NY Mirror

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, Assassins—a/k/a Sixteen Wounders—is 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!" (Relax—it'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 taste—and it should definitely be combined with First Lady Suite—but 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 role—then again, I liked QUENTIN TARANTINO in Wait Until Dark—but 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 presenter—once—until 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 too—and 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 fruitcakes—and 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 these—and baking!"

Over by the brownies, AL FRANKEN agreed that a simple oven can help unseat the government. But does he feel Bush has some half-baked idea up his sleeve to save his twitching ass? "No," said Franken. "He's got a lot of money and an apparatus behind him, but as you saw from his news conference, he hasn't a clue about anything!"

Delightfully enough, Moby's so clued in that despite being "a WASP from Connecticut," he wants Bush to crumble like an overbaked croissant. That somehow led us into a discussion of Dr. Atkins's demise, with Moby offering, "For the last few years, he was taking hundreds of supplements every day and lots of colonics, and he would supposedly poop like once a week." I'm thrilled. Sexually.


LITTER BOX

High Gere

The American Museum of the Moving Image's RICHARD GERE tribute was a wonderfully giddy affair that would have made even the DALAI LAMAbust a giggle. First, SHARON STONE kept stumbling over her intro and eventually admitted, "This is why I've waited to do Broadway." (Too bad—she'd be a great Squeaky Fromme.) Another presenter, LIAM NEESON, said, "Let's see if the Lasik surgery works," before misreading his lines and realizing it doesn't. And Gere was wacky too, calling out remarks from the audience ("I'm from North Syracuse") and taunting the celebs, before leaving us with a searing verbal doughnut against Dubya. (By the way, one of the clips shown was a Gere-J.LO tango from the upcoming Shall We Dance, which looked fierce—way better than Gigli.)

In other exotic-dance news, TAJA—the Upper East Side Moroccan answer to AMY SACCO—told me she's looking to expand her eponymous restaurant via downtown and South Beach. As she said that, a belly dancer's gyrating hips knocked over a drink tray and no one minded at all . . . Bellying up to the talent pool, New York editor ADAM MOSS met with MAER ROSHANrecently. Learn it . . . On the straight—you heard me, straight—scene, spies say Wall Street scandal guy CHRISTIAN CURRY is living in L.A. under an assumed name. I bet it's Mud.


BREAKING NEWS, 4.29.04 Watch out, Donald. IVANA TRUMP is about to announce the launch of her own reality show, called Girls on Top. More details next week.


BREAKING NEWS, 4.30.04 Web exclusive: Rumors say pop princess MANDY MOORE is being considered for a role (presumably Glinda) in Wicked. That should be a walk to remember.

musto@villagevoice.com

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