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Broadway Bound

Episode 24

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Anglea LansburyConfirmed: You read it here first: What I have been announcing in this column for the last two days - That Alec Baldwin will play opposite Angela Lansbury in the new musical based on Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Visit currently in development - was picked up by that bozo -I mean my distinguished colleague at the New York Post, and subsequently twisted beyond recognition. Believe me when I tell you that neither Mr. Baldwin nor Miss Lansbury will be appearing in the nude.
A hot bulletin informs me that Paul Reubens (yes, that Paul Reubens) has signed as Alan Cumming's replacement in Cabaret.
Confirmed: It was announced today that Chip Zien will be the next actor leaving Lincoln Center's current production of William Finn's A New Brain well before the end of it's extended run. Mr. Zien has been tapped at the last minute to star in the Mouse's musical remake of The Love Bug set to start filming in Russia by the end of the month. Producers are thinking about bringing in Kermit the Frog as a replacement "to make the musical more accessible to a younger audience."
Shirley MacLaineWith all this talk of replacements, is it any surprise that Shirley MacLaine is being spoken of as the logical successor to Bebe Neuwirth in Chicago?
Rumor has it that Ellen DeGeneres, Janeane Garofalo, and Lauren Bacall will take part next week in a secret reading of an all female version of Yasmina Reza's Art.
In recent weeks, this space was the first anywhere to announce such items as Oprah Winfrey filling in for the vacationing Audra McDonald in Ragtime and the announcement of the limited engagement run this fall of Shakespeare's King Lear staring Mandy Patinkin.
Both of these stories were picked up elsewhere shortly after their appearance here (and always without credit). Last Thursday, you read here that Harry Connick Jr. will star as Rick in the new Bricusse/Wildhorn musical Casablanca, set to start production late next year. The next day the story was picked up by - oh, never mind! But the latest is that Matthew Broderick will make his return to the musical stage in that role . . . and, like all the stories mentioned above, you read it here first.
Some gossip and rumors around town: What notorious (but astonishingly beautiful) theatre critic was almost arrested last Saturday at high noon when she jumped the fence and climbed the statue of George M Cohan, located at the southern tip of Duffy Square, and, martini glass in hand, proceeded to harangue hundreds of tourists waiting in line at the TKTS booth? Finally, after being (forcibly) removed from the statue by six (yes, six!) of New York's Finest, she calmly explained that she was protesting the refusal of (unnamed) producers to grant auditions to actor friends for the upcoming Broadway production of Yasmina Reza's new two-character play The Unexpected Man. She stated that her friends, named Anastasia and Rasputin, were far superior actors to the play's current London cast, Michael Gambon and Eileen Atkins.
Updates: What Broadway producer, victim last week of a near fatal accidental shooting, has temporarily moved his office to his private room at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital and is continuing to work as if nothing had happened?


At the hospital . . .

"Good morning, darling. The nurse said you were awake. How are we doing today?"

Drema, come in. We got another mention in the columns today. Do you think I should arrange to get myself shot every time we start a new production?

"Darling, don't say things like that. It was really touch and go there for a few days. If the ambulance had taken five more minutes to get uptown, you wouldn't be here now. Thank heavens your young protégé was there to call for one!"

Yes.

"He's waiting outside. Do you want me to have him come in?"

No. I'll speak with him later.

"I can't stay long today. I just wanted to drop off these contracts with the designers for your signature."

Whom did you decide on?

"I'm using all my old standbys. David for sets, Mildred for costumes, and Clara for lights. They're willing to work for minimum and they know how to give me what I want on a tight budget."

Old seems to be the right term. What's Mildred now, in her eighties? David and Clara must be close to a hundred. Why don't you give some of the new kids a chance?

"Why take risks? I've worked with these people for years. I know what they can do and what they can do is what I want for The Rehearsal. Besides, there's the whole other issue of communication. All of these children with their freshly minted BFAs simply don't know how to listen! You talk to them ‘till you're blue in the face, telling them exactly what you want and need, and then they go off and come up with something that shows off their talents, but which has little or nothing to do with the play. I simply don't have the time to teach them how to do their jobs."

It is worth taking the time, you know.

"If you have the time to take. I don't right now."

Whom are you going to use as director?

"Probably J. B. Howard. Yes, I know he's a bit long in the tooth, but we've worked well together in the past."

It's up to you. But Howard seems a . . . conservative choice.

"That's why I want him. He knows how I work. He doesn't waste rehearsal time playing games. He'll keep the scenes moving along at a brisk pace. He knows how to stage a scene so the focus stays where it belongs. He's familiar with the stage conventions of the period. And, he wouldn't know what a concept was if one fell on him."

Sounds like our ideal director.

"I'm going to offer him the job this afternoon."

Call me if he accepts.

"He will. Darling, there's something else I need to know for the press releases. What the hell is the name of your theatre? Have you decided yet?"

Yes.

"And?"

I'm going to name it the Drema Paige Theatre.

"Darling!"

It's a good PR move. We should get some decent mileage out of the legendary Drema Paige opening in a new play in a new theatre named after her. If we work it right we can turn the whole thing into an event.

"Remember that god-awful bronze bust of me Sam Harris gave me after the Rain tour? I've always hated it but people seem to think it's pretty. Why don't I dig that out of storage and you can put it on a marble pedestal in the lobby?"

And have everybody looking at it and commenting on how beautiful you were?

"If it reminds the media just how long I've been around, it may work in our favor. Kate Hepburn always says that after you hit seventy, if you can remember all your lines, no critic would dare give you a bad review."

And if they do, I can always rename the theatre for Neverland. Renaming theatres seems to be something of a trend lately.

"I'm off. I'll stop by tomorrow."

I'm being discharged this afternoon. Could you get a car and pick me up around four? I should be able to go back to the office tomorrow.

"I may be a little late, but I'll be here. See you then. Oh, shall I tell him he can come in now?"

You might as well. The scene I'm about to play will be much more effective if played from a hospital bed.

"Kiss-kiss."

A few moments later,
a knock at the door . . .

Enter.

"Hi. Thanks for seeing me. I understand why you didn't want to see me before. You're looking good. Are you feeling okay? I mean, are you comfortable? Is there anything I can get - "

What do you want?

"I . . . I wanted to say . . . I just wanted to let you know . . . Christ, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to shoot you. The gun just went off. I'm sorry. I'm . . . I don't know what to say . . . I'm so sorry!"

Very well. I accept your apology. Now leave me alone.

"I can't go before you tell me . . . you could have had me arrested. You could have sent me to jail."

Yes.

"Why did you tell the police it was an accident?"

Why did you call an ambulance? You could have walked out and let me die. No one would have ever known it was you who pulled the trigger.

"I would have known."

I suppose so.

"I was crazy that night."

Yes. You were really willing to shoot me to get Neverland back?

"I didn't plan on shooting anybody. I thought the gun . . . the threat would be enough."

You were wrong.

"I know. But, I couldn't think what else to do. Neverland meant . . . means so much to me!"

So, in spite of everything, you still want to work on it? To write it?

"Yes."

Book and lyrics?

"Yes."

Very well. You're back on the project. We'll meet with the composer the day after tomorrow.

"What! You mean it?"

Yes.

"I don't know what to say. Why?"

You were willing to threaten me with a gun - possibly kill me - to be allowed to finish what you started. Something tells me that you won't walk out on the project again. Am I right?

"Yes! Yes."

Good. You will also - immediately and without complaint - make any and all cuts and changes I suggest in both the book and lyrics.

"Of course, we can discuss any changes you want."

No discussion. I tell you to cut a line or change a lyric and you do so. Period. Understand?

"But, I can't - "

You can and will do precisely what I tell you to. On the night of the shooting, did you happen to notice the video camera in the corner of the office - the one I knocked over when you shot me? I turned it on before I called you in from the hallway. I have a tape of the entire confrontation, including you pulling the trigger. I can send you to jail at any moment I so choose.

"But, you told the police it was an accident!"

And I can just as easily tell them that you made me agree to say that or you wouldn't call the ambulance. Of course, that part isn't on the tape. I'd knocked over the camera moments before.

"You wouldn't!"

Try me. Be at the office at nine o'clock the day after tomorrow, ready to work.

"I can't work under these conditions!"

It's always been my experience that a little stress always sets a writer's creative juices flowing.

"You can't - "

Au contraire. The very thought of working with a writer who will, without argument, immediately act on every little comment I make, makes this old producer's heart flutter with anticipation and joy. What's in that bag? Did you bring me a present?

"It's a book. I thought you might want something to read."

How thoughtful! Let's see. Show Time: A Chronology of Broadway and the Theatre from Its Beginnings to the Present by Gene Brown. You know, I've been meaning to pick this up. Thank you.

Show Time: A Chronology of Broadway and the Theatre from Its Beginnings to the Present is a comprehensive, entertaining, detailed chronology of the history of the Broadway stage. For nearly every year since the early 19th century, you'll find a production history, what was making headlines and gossip among theater personalities, and major news events that shaped the times. Anecdotes about legendary show business personalities, productions, and incidents, combined with quotes, famous firsts, awards, stage trivia, and more make this a unique compendium that every theatergoer will want to own and to which anyone seeking the bigger picture on New York theater will consistently refer. Show Time is being published to coincide with Broadway's 100th anniversary. (75 illustrations. Index. Bibliography.)

Show Time: A Chronology of Broadway and the Theatre from Its Beginnings to the Present
by Gene Brown
List Price: $22.95
ISBN: 0028620720


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