By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
The mixed-bag Cat on a Hot Tin Roof revival brings back the classic play about greed, mendacity, and one of those poetic ailments common to American melodramas. (Big Daddy's uremia creates a "failure to eliminate his poisons," a metaphorical situation topped only by the vitriolic big mama over in August: Osage County who's dying of "mouth cancer.") Having an all-black cast turns out to not be an issue, though it certainly brings an extra twist to Daddy's line, "I went to work like a nigger in the field." Unfortunately, Terrence Howard's slackly directed big scene with Daddy (James Earl Jones) is an energy drainer, but I still feel this will be a hit because the audience shrieks with delight over the Oprah-style revelations about how hubby won't sleep with the wife because he's on the down-low and not all that wildly into poontang right now. Adding to the drama, critic John Simon had to change seats because his wife is claustrophobic and can't sit in the middle of a row. Maybe on the aisle, he can eliminate his poisons.
The Hispanics commingle in In The Heights, a warm, exuberant musical without a single mean character—not even a Republican or a mortgage broker—and a freewheeling ensemble spirit instead of the usual driving (or crashing) plot. At first, I worried that the show's easygoing niceness would make it a little too Electric Company meets Upper West Side Story, but the beautiful production, swirling dancing, and detailed set (which looks even realer than the stuff at New York New York in Vegas) rewards your "paciencia y fe."
Another new musical, Cry-Baby, might be the bastard child of Hairspray, much as Young Frankenstein is basically the offbeat offspring of The Producers. This one—based on the John Waters flick about singing juvenile delinquents—is having $54 previews because it's set in 1954, making one wish it was set way earlier in the century or at least in the late '40s. At a mini-preview for the press, the show came off like Grease with extra lube, with numbers dealing in every '50s teen pastime from tongue kissing to license-plate making, the cast performing choreography on every single syllable as if trying to prove that the Heights-ies are lazy. This show's poetic illness becomes an excuse for one more production number, as Tony winner Harriet Harris leads some singing and dancing at an anti-polio picnic!
At the event, Waters said he never imagined there'd be two Broadway musicals based on his work. "Do you call two a genre?" he wondered, eyebrows inching heavenward. I don't know, but the genre is already expanding; Waters's joke on The Daily Show that Hairspray should be on ice prompted ice-show producers to call with serious offers the next day! Alas, it would be hard to find a Tracy Turnblad who wouldn't sink into the freezing water.
On dry land, Waters told me that Johnny Depp didn't do his own singing in the Cry-Baby movie: "It was James Intveld, who also did the singing for Johnny Knoxville in A Dirty Shame. We heard a tape of Johnny Depp singing and it was good, but he was a little nervous of himself at the time and Intveld was the voice. He's my Marni Nixon. Maybe I made a mistake." Or maybe Tim Burton made a mistake by not using Intveld?
The talented rocker Stew does his own vocals in the appealing Passing Strange, but he does seem to have a lot of dueting partners to sing along with. At the opening-night party for that person-of-color's awakening musical, a woman introduced herself to me as Stew's "significant other." "Are the two of you married?" I asked, while spearing hors d'oeuvres. "No," she replied. "He's actually still married to his ex-wife. She's here with her partner." "Whoa! So she went lesbo?" I said, all googly-eyed. "Yeah," the significant other responded. "And of course there's Heidi . . ." "Wait, don't even tell me about Heidi," I interjected. "Just tell me why Stew was on the Out 100 list." "He's very gay-friendly," she chirped. So true. He even spoke to his ex-wife at the party!
Passing for strange, the infamous (and very white) Beales surface once again in Grey Gardens: From East Hampton to Broadway, a documentary about the musical based on the documentary, though it's not to be confused with last year's extra documentary that was shot at the same time as the original documentary. (I'm not mad at the constant re-milking, mind you. In fact, I'm in the new documentary.) After a screening of the film, lyricist Scott Frankel told MC Patrick Pacheco that he's seen the script of the upcoming Jessica Lange–Drew Barrymore movie version—yes, more re-milking—and it delves back into the '30s (probably for $34) and continues past the era of Grey Gardens, showing little Edie putting on a bizarre Village nightclub act after mama died. "I saw that," remembered Pacheco. "It was a little voyeuristic." A little boy-euristic was looking around at all the former twinks in the audience, then spotting the now middle-aged Jerry Torre, the sweet handyman immortalized in the film. I had a nice chat with Jerry about corn (he still likes it) and cabs (he still drives one). As for the guy who played him on Broadway, Jerry and I both gushed, "Isn't he gorgeous?"