By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Broadway funny lady Jackie Hoffman is furious about the eight months of obsessive critical abuse that has been flung at The Addams Family, in which she plays salty, weed-smoking, burnt-out Grandma. But she also seems a little pissed at the musical itself.
In fact, Jackie is just mad at life, which has always been her shtick—one she worked out with amusing bitterness in her Jackie Five-OH! show at Joe's Pub last week, commemorating her 50 years of rotten opportunities and terrible luck.
As Jackie told the audience, The Addams Family "is the most reviled, hated, loathed, shat-upon, criticized, financially successful group of people since the Jews." She seemed most annoyed by the review in USA Today—"my go-to paper for theater," she smirked—that called her performance many things, most notably "irritating." Perhaps they would have had more compassion if they'd considered that Jackie's virtually the only one onstage without a big song ("Lurch has a song," she joked. "Fucker doesn't even talk!"); she was only brought into Act Two to cover a noisy set change; and most of her dialogue involves giving Pugsley straight lines (she called it "a shit, humiliating part where I set up his fat, 12-year-old ass!").
Most tragically of all, said Jackie, while Broadway musicals generally attract "gays and smart straights" at first and then get the dumb tourists, this one skipped the middle-men ("We're the only musical that doesn't appeal to gay people").
But the woman's got other problems to distract from the horror of a hit Broadway musical. Most notably, she lost her SAG health insurance after being replaced in a Cameron Diaz rom-com by Queen Latifah, of all people ("She's in everything!"). After bitching about that and belting a number about how she desperately wants to star in a Holocaust movie, our woebegone star announced, "Oh, look at the time. Three more intelligent plays have closed, and The Addams Family just made a million more dollars." Still, I'd gladly trade places with the woman; she happens to have an attractive and wildly patient husband.
Raising the Barre
Speaking of things that are creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky, it's the year of straight camp movies, with The Fighter and Black Swan going for broke with florid character studies about the pervy perils of success. I've seen the latter, and it's a riveting tale of creative obsession that goes lusciously over-the-top while probing the way a Svengali can torture and tease a woman into committing to a great performance. I'm referring to the Vincent Cassel character, not to Darren Aronofsky, ahem.
At a performance of the alien-invasion spoof Devil Boys From Beyond, I ran into John Epperson, a/k/a drag diva Lypsinka, who plays a male rehearsal pianist in Black Swan. Epperson happens to be a male rehearsal pianist in real life, too, so this was perfect casting, though he told me he's pretty sure his tinkling was dubbed in the film (probably by Queen Latifah).
But he does get to spit out a line to a ballerina diva—"I've got a life!"—and on one take he even impulsively added "dearie." According to Epperson, Aronofsky promptly told him, "Cut the 'dearie.' It's too queeny." OK, princess.
Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves
Two young women battle it out for the lead dancer role in Burlesque, but this time it's gay camp, and the smart straights might want to stay home and order Moonstruck. I paid to see the movie in Chelsea, where the sellout audience consisted of hundreds of gay men over 35 and four women who must have been dragged along as cosmetic assistants. And it wasn't completely unsatisfying. The first half is actually enjoyable in its reckless and defiant embracing of showbiz clichés ("Who do I have to flirt with to get from here to the stage?"). Alas, the second half turns into a drippy love story between Ruby Keeler–ish Christina Aguilera and a cute bartender/songwriter, who she thinks is gay, but isn't (though I still say he is, and I oughta know).
Cher plays an obstinate but basically caring club-owner whose face doesn't move except for her fake lashes. And Stanley Tucci once again is the wise and funny gay righthand man, making you wonder if you've walked into The Devil Wears Nothing. (PS: His and Cher's characters had sex 25 years ago on a drunken night in Tahoe. I swear, dearie. Maybe it's a coded reference to the writer/director's ex, David Geffen, who, according to legend, once dated Cher.)
Anyway, the one-named Oscar winner gets to sing a sort of pop "I'm Still Here" that's filmed in the darkened club, with nothing but a hazy follow spot on her, as if real light would startle you. Fortunately, Cher just happens to have a sequiny top on under her layers as she unexpectedly decides to run through the song before crowbar-ing the bitchy dancer's car and heading home.
Practically all the other numbers are about burlesque, but the movie has less to do with the revival of that genre that started percolating in clubs over 10 years ago than with Vegas hooch revues and strutting music videos. When things can't get any gay-campier, Barbra Streisand's husband turns up in a cameo, and it all has to do with the lounge's future ("Marcus is gonna tear down the club and build a skyscraper!"). Suddenly, it's Rock of Ages, but serious—or maybe Cabaret without the Nazis, unless you count the writer/director and his current boyfriend, who reportedly fought loudly throughout the production. Add some real Nazis and you'd have a great Jackie Hoffman vehicle.