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
New York is far from over, honey! Amazingly, you can grab a dollar slice of pizza, visit your favorite chain store ("Retail Space for Lease"), and then crawl around the wreckage to find some jewels of culture—and not just to melt them down and hawk 'em on 47th Street.
Let me stuff up the sad clichés about the economy and sell you on some of the finer entertainment moments from last week, all served gratis to press people, who got a momentary reprieve from setting up street sales in front of abandoned real estate agencies.
First off, the American Theatre Wing's Annual Spring Gala at Cipriani was a really high-class evening, especially since I wasn't seated with the usual dot.com droogs and bug-eyed party crashers. I got to hang with hotsy-totsy Tony Award types, and in between overhearing their mutual admiration orgies—"You are the reason I act"; "Yes, but don't let me bore you with what you mean to me"—I got to really appreciate them as people and artists.
And the entertainment was lively, with Hugh Jackman and Kristin Chenoweth taking the opposite tack by shtickily putting down both each other and themselves. Chenoweth charmingly mocked some of her film choices, like RV ("That was very close to home, if you know what I mean") and Space Chimps ("two hours you'll never get back"). And Jackman quipped that he's not old enough to have written his memoirs, as Chenoweth has, though he's far from accomplishment-free. "Since I was named 'Sexiest Man Alive,' " he said, "nothing makes me nervous anymore. Everything's OK—for the next five months anyway." They were so cute, the whole thing was the reason I act.
Another surviving gem, Singin' in the Rain star Debbie Reynolds, opened at the Café Carlyle in a weird but endearing show filled with Hollywood memories, self-deprecating remarks, and a rat-tat-tat delivery that made me woozy trying to keep up with her. The act seemed so aimed at a Vegasy-type short-attention-span crowd that you wanted to hit the slots afterwards, but in the meantime, the American sweetheart turned brassy broad's nonstop singin' and sassin' truly helped the 'tinis go down.
"Say, 'Hi, Debbie!' " our coiffed-to-the-death star ordered us on entering and looking for the tiny stage. She proceeded to rumble through decades of material, pausing to suggestively point out the bassist's long fingers ("I could use them later tonight") and address the guy uncomfortably seated right in front of her ("You didn't want to see my tits!").
An interesting twist had Debbie doing a speedy version of "I'm Still Here," which was sung in Postcards From the Edge by the character we're not supposed to believe was based on Debbie, remember? More expectedly, Debbie obliged with her Zsa Zsa Gabor impression, but she updated it with jokes about the Hungarian motormouth's great-niece ("Paris is the only Hilton that's always occupied. She got where she is on her own two knees"). Debbie also did a Streisand spoof and sounded way better as her than as herself, making you wonder if she should do the whole show as Babs. Nah, we want her as the unsinkable mother of Princess Leia and ex-wife of "the schmuck." Hi, Debbie!
I was back with the trophy holders at a Tony's DiNapoli party for In the Heights, where I asked Lin-Manuel Miranda (who reworded some of West Side Story) if he'll next translate Bye Bye Birdie. "Sure," he said, playing along. " 'Spanish Rose' will be completely in Spanish. Then I'll do Nine and call it Nueve." And after that, he can do that great Dolly Parton musical, Nueve a Cinco!
At the same event, I cornered Heights' Priscilla Lopez, the original Diana Morales in A Chorus Line and a gigante idol of mine. I asked Lopez about the recent Chorus Line documentary, and she looked mildly alarmed. "I haven't seen it," she said frostily. "I loved it," I chirped, "but why is there no mention of Diana Morales?" "I hear there's no mention of [lyricist] Ed Kleban, either," she shot back, returning to her food. Ay, dios mio!
Simply everyone was mentioned and included at the three-hour-plus Tony Awards. In fact, from the many-worlds-colliding opening-number mish-mash, you might have gotten the impression that you buy tickets to these shows, and you get to see Elton John, Dolly Parton, and Poison. (In the last case, it was more of a warning.)
In between all the drug commercials, I also made the following stunning chronological observations: The touring companies they showed weren't really the touring companies, according to my spies. For the backup people, they used locals instead of flying in the out-of-town troupes they're celebrating. That little recession thing again . . . Speaking of cutting back, Sir Elton seemed intent on refusing to crack even a half-smile. Can't he at least be happy for other people? . . . Liza Minnelli (Judy's daughter) and Carrie Fisher (Debbie's daughter) are the same person, just on different meds . . . Where was David Carradine in the death montage? He was on Broadway in 1965. Look it up! . . . Always on Broadway, Alice Ripley deserved her award, but her misguided speech of screaming and crying was exactly like Next to Normal itself . . . The three Billy Elliots restored a note of humble adorability. Even Sir Elton was smiling! And at the end, he even congratulated the Alice Ripley show!
All the winners were completely guessable, and so was my assumption that Neil Patrick Harris would be a cute host—sort of Hugh Jackman lite—who wouldn't steamroll over the proceedings. At the after-party, I congratulated Harris on the recap finale he sang, and he said, "Originally, I was going to do something about being bitter about not singing." "But Frank Langella did the bitter thing," I chimed in. "He put us over by three minutes with that!" Harris informatively said, grinning.
There was more potential bitterness by the bar, where I heard one of the Billy Elliots asking his father, "How was my tapping? I could hear the music, but not the taps. Was I OK?" "About 90 percent of the time," replied Dad. God, showbiz is rough.
As further proof of that, the wine-cooler musical, Rock of Ages, came away with nothing, but maybe the movie version can nab some Golden Globes next year. They're currently casting it, and as Constantine Maroulis recently told me, "I have a joke that I hope at least I can maybe sing the tracks for Zac Efron or whoever gets the part instead of me." Well, a report just had Efron being courted for the role. Be careful what you joke about!
The David Carradine case is no joke, if I can return to that—in fact, it has set kinky masturbation and/or martial arts back 100 years—but at least the sad saga prompted the instant classic Post headline Hung Fu. (They must have rejected Thaied Up, Bound for Glory, and Well Hung.) Through all of this, the most riveting turn of events has been Carradine's defenders trying to paint him as a vanilla-type guy who was simply murdered by martial arts fanatics! (That's better than being a sexual adventurer, I guess.) And the media low point so far wasn't any bad pun—it was when a guy from Extra told Larry King that it was in atrocious taste for Fox to so quickly air the Mental episode with Carradine as a guest star. Oh, yeah, let's talk endlessly about the rope tied around the man's 72-year-old genitals, but show his actual work? Nah, that would be tasteless.
Please! Let's go party some more and forget. Meet me in front of Retail Space for Lease.