By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
In a particularly frantic mode, Broadway has been coughing up even more revivals than usual, mainly because they seem financially safe, and besides, Broadway loves reindulging in its past triumphs in a Norma Desmond-y reminder of its own eternal value. So in just one week, I heard some ancient lines ("That old son of a bitch happens to be my husband!"), was hit with hoary-with-age ideas (men engage in cutthroat politics while women give manicures and loving support), and saw a classic gussied up in such desperate modern dress it only ended up more loudly screaming, "This shit is old!"
At least the opening night of that onethe vigorous but uneven Julius Caesarattracted truckloads of major celebs, so I say let's keep the superstars coming in Shakespeare, folks. Just point me toward the red carpet and the buffet table.
Alas, in its long trek from Off-Broadway to Hollywood to dinner theater to Broadway, Steel Magnolias hasn't traveled well at all; the play's perky, secondhand chitchat comes off strained, and the production has no urgency, the cast waiting for laughs and tears that don't always come. I found it truly dire, and the biggest shock of all was the author's post-curtain speech claiming it was all based on real people! But I loved it when, in my row, real person KYAN DOUGLAS from Queer Eye gushed all over shamed ex-politico JIM MCGREEVEY as an observer near me noted, "I wonder which of them has set the gay cause back the most."
After buffet-ing down at the party, I cornered marvelous magnolia FRANCES STERNHAGEN, who originated the female lead in On Golden Pond, which is also, naturally, being revived on Broadway. "I didn't realize you and LESLIE UGGAMS were the same type," I quipped oh so wittily. "It's a whole different concept!" Sternhagen said, beaming.
It sure is; in fact, I haven't spotted black people in Maine since AUDRA MCDONALD did Carousel. But this '80s sentiment-athon has aged much more gracefully than Magnolias, and fortunately, the great JAMES EARL JONES is there to give it some edge and danger, even as he's announcing, "We're not middle-aged. We're old!" The ending, with he and Uggams clinging to each other and what's left of life, approaches an almost Beckett-like profundity, especially with all sorts of loons squawking in the background.
VIVA LAS VEGAS
More Bard in modern dress comes, believe it or not, with the Elvis jukebox musical All Shook Up, which is an overextended variety show sketch and is dirt-dumb at times, but it does have genius sets, a lot of heart, and an agreeably kinky ending. I was titillated to run into CHEYENNE JACKSONthe show's pec-twitching "caveman with the libido of an Italian soccer team"at AUBREY REUBEN's Outer Critics Circle party at Tony's Di Napoli. Naturally, we talked Elvis movies, with Jackson admitting he favors the king's hokier flicks like Harum Scarumand yes, some of them are hokier than others. But Jackson had an in-the-flesh Presley encounter recently when ex-child bride PRISCILLA PRESLEY saw the show and told him Elvis would have approved. "She could tell I didn't take myself too seriously," Jackson said, "and she was glad I wasn't doing an Elvis impression. She said, 'Lord knows I've seen my share of terrible ones!' " Probably when she saw Harum Scarum.
In another corner of the room, CHERRY JONES and her Doubt co-star BRIAN F. O'BYRNE were doing impressions of actual humans; they were hugging and chattinga startlingly feel-good thing to witness coming after all that La Cage crap. Another not-evil Broadway type, CHRISTOPHER SIEBER, was there too, but without his luxurious blond wig from Spamalot. "My inspiration is the Miss Clairol commercial," he told me, laughing. Is his lustrous Sir Dennis Galahad a gay? "Well, he's an English personality," said Sieber. "He's either English or gaysometimes you can't tell." Like JULIE ANDREWS, I guess.
Definitely a gay, BOY GEORGE didn't like some things I wrote about his Broadway musical Taboo and he reads me for them in his new book Straight (a big hit in the U.K.). Of course he leaves out that I also used phrases like "pure dirty fun," called the show a "fascinating hybrid," and insisted that "George can act." But he's right that I'm generally a bitch and I'll totally defer to him in this case; his breezily readable book manages to be both outspoken and compassionate, with a bright ring of gay truth to it. In fact, his views of sexual politics mixed with celebrity insight make him (along with co-writer PAUL GORMAN) the new Quentin Crisp, minus the self-effacing reactionary views.
But naturally I'm most attracted to the book's juicier bitslike how Culture Club's JON MOSS "was never tactile except during sex and he wasn't interested in affection after the thrust of passion," how George threatened to smash STEVEN MEISEL's face in after bad photos of George popped up in print, how GAVIN ROSSDALE is still trying to evade the fact that he had much thrusting of passion with drag star MARILYN, and how COURTNEY LOVE chatted up George once, then said she was actually in the middle of talking to someone else and walked away as George thought, "You psycho!"