I am so attuned to all things Broadway that the annual Tony nominees reception at the Marriott Marquis—where the chosen come to alternately gloat over and act stunned by their nominations—is the fulcrum of my entire year in social striving.
At the event last week, I sat back as the honored folks (no slumming, miscast movie stars among them) were dragged over to be grilled like high-priced pancakes. Let me tell you what I learned. First, double-nominated choreographer JERRY MITCHELL told me that when he worked with Doubt‘s CHERRY JONES on Imaginary Friends, he had a surprise viewing of the Cherry orchard. “We took our clothes off,” Mitchell said, “and swam naked at Black’s Beach. And dolphins actually came and swam with Cherry. That’s the aura she projects!” Lesbian dolphins? “Lesbian dolphins!” he said, laughing.
Moving on to fish schlapping, Spamalot dollface TIM CURRY got all introspective on me and said, “I don’t know if I’ve ever found my grail. First you have to identify what your grail is, then finding it is a whole other thing.” It’s the Tony, dum-dum!
If SARA RAMIREZ—the show’s hilarious Lady of the Lake—cops the grail, I mean the gold, will she have to rejigger her character’s whine, “I’ve no Tony awards!”? “Actually, ERIC IDLE has been talking about that,” Ramirez admitted to me. “But then she’d have nothing to complain about.” Yes, she would—that it’s only for featured actress. (Emergency sidebar: Next time, Ramirez will surely be up for lead. Curry told me he’s been lobbying MIKE NICHOLS to star her in a production of Funny Girl.) In the meantime, doesn’t Ramirez’s “Find Your Grail” song sound just a tiny bit like “Take Me Home, Country Roads”? “It sounds like a lot of things,” she said, sensibly.
Will Spamalot‘s dashing CHRISTOPHER SIEBER kiss babies and campaign to win? “I don’t like babies, so probably not,” Sieber said. “They scare me.” Then he’d adore The Pillowman! But much more importantly—does “Find Your Grail” sound like, you know? Medium pause. “I would say no, because I have to be diplomatic,” said Sieber, laughing. “Maybe a little bit,” confessed Spamalot‘s choreographer, CASEY NICHOLAW. “I’m going into my Buster Keaton mode,” answered the show’s MICHAEL MCGRATH, grinning silently.
I AM, GEORGE, I AM
And the esoteric stars kept coming like cultured cannonballs. There was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?‘s MIREILLE ENOS, who remembered the moment she got cast. (“I got a call saying, ‘You’re our Honey, honey!’ “) There was SCOTT ELLIS, director of the flawless Twelve Angry Men revival, who said he got out of being on a jury because he told them he was working on that courtroom play and he couldn’t be objective! (Thousands of antsy potential jurors will suddenly start claiming to be doing productions of Twelve Angry Men.)
Twelve‘s nominated actor, the brilliant PHILIP BOSCO, said the cast became so surreally close, they were almost spooked by the experience. “Like in Moon Over Buffalo?” I smirked, knowing that show was hell over New York. CAROL BURNETT was sublime, informed Bosco, “but the director and playwright cut us out of the creative process!”
The same thing just happened to Bosco’s friend, axed New York critic JOHN SIMON. Isn’t he a notorious hatemonger? “He doesn’t hate,” insisted Bosco. “He speaks injudiciously—I think on purpose.” (In the ’80s, Simon was overheard loudly saying that gays are ruining the theater and should die of AIDS. Glad to hear he didn’t mean it!)
Lately, Bosco’s been happying it up in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang along with the nominated ERIN DILLY. But Dilly agreed with me that the lubed-up title contraption is the real star. “You gotta give it up to Chitty,” she deadpanned. “It eclipses all of us. On a slow night, when it’s a quiet house, we know the car will save our asses.”
While stroking mine, I admitted to A Streetcar Named Desire‘s AMY RYAN that when JOHN C. REILLY took off his shirt—I have to finally admit this—I thought he was rather doable. “He’s sexy!” she agreed. “Power and talent are sexy. And it’s Stella’s desire, not what the audience wants. John has nice lips. He’s a great kisser!”
He’s not the only one. La Cage aux Folles‘ Zaza, GARY BEACH, was blurting, “ROBERT GOULET‘s straight, but he loves to kiss me!” And Beach has been intimate with all the greats; he told me he has a photo of himself with Mary Martin, Helen Hayes, and CAROL CHANNING, “and it’s certifiably the gayest picture of the last half of the 20th century.” But what about the kiss-off of Goulet’s predecessor DANIEL DAVIS, who was fired for not being nice? “I was shocked,” said Beach. “Daniel and I had found a good working place, and offstage too. I said ‘Have a good weekend.’ He later called and said he was fired. That was the first I knew of it!”
Well, I got my own comeuppance when Spelling Bee‘s composer, WILLIAM FINN, said he likes the column, “even though you hated our show!” “No, I didn’t,” I whimpered, going into my Buster Keaton mode. “Yes, you did!” he vented, a little scarily. “You said it was an irritating trifle!” Actually, I said it was remarkably slight, with tidy messages, but it often left you smiling. I ran out in T-E-A-R-S (take me home, country roads), running even faster when I realized BILLY CRUDUP and MARY-LOUISE PARKER were both nominated and might be in the same room. When I got home, I found I had a message from JAMES EARL JONES, nominee for On Golden Pond (which only sounds like it’s about an old couple’s Depends accident). And guess what, people? James Earl Jones wants me! To choose Verizon!
Wait, let me phone this in: I liked the Sweet Charity revival a bit more than Times man BEN BRANTLEY did—he thought it was an irritating trifle—but I have to defend his integrity here. The show’s ads quote Brantley saying that when CHRISTINA APPLEGATE appears onstage, “the audience braces for a triumph.” But they leave out that he basically concluded the audience doesn’t get one! What’s more, a radio ad quotes Ben gushing that “fairy tales do come true.” But what he actually wrote is that Applegate and her character believe they come true, though in this case, despite some pluses, they don’t! Brantley didn’t respond to my request for a comment, but I’m sure he would have said, “Every week, Musto’s readers brace for a triumph.”
And one last theater-queen memo: CHARLES BUSCH is going straight with A Very Serious Person, a not campy indie film he’s directing and co-starring in. It’s about a terminally ill woman who’s raising a grandson by the shore, with Busch popping up as an eccentric male nurse. (The lesbian dolphins haven’t been cast yet.) “It’s my Chalk Garden,” says Busch. “It’s our Station Master or Pieces of April,” insists co-screenwriter CARL ANDRESS. Like that Spamalot song, it’s intentionally familiar yet wholly original! Have a good weekend.
COME AND GET THESE MEMORIES
Not just a haven for gamblers living on the edge, Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun casino also has eggless Caesar salads and comforting oldies concerts. At a junket there last week, I caught pop tunesmith Burt Bacharach’s soaring show of his hits, with three singers doing velvety renditions and Burt tossing in an occasional rasp. “Sing ‘Raindrops’!” a drunk in the crowd yelled at one point. “But I already did it,” reminded Burt. He did it again.
The next night, in the big arena, the “Motown Spectacular” had MC JIMMIE “dyno-mite” WALKER promising some “real sanging. No ICE-T. No Ice Tray. No Ice Pick.” But lots of MARTHA REEVES, who wriggled out with a feather boa and two Vandellas and alerted everyone, “I came all the way to Connecticut to let you know that ‘Dancing in the Street’ is my song!” On the phone, legendary Martha had told me she’s taking to the street and running for city council in Detroit. “I feel I could be the voice of the people and remind them that this is the town Motown was made famous at,” she said. “There’s nothing here that even says we live here.” Martha will put up some plaques! And she’ll stop heat waves! Vote for the woman—and Twelve Angry Men!