroline, or Change. I loved it, though on my way in to see Puffy, they somehow checked my bag.
Meanwhile, the less puffy than carb-faced JOHN TRAVOLTA has been caught seeing The Boy From Oz multiple times. Naturally, he's there to support his Swordfish co-star HUGH JACKMAN, but some are fantasizing him as a replacement in the swishy lead role.
And then there was Miscast, a luscious MCC Theater benefit where Broadway stars tried on songs they'd never normally be asked to perform. KRISTEN CHENOWETH was a scream chirping a very white, coloratura version of Dreamgirls, and marrieds MICHAEL MCKEAN and ANNETTE O'TOOLE turned in a funny, angsty "When You're a Jet." In reality, natch, McKean is preparing for his way foofier turn as Hairspray's newest Edna Turnblad. "I'm in touch with my inner woman," he assured me backstage. "It's more about a 56-year-old man learning how to dance!" Well, while he's trying to tap it up in heels, how does wifey feel about hubby being a cross-dresser? "I'm thrilled! Sexually!" exulted O'Toole. "It's given us a whole new lease on life," agreed McKean, panting. "I loved it when he put on the tits," interjected O'Toole, entranced. The guy hadn't even started yet, and already he was turning his wife into a lesbian and me into EDDIE MURPHY!
Straight-shooting ELAINE STRITCH strapped on some balls at the American Theater Wing lunch honoring the late Isabelle Steven-son, adding to her existing collection. "I was asked to be a Tony presenteronceuntil Hollywood took over," Stritch said, bitterly. "The only other time I went was the year before last," she added, dramatically spitting to the ground. (It was the year they cut her acceptance speech short.) Stritch then sang a version of "There's No Business Like Show Business" that deviously worked in her Tony grudge. "Good news: I won," she bantered, halfway through. "Bad news: They cut the speech." Let's hope no one ever cuts the balls.
Those very appendages were hidden behind a very large fig leaf at the Nohra Haime Gallery party for interior designer GEOFFREY BRADFIELD's book, Millennium Modern, where a virtually naked stud done up as Adonis was the unflinching centerpiece. "I moved to New York when I saw Breakfast at Tiffany's," Bradfield confessed to me as Adonis's left butt cheek subtly twitched. "It changed my life when PATRICIA NEAL handed George Peppard a check and said, 'Go, have a break.' " Me tooand that wasn't the last time I was inspired by a male prostitute.
Doughnuts Against Dubya
But they went and had a bake at an event that was much more populated than that empty-cookie-counter play, Sixteen whatever. It was an all-star bake sale at MOBY's Teany restaurant in support of MoveOn PAC's effort to unseat (but not do a Sondheim on) BUSH. The happening brought out hundreds of steaming fruitcakesand that was just the crowd. "I'm actually in favor of Bush," smirked rocker RENÉ RISQUÉ. "I'm incorporated in Bermuda, and I wouldn't be able to do that under KERRY." But AL SHARPTONwas gleefully hawking vegan pastries and telling me, "We can regain the White House through grassroots efforts like theseand baking!"