By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Court TV's luncheon at Blue Smoke for those thesmokinggun.com muckrakers culminated with mock mug shots being taken of the guests, some of whom were celebrities and already had real ones, thank you. In between mugging for the mug shot, I begged Gun's muck-meister BILL BASTONE to tell me why the authorities recently found Neverland and took that DNA sample from PYT lover JACKO. "You got me!" he said. "They must have stains somewhere. Maybe the crazy mother of little GAVIN emptied his underwear drawer." No doubt with LINDA TRIPP looking on and screaming, "Don't wash anything!"
Speaking of shmancy apparel, why do the endearingly real Smoking Gun guys look like they've just rolled out of a moth-eaten bed when they appear on TV? "Because we have," Bastone said. "They make us do it on Sunday morning at 9. And that's the way we dress. Like bums!" At the moment, he was actually wearing a reasonably sporty jacket, but it looked much more returnable-by-midnight than poor little Gavin.
Well, kindly put on your finest Joyce Leslie ponchos and join me for a theater tear that'll help us hide from the feds for a few hours in the dark. First off, Gem of the Ocean is middling AUGUST WILSON, with his customary brilliance peppered with way too many banalities. ("Live life to the fullest," "The magic is inside you," and the RUPAUL-ish "You got to be all right with yourself before you can be all right with anybody else.") Playing someone older than JOAN COLLINS, PHYLICIA RASHAD is powerful, though she does her customary face-the-audience-and-emote-like-crazy-'cause-sassy-mama-wants-another-Tony monologue. And I love her!
In the smash 700 Sundays, BILLY CRYSTALthe gem of Long Beachcomes off better at wry character observation than dark dramaturgy, but he's still ultra-likable company, and I'd mind the Westbury Music Fair-ization of Broadway much more if his slickness weren't so damned seductive (or if there were a two-drink minimum).
Set on an even longer island, Pacific Overtures is especially relevant now with its portrayal of Americans as hook-nosed barbarians who invade and pillage (though the bittersweet ending has a character crowing that Japan has joined America in reconstructing Iraq. Yay?). At the preview I attended, there was some culture clash in the audience too, when a tourist near me asked her tablemate, "How did you get comp tickets?" "I'm a theater critic," he said, politely. He was BEN BRANTLEY!
By the way, I loved the JESSE GREEN profile of Overtures' "flamboyant" director-choreographer AMON MIYAMOTO in Brantley's paper, the Times. According to the piece, Miyamoto used to work out Gypsy dance routines in his underwear with the help of his ex-showgirl mom. He went on to direct something called I Got Merman and currently squeals stuff like "I love Avenue Q!" The article even used the term theater queen. As for Miyamoto's sexual bent? "He does not . . . speak about his personal life." Oy.
ENTER THE DRAGGIN'
Well, it's time to open up your closets for La Cage aux Folles, which I thoroughly enjoyedI must be ready for Shady Pineseven if a couple of heartless, comp-taking critics choked on its sentimental, old mix of jockstraps and sequins. This time around, I even noticed it has the same premise as anotherJERRY HERMAN musical, Mame, where the ungrateful progeny asks his eccentric aunt to not embarrass him in front of his bigoted new in-laws, leading to much pain, hilarity, and acceptance. And there's another interesting echo: With DANIEL DAVIS (the butler from The Nanny) and GARY BEACH (looking like RENÉE TAYLOR) in the leads, this is the real Nanny reunion.
At the opening-night party, MICHAEL MULHERENwho plays the right-winger who ends up in full dragtold me he's just adopted a baby son, "and we already got him a pink dress. HARVEY FIERSTEIN shit himself!"
Just then, Harvey (who wrote La Cage's book) arrived and was kerplotzing over something else. "You!" he fumed, fixing me with his gay eyes. "How dare you say we don't need another fucking revival of La Cage! It's the first revival. I almost called you!" I apologized deeply, but murmured that I used to hate the whole straight-ruse plotline. "They do it for love of their son," he explained. "I like this production better than the original," he added, calming down. "This time, the leads are gay, there are no girls in the chorus, and it's not apologetic." The shock value is gone, Harvey admitted, "but it's good it's gone. The bad thing is we're still fighting for gay marriage. The stuff about the Tradition, Family, and Morality party, I could have written tomorrow." As for next month, will he play Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof as a faygeleh on the shtetl? "No, I won't play Tevye as gay!" he screeched, good-naturedly. "That's not what it is!" I think this time he'll call me.
LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE
Even the upcoming Elvis musical All Shook Up has a drag elementthe lead female pretends to be a guy, thereby arousing the town sexpot. (It's all a homage to Shakespeare. You must believe me on this!) At a sneak media peek, we glimpsed the other ways the King's hits have been shoehorned into a highly familiar story line like big footsies into blue suede shoes: The plot? A small-town mayor passes a no-fun ordinance (like in Footloose). A stranger sexily wakes up the place (à la The Music Man). And the liberated residents' costumes progress from sepia to full color (as in Pleasantville). The new element? Star CHEYENNE JACKSON, who's got just the right twitchy mouth and pelvis. He could make your brown eyes blue.