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Episode 40

DREMA'S GIFTS

Tuesday Morning
September 22, 1998
The Producer's Offices

"Good morning. I'm here, right on time. Have you seen what's happening down onstage?"

The rehearsal?

"Yep. What's with that?"

Robin called one yesterday afternoon, and today and tomorrow. Yesterday, she kept everybody working for 12 hours. I'm trying not to think about the overtime we'll be paying this week.

"Is this a good idea?"

I don't know. It's keeping everybody busy. From what I've seen, these rehearsals may not be necessary, but at least they have something to do. I think they need that.

"What about you? Are you okay? You were close to her, too."

I'll be all right. It really hasn't sunk in yet, you know?

"I think so. Whenever you need to talk about it ... well, I'm here if you need me."

Thank you. I appreciate that. And I will be needing your help. Apparently, Drema appointed me in her will as the executor of her estate. Knowing Drema, I have no idea what to expect.

"Just let me know what I can do."

I will. To business. Ready to get some work done?

"Yep. What's left?"

All the arrangements are in place for The Rehearsal. We open Thursday, come hell or high water. It's time to get back to work on Neverland.

"What first?"

This. Drema left this with me for you last Saturday night. It's was her present for you. Would you open it now? I'm curious.

"She gave me a present?"

She had presents for everyone. She always did that for the first preview performance.

"She was a nice lady, wasn't she?"

Very nice.

"Let's see ... it's a first class, round trip airline ticket from New York to Seattle. I don't understand ... "

I think I do. Are the dates open?

"Yep. So what's up? Am I going to Seattle?"

Maybe. Here, put this CD on and play track eight.

"Mama, a Rainbow?"

That's the one. Listen ... what do you think?

"Not bad."

Here's the headshot.

Jonathan Franks Headshot

"Jonathan Franks? Never heard of him."

Neither have I. Take a look at the resume.

"Hummm ... lots of Civic Light Opera stuff ... Richard III, Tempest, Christmas Carol, Secret Garden, Wonderful Life, Crazy for You, Sweet Charity, Chorus Line, Candide, Kiss Me Kate, Beggar's Opera ... looks like he's paid his dues. What are you thinking?"

He's home-based in Seattle.

"Okay, I'm beginning to get it."

This was my gift from Drema; the CD, headshot and resume. And this note. Read it.

"Darling, I hope you're not disappointed that you're not getting the usual pair of cuff-links. But, I thought you'd like this much, much more. Here's your Billy Finn! With more love than I can possibly express, Your Drema. Billy Finn? Was she ... are you serious?"

Drema was seldom wrong about casting. I think it's worth taking a look at Mr. Franks. Don't you?

"I guess I'm going to Seattle. Where exactly is Seattle?"

Somewhere on the West Coast. Take a copy of the resume and give him a call to set up an appointment.

"Appointment? Not an audition?"

See what he looks like first. If you like what you see, go ahead and audition him. See if he can belt. Let me know what you think and we'll take it from there.

Jonathan Franks CD Cover

Jonathan Frank
Sleeping in the Arms of Love
$17 Prepaid (includes handling and shipping)
Gionata Music
1122 E. Pike St. #1252
Seattle, WA 98122

In his nearly fourteen years as chief drama critic of The New York Times, Frank Rich was both admired as a passionate advocate for the best in New York theater and reviled as "the Butcher of Broadway" for his presumed destructive power over the commercial fate of Broadway shows. Hot Seat: Theater Criticism for the New York Times, 1980-1993 is Rich's definitive chronicle of his long run - an encyclopedic anthology of more than three hundred of his best reviews and essays, interspersed with further thoughts, entirely new to this volume, about his adventures on the aisle at the tumultuous time when Broadway was decimated by AIDS and colonized by the British musical.

Rich's opening-night accounts of an era's biggest hits (from Phantom of the Opera to Six Degrees of Separation) and most notorious bombs (from Moose Murders to Carrie) are here, as are his year-by-year reflections on major careers both established (Stephen Sondheim, Peter Brook, Jessica Tandy) and new (August Wilson, Kevin Kline, Caryl Churchill).

Readers are likely to find many things that - depending on their vintage - serves as a discovery or a reminder. Do you recall that Mike Nichols and Elaine May once appeared in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (The 1980 production accentuated Edward Albee's dark comedy, but left Rich "hungry for blood.") Or that FOB in the very same year launched the New York career of David Henry Hwang ("an unwieldy, at times spotty work" - one that nonetheless "hits home far more often than it misses"). Jump forward eight years to the same playwright's M. Butterfly and the circle is complete, as Rich lavishes praise upon Hwang's work, calling it one of his favorite new plays. Whatever readers may think of Rich's opinions (and he isn't shy about sharing them), they'll delight in his prose - at once witty and illuminating, sympathetic and sarcastic.

Here as well are Rich's final words on his sparring matches with Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Hare, among others, and his retrospective lists of which plays and performances he admired most and least, as well as lists of the productions he feels he over- and underrated the first time around.

From the tragic opening night of David Merrick's 42nd Street to the unprecedented triumph of Tony Kushner's Angels in America, Hot Seat captures what was in every way a dramatic chapter in cultural history, as told and lived by a journalist with the best seat and sharpest eye in the house. All this makes Hot Seat more than just a compendium of reviews. It serves as a history and a highly entertaining read rolled into one, a portrait of the theater and, ultimately, of the critic himself.

Hot Seat: Theater Criticism for the New York Times, 1980-1993
by Frank Rich
List Price $39.95
Random House
ISBN 0679453008


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