By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Musical Mondays at the long-running gay bar Splash are a theater queen's wet dream, whereby Broadway lovers (including even a few women) stare with moist eyes at large video screens showing their favorite showstoppers, then refocus to the stage for the "Curtain Call" segment of the evening, in which a Broadway type drives home some showtunes in person.
They truly sing out, Louise! The event—presented by VJ John Bantay and emceed by radio/TV guy Scott Nevins—is such a recession-proof hit that I just had to track down Nevins for a journalistic version of a duet from Call Me Madam:
Q: Hi, Scott. What's the most popular video shown at the event? Something from the Tourette's musical? A: It's a tie between the performance from Dreamgirls at the Tonys with Jennifer Holliday stomping across the stage like Jabba the Hutt and gobbling up her co-stars while screaming, "And I Am Telling You, I'm Not Going," and the Tony Award performance from Wicked. Top secret: The last note of the video had to be dubbed over with the cast recording because Idina Menzel hit a clunker that night. I wonder if that's ever happened again. Hmmm. Anyway, did you see the Kennedy Center Honors?
Q: I get what you're saying. Speaking of that golden night of prize-giving, what did you think of the withering look Barbra Streisand so adorably came up with on camera while Idina sang, "Don't Rain on My Parade"? A: I am obsessed with this clip. I've worked with Idina and will be stoned by gay men with bags of glitter for what I am about to say, but Babs's face said it all. It was like amateur night at the Levittown Jewish Community Center on Long Island! I don't get it. Little girls and gay boys all over the world love Idina. I want to just shake them and say, "Have you ever seen a video of Streisand or Judy Garland or Eydie Gormé? That's a star. Idina is . . . very lucky." Beyoncé, on the other hand, was great on the Kennedy Center show. It was as if someone rewired her robot settings, and we saw something understated and, dare I say, real? As for Ne-Yo . . . is he single?
Q: I don't know, but he has a new single. Do you ever think some of the more rabid theater queens at Musical Mondays need to get a life, LOL? A: The theater queens are out in full force, but we also get a lot of tourists and people who have heard about this infamous night, so they come to see the videos and then stare at the "regulars" who are dancing on tables and acting out their favorite numbers like it's a circus act. It's totally fun and funny, and you may even get to take home a chorus boy or three. Q: Or five guys named Mo'. What was the wildest performance ever there? A: Shayna Steele (from Rent and Hairspray) always blows the roof off the joint. The reason she's so brilliant is she doesn't want to be on Broadway—she wants to sing her original music, so she doesn't do the same ballads everyone else does. A true star.
Q: Speaking of which, how did you nab the great almighty Patti "Who do you think you are!" LuPone to make an appearance one night? I never quite pictured her at Splash. A: I wasn't there for LuPone, but I heard she was a trip, and she felt it was important to go to a gay bar to promote her Les Mouches album. I heard that the audience didn't ever shut up that much for her—which makes me feel better about those nights when these queens get so drunk and loud that they can't tell the difference between Bea Arthur and Arthur Laurents. Well, actually, I can't, either. Q: I can. Bea is the butch one.
Let's get out of the bars and into the actual theatrical arena, where I found out I'm not the same person as Mary-Louise Parker after all. I know this for sure because last week she was onstage in Hedda Gabler and I was watching from the audience. And I must say that while The Seagull was all about fruit—baskets of plums and such—this production is about chairs, piano benches, and long, symbolically closing doors. It's a night of exquisite home furnishings! Alas, almost everything else onstage is wood, too—so much so that I would have gladly rushed up there to speed the trigger for a happy ending.
Chairs, place settings, and even an architect help furnish The American Plan—a/k/a The Light in the Borscht Belt—which is distinguished by playwright Richard Greenberg's luscious language; he had me at "tempestuous thighs." Alas, after a character poetically announced, "I am a man who crosses moats," the out-of-town creature behind me screeched, ". . . who crosses what?"
The opening night crowd was generally way more urbane than that. In fact, I counted no fewer than nine Tony winners in the crowd! "I didn't think it would be this kind of a night," said a 2007 nominee, Orfeh, laughing. "I would have dressed better!" (Though, admittedly, her belt was astounding.)
Dolled up and sitting across the aisle from me was Phyllis Newman, who famously beat Streisand for the Tony, leading to Babs's first withering look. But this time, it was Phyllis who was unhappy. "You wrote in your fucking column that I left Butley at intermission," she said. "I had breathing problems! I adore Nathan Lane. But the good thing is—I'm not just babbling, I do have a point—I now have two bags, thanks to you." She pointed to a pair of Louis Vuitton satchels where she handily keeps her oxygen. So now if Phyllis Newman leaves something, it's because she really hates it!
A breath of fresh air, Patricia Clarkson—who's graced several Greenberg plays—reached into her bag of thoughts and gave me some insight on demand: "Richard mixes the heart and mind. He's a brilliant man. Don't forget he's been to Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. But he's a nice Jewish boy from Long Island, and he's always that!" Well, I look Jewish, I'm from Brooklyn, and I went to Columbia—does any of that count?
And finally, Jewish lady Joan Rivers entered my vision, so I asked about her upcoming appearance on Celebrity Apprentice. "It's a real bloodbath," Joan said. "I adore Donald. Millennia, watch out!" Beat. "Whatever her name is."
Meanwhile—if I can move onto a smaller stage—I've been screaming, "You're fired!" to anyone who even suggests I join Facebook. And they're coming out of the wood furnishings, honey. Someone actually told me I need to do this because even a peanut butter sandwich has a fan page there. Oh, great! So I should join and find out I have fewer fans than a fucking sandwich?
And then, of course, I'd get to read all those breathlessly indulgent status updates—earth-shaking stuff like, "Susan Schwartz just got in from the laundry," "Karen Clark has a sinus condition," and "Maggie just had a runny bowel movement." God, how can I live without that kind of information? (Withering Streisand look thrown at my computer.)
I have a far more productive plan, and this one will make me rich fast. I'm going to open an OB-GYN center for cats, called "Pregnant Paws"! Andrew Lloyd Webber can do the music for the elevators.