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Alec Baldwin Isn't Scary Anymore!

Danny Hellman

Success has a wonderful tendency to blur out any ill will. Remember when Alec Baldwin sold millions of tabloids with his fiery personal battles and other distasteful controversies that made him seem as hairy and scary as some of the thugs he plays?

Then came a little something called 30 Rock, and all was forgiven and forgotten. We love you, Alec!

But the reality is that success must have mellowed Baldwin himself, not just our perception of him. (He doesn't stir up bad headlines anymore!) And the fact that he has emerged as one of our finest comic actors makes you want to rip up your old Enquirers and just stand in some sort of admiration, albeit with fists half-cocked.

While focusing his emotional oomph at the camera, Baldwin has emerged from all sorts of packs to the front lines of recognition. As one of the big names at his Museum of the Moving Image tribute last week noted, "He's the only Baldwin brother about whom no one ever asks, 'Which one is he again?' "

The other speakers praised Baldwin's low-key acting technique and comic skill while making inevitable references to a less redeemable firebrand, Charlie Sheen. Michael Keaton said he was there to honor "Alec Baldwin—whose real name is Chaim Levine." And Tina Fey admitted to the honoree, "I shudder to think what low-rent Two and a Half Men–type show we'd have without you. Actually, we'd probably have more money if we had that kind of show!"

It's Yesterday Once More

Baldwin recently turned down the Broadway revival of Born Yesterday, no doubt realizing that the juiciest part is the heroine, not the lug who tries to keep her tied to the bed. The plum female lead went to Nina Arianda, who's making her Broadway debut as Billie Dawn, the kept woman who awakens in time to turn the poker tables and leave with a new man and nice outfits. In the same part, Judy Holliday beat Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson for the Oscar, which forever branded her the gays' worst enemy, but a re-viewing of the film shows that Judy was pretty transcendent (and in real life, she never called her child a rude, thoughtless pig).

At a meet-and-greet last week, Arianda told me she is avoiding seeing the movie so there are no preconceptions about how to play the role. But does Billie always have to be blonde? "I don't know," said Arianda, "but I'm happy she is!" Of course Billie is far from dumb, Arianda said, explaining, "Innocence doesn't mean you're stupid." Except for Sarah Palin? "Yeah," said Arianda, smiling. "I'm not into moose-hunting myself."

Meanwhile, Broadway doesn't only do revivals, it also adapts old movies, thank you. And so, Sister Act seizes the crowd-pleasing comedy about a down-low lounge singer teaching nuns to belt pop hits in hopes of making it into a religious experience for tourists and theatergoers. "Who went to Catholic school?" the show's publicist asked the assembled reporters at a promo event last week. "It's theater," cracked a press person in reply. "It's a roomful of Jews."

Well, out came one of them—director Jerry Zaks—who told us the show "is about friendship, it's about faith, it's about two hours and 25 minutes." Co-producer Whoopi Goldberg (the original Deloris) elaborated that this Sister Act has enormous appeal, and in fact, customers "don't even have to understand English. They will understand what's going on."

Sure enough, I got all the numbers they showed us: Golden-throated star Patina Miller musically informing us, "I'm fabulous, baby" and being convincing about it; Victoria Clark giving her some loving discipline as a superior Mother Superior; and then the nuns learning to sing really quickly. Lyricist Glenn Slater told me that he and Alan Menken wrote about 20 songs that are not in the current version, as they've continually retooled and reworked things (which they're still doing). So this is not Spider-Man, where the tunes seem stubbornly frozen? "No," he swore. "We will be opening on time and we're not dropping anyone from the rafters."

A sort of French Born Yesterday, Potiche—which is French for "large vase"—has Catherine Deneuve as a trophy wife who wakes up and dances the Hustle. It's pretty lightweight stuff, but no one plays a large vase like Deneuve, and at the premiere of the film (which opened the Rendez-vous with French Cinema festival), director Francois Ozon told me, "She's had so many masterpieces. She just wants to have fun. She doesn't want to be this serious diva." Hey, "Catherine Deneuve" must be French for "Meryl Streep"!

Hotel, 'Mo-tel . . .

Let me switch accents and tell you that the gay complex is still happening, for those who prefer Greek to French. I'm not talking about some horrible psychological development, I'm referring to Out NYC, the gay hotel on West 42nd Street that's going to be the latest outpost in a world chain of gay-for-stay.

Last year, the creators gave me a grand tour of the grounds, complete with all their gay plans. They said the nightclub would open in February 2011 and the hotel itself would probably debut this fall. But then I heard they were asking around for more people to invest! Well, they must have finally gotten the cash because it's all systems go again. There are work permits on the exterior, and the team updates me that the club will open this fall and the hotel next spring. If it's a hit, all my former gay complexes will be forgiven and forgotten.

musto@villagevoice.com


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