Last week’s Drama Desk panel discussion at Tony’s Di Napoli was a gigantically amusing kvetchfest about how everything in the theater used to be better, even the souvenir mugs they sell in the lobby. “Even Off-Broadway has become part of the commercial theater,” moaned playwright extraordinaire EDWARD ALBEE, “whereas it used to be an exercise of affection and bravery.” Producer MARTY RICHARDS bitched out all the people who demand billing, saying, “Now it’s become like a bad bar mitzvah invitation.” And another producer whined, “The theater must be about the unexpected. If you know when you walk in what’s going to happen, it’s no fun!” (though she happens to be producing a revival of a 42-year-old play this year).
An audience member raised her hand to make a comment and I was sure she was going to say, “Chillax, y’all,” but she actually went with, “Today’s students are bereft of literacy.” (Yeah, not like in the good old days when there were so many dummos in my school that we had to study Simon and Garfunkel lyrics as poetry.) At least we got a fairly current gossip moment about a 76-year-old legend when someone remarked that the divine MARIAN SELDES doesn’t always remember her lines and Albee countered, “She remembers enough of them.” These kids today!
TV star gives her all to Charity
Expect more of the expected, but unexpectedly retooled for the modern age, with the upcoming Broadway revival of the 39-year-old flower-power musical Sweet Charity, the rare Neil Simon adaptation of a Fellini film. At a mini press preview where the producers tossed about words like “delicious” and “huge success,” Tony winner DENIS O’HARE shone in his stalled-elevator number. (“I love doing a nervous scene when I’m nervous,” he told me later, looking relieved.) And teensy-waisted star CHRISTINA APPLEGATE applied a softish voice but boldish dance moves to the musical exultation “I’m a Brass Band.”
Afterward, I asked apple-cheeked Applegate if her character is supposed to be a taxi dancer or a 10-cent ‘ho. “She’s whatever you want her to be,” she replied earnestly. “Hopefully, a wonderful woman who wants love.” (“It’s euphemistically a tango palace,” director WALTER BOBBIE told the assembled press, “whatever the hell that was. You paid a dime and you got something.”) Applegate has her own fervid desires; she told me she’s long been obsessed with Broadway and as a kid couldn’t understand why she wasn’t playing Annie. (Me too!) “This is my lifestyle change,” she asserted. “I’m taking care of Christina. I left L.A. and am now doing something for my spirit and soul.” But does her spirit feel weird that this long-simmering production—still plagued by internal battles—was supposed to star JENNA ELFMAN, then MARISA TOMEI, then JANE KRAKOWSKI, and now her? “No I don’t find it weird. This is the incarnation,” she said. “I don’t want to know what went wrong or right. It’s not my business.” Good answer!
Meanwhile, it is my business to report that Little Women is the new musical based on that 137-year-old book, and as such it’s often rather lovely, but it’s never exactly urgent, with a score that generally moves things sideways, not forward. The show towers over the musical version of Jane Eyre, but it’s hurt by the feeling that it could have been (and maybe was) written in 1961. And I won’t even repeat someone’s online posting that “two of the male leads looked more interested in each other than in any of the “little women.”
Another Web bunny claims straight HUGH JACKMAN will host the Tonys again, and that would be divoon, but so would my idea—get BILLY CRYSTAL, WHOOPI GOLDBERG, DAME EDNA, MARIO CANTONE, and EVE ENSLER to out-monologue one another, even if the credits look like a bad bar mitzvah invite.
But I’m guessing you’ve now heard more about the theater than you ever dreamed (or nightmared). So let me segue to a sordid combination of movies and trash TV and pass along my inspired notes from watching the Golden Globes, scrawled on a discarded Baby Ruth wrapper. And so:
In addition to winning a Globe, CLIVE OWEN looks like he’s gotten a clipped nose, micro-dermabrasion, and some extra hair. Congrats, Clive. . . . NATALIE PORTMAN is giggling it up, acting way ditzier than her pole-rubbing stripper character. Everyone’s staring at her as if they were watching Springtime for Hitler. . . . WILLIAM SHATNER is so facially enhanced he looks like he was just beaten up by HILARY SWANK. He graciously thanks “the wife.” Loser MICHAEL IMPERIOLI bitterly grabs for the champagne. . . . The feel-good moment: MICKEY HARGITAY falls apart blubbering over the daughter and turns into PAUL SORVINO. . . . No bruises on DIANE LANE, thank God. . . . JASON BATEMAN shakes his head when he’s announced as a nominee, as if he knows he couldn’t win in a million years. He wins. He runs to the stage with a card listing dozens of names he happens to have written down!
GEOFFREY RUSH thanks Peter Sellers’s family for being so generous with their help. Aren’t some of them suing now? By the way, Rush’s wife looks unmoved to the point of disgust, KATE WINSLET is looking at her nails, and CHAD LOWE looks ready to shoot himself. Again. Didn’t anyone tell these people there’d be cameras in the room?. . . Line I never want to hear again: “I can’t believe I’m at the same table, let alone in the same movie with these people!” . . . CLINT EASTWOOD praises the crowd for doing “the tsunami victims thing.” And suddenly it’s all as over as TERI HATCHER‘s career was five minutes ago—and I loved it!
At gay night at the Park afterwards a young queen is so very unstereotypically shrieking, “Desperate Housewives won! Hell-leaux!” Another craven homosexual runs up to me and says, “If Swank steals the Oscar from BENING again, I can’t go on! She only won last time for looking like MATT DAMON.”
By the way, didn’t it seem like the Desperate Housewives cast members have already arrived at that place the Sex and the City gals took five years to land in? Total dislike.
At least EVA LONGORIA‘s as happy as a bearded clam. According to an Us Weekly caption: ” ‘We make it work,’ former ‘NSyncer J.C. CHASEZ, 28, tells Us of his nine-month long-distance relationship with Desperate Housewives‘ Longoria, 29. (He lives in Florida, she’s L.A.-based.)” Yeah, they’re triumphing against all sorts of challenges.
I’ve got one last astounding insight about a celebrity couple: Among the literati, TIM MCGRAW and FAITH HILL are lovingly referred to as McGraw-Hill. Now let me go take care of Michael.
Leguizamo and Laurence Fishburne in Precinct 13
photo: Courtesy of Rogue Pictures
Dish of Assault
In the charged remake Assault on Precinct 13, JOHN LEGUIZAMO is fun as a manic druggie prisoner who calls himself “an entrepreneur motherfucker” and asks a copper, “Have you been eating doughnut? Your eyes are glazed.” At the premiere (at a theater in our own precinct 13, creepy-deepily enough), I asked Leguizamo if making the set-bound movie was a claustrophobic experience. “It’s supposed to be claustrophobic,” he said. “That’s the idea!” He probably would have yelled, “Duh,” but he needed to borrow my pen to sign autographs for a second, so he stayed civil. I mentioned that legit stages are much less claustro these days thanks to Leguizamo—sorry, theater again—who helped pave the way for all the above-referenced one-person shows that currently fill Broadway with geniuses, egomaniacs, and schizophrenics. Shouldn’t he get a cut? “Yeah,” he exclaimed, grinning. “I’d like a little taste of their success. If not 10 percent, then at least five!” Is he a pioneer? “I try to be,” he said, borrowing the pen again. “I try not to suck whenever I do something.” That attitude is so rare in Hollywood that as I heard it, my eyes turned into crullers!