Linda Lavin: In the Moment

Overheard the other day backstage at the Music Box Theater, where the "new" <I>The Diary of Anne Frank</I> is playing: Someone to Natalie Portman, the young film star ("Everyone Says I Love You," "Beautiful Girls") who's making her Broadway debut as Anne: "Those two hours onstage are quite intense, don't you ever get out of it (character)?" <BR>Portman: "Whenever I get out of it, I just look at Linda, because she's always in the moment." <P>"Oh, my," says a genuinely touched Linda Lavin.  "Natalie said that!  How sweet."  Lavin says that Tony-winning James Lapine has

Through the <I>Carol</I> Darkly, with Ming Cho Lee

At one point in one's life, one should do a <I>A Christmas Carol,</I> says eminent set designer Ming Cho Lee. Evidently Lee has arrived at this precise point in his long and distinguished career.  Lee's artistic vision - one that has brought him accolades for almost half a century - will frame McCarter Theater's brand new production of Charles Dickens' classic story, celebrating the 20th year that the perennial favorite has been presented in Princeton.  Performances continue at McCarter to Thursday, December 24.

The Wait is Over

This week, in the midst of the surprising announcement of the March closing of <I>Sunset Boulevard</I> and the "scandal" involving that audience member and Rum Tum Tugger of <I>Cats,</I> speculation ended on another headline-causing maneuver.  Producer Cameron Mackintosh and director John Caird (who co-directed with Trevor Nunn) released the cast lineup for the 10th Anniversary company of <I>Les Miserables.</I> <BR>    Leading <I>Les Miz</I> into its 11th year will be Robert Marien in his Broadway debut as Jean Valjean, a role he played

Lyrics, Lyricists & Levine

When you hear the name "92nd Street Y," you know which Y is being talked about.  It's distinct among the thousands of other YM and YWCA's and YM and YWHA's around the world.  Music theater lovers know immediately that 92nd Street Y means the Jewish Y on Manhattan's Upper East Side.  The main reason for this prominence?  Its series, Lyrics & Lyricists, started by Maurice Levine in 1970 and hosted by him until his death in 1997.

The Golden Age of Mystery Fiction Comes to Chicago Theater

Over the last twenty years, Chicago's Lifeline Theater has essayed mysteries by Raymond Chandler (The Little Sister, 1993) and Donald Westlake (Trust Me On This, 2002), in addition to such seemingly impossible, page-to-stage transformations as Jules Verne's Around The World In Eighty Days, Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, and, between 1996 and 2001, all three books of The Lord Of The Rings.

Theater on the Left Coast

Move over, New York! Watch out, Chicago! There's more afoot in LaLaLand than movies, movies, movies. The hills, the valley, downtown, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Pasadena, Santa Monica and especially NoHo are alive with the sound of cachinging at the boxoffice. Live theater is alive, well and thriving in Los Angeles.

Ada Lynn: The Grand Dame of Dallas Theater

Ada Lynn reigns supreme as the Grande Dame of Dallas theater. Currently appearing at Theater Three as Frieda Tuchman in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, the meddlesome, farbissina mother from Hell, she has an impeccable sense of timing, and each line she delivers is a zinger that connects solidly. Ada began her acting career at age seven in her native Chicago by winning a talent contest leading to a Hollywood screen test. She appeared in two Shirley Temple movies and was a member of Our Gang. Said Ada: "I was a has-been at nine."

Lypsinka is Back...As Lana Turner!

Lypsinka is, briefly, back in New York, and beginning January 27, 2000, for two weekends (six performances only), she revives her spoof of a classic Lana Turner four-hankie in <I>Imitation of Imitation of Life</I> at Westbeth Theater Center (151 Bank Street, between Washington and West Streets).

The Return Of Lypsinka

Watch out RuPaul!  He's back and Crawford's got him!  That's Lypsinka, not Clark Gable, who marks his theatrical return -- after a four-year absence --  as none other than screen goddess Joan Crawford in a semi-musical adaptation of the movie soap, "Harriet Craig."  Southern belle drag diva Varla Jean Merman co-stars with an ensemble of four that includes Jay Rogers, late of <I>When Pigs Fly.</I> The engagement runs through September 12 at Mother.  Harriet Craig is no Mildred Pierce (Crawford's 1945 Oscar-winning turn -- and career turning point -- as a mother/waitress turned su

No Laughing Matter

<I>George W. Bush ou le Triste Cow-Boy de Dieu,</I> ("George W. Bush, or God's Sad Cowboy") an improvised satire by director Attilio Maggiuli, is back on stage at his Comedie italienne in Paris: No thanks to two unknown thugs who beat him into unconsciousness Sunday morning, May 4, 2003, four days after the opening. Thanks, however, to moral support as well as the appearance and promise of protection by such artists as Ariane Mnouchkine and Jean-Jacques Beineix, Maggilui reversed his decision to shelve the production.

Long Island Native Makes Her New York Directing Debut

Unless you pay very close attention to what you've watched these past 30 years, perhaps the name Nancy Malone won't ring a bell. And even those who do pay very close attention, when faced with her lengthy resume, will marvel at her accomplishments.

Andrea Marcovicci Finds Kurt Weill In America

Nearly everybody knows that Kurt Weill's last name is pronounced vial -- nearly everyone except Weill himself.  He pronounced it with a W -- after he came to America, that is. In 1935 he decided never again to speak German.  He put aside the Deutsche where w's are pronounced as v's, and he told people his name was wile.  Similarly, he abandoned the German music hall idiom that made him famous and started composing in a Broadway style.

The Flickering Phantom

Will the film adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, which opened in New York on December 22, 2004 capture and enthrall you? Will it have you wishing you were there again, drive you to the point of no return or to hum the music of the night? It depends on what you're looking for, and how big a fan of the stage production you are.


Who says actors don't say nice things about producers?
A case in point would be Sally Mayes, a 2003 Drama Desk Award nominee as Featured Actress in a Musical, singing the praises of lead producer Chase Mishkin and associate producers Barbara and Peter Fodor [they are not the travel writers] for their efforts to keep the much-lambasted musical, Urban Cowboy, open against any odds of ever turning a profit.

Playwright Kathleen McGhee-Anderson Finds Live In Venice

Mayes' goal was always theater, "but back home, no one would cast me, so I headed to New York."

Another Kind of Food Fight

Shakespeare's three-part Henry VI is a chronicle of ambition, intrigue and bloodshed. But Edward Hall, director of the production — subtitled Rose Rage — at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, chose for his conceptual metaphor a slaughterhouse.

Liza, The Life, And The Legacy

Liza Minnelli didn't dodge the question Sunday night in the Tony Awards press room. When she visited on the arms of Michael Nouri in her rather unusual Halston gown, she was asked if she had plans to return to Broadway again soon? "Sooner than you think," she said, "but I'm sworn to secrecy."

Move Over, Weird Al

While many 88 year-old women are living through their grandchildren and great-grandchildren and kvetching about their bursitis and arthritis, Lu Mitchell is far too busy rehearsing with her band, Catch-23, for one of the 75-plus gigs she does each year at such diverse venues as Pocket Sandwich Theater, Uncle Calvin's Coffee House, Musikfest in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Fiddler's Green Festival in Ireland, or the Temple Emanu-El Couples Club. She also performed recently at Richland College and will be the keynote performer in August at Eastfield College's Senior Fest.

Reggie Montgomery Has His Day

I really wanted to be an actor, says Reggie Montgomery who is currently directing Suzzanne Douglas in Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill,at the George Street Playhouse (October 2000). But, Montgomery also could have gone down a different entertainment route. He was the first African-American to be trained and hired as a clown for Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus. Learning to be funny and making people laugh was not a bad first step, although an unusual one, for a young black man back in 1970 with his hopes pinned on a very different kind of theatrical career.

Empowerment at the National Black Theater Festival

Dorothy Dandridge reached the dizzying zenith of her film career in 1954 when she earned an Academy Award nomination starring in "Carmen Jones." She was young, achingly lovely, and gifted with an extraordinary singing voice. Yet in the waning days of Jim Crow, opportunities to sustain her Hollywood career were pitifully few. She passed up the featured supporting role in The King and I, a big mistake. Two more starring roles in the next 11 years, a sputtering cabaret career, and a failed marriage followed.

Cattle Calling: What Are The Odds?

They're either too young or too old. They're either too gray or too grassy green The pickin's are poor and the crop is lean. So go Frank Loesser's lyrics to an Arthur Schwartz melody in the 1943 film, "Thank Your Lucky Stars." And the sentiments could well serve as the perennial theme for the stage actor's audition.

Fringe Benefits II

he Seventh Annual New York International Fringe Festival has come to a close, and descriptions of it as "fun," "saucy," "wild," "kinky," "funky," "weird" and "awful" were apt. Over 20 days (August 8-24, 2003), four more than in 2002, and with more than 200 presentations (including outdoor performance art), selected from more than 740 submissions from across the country and 10 nations, the '03 Fringe was the biggest ever. And the hottest.

When Everything Came Up Rosie

When Rosie O'Donnell ended her successful daytime TV show recently, watchers felt sad at the loss of an entertaining program. More particularly, theater-lovers bemoaned the loss of a showcase for Broadway performers. What I will miss most about Rosie is the irreverence she brought to the Tony Awards during her three stints as host of that telecast, two of which I attended.

Laughs, Good Times and the Rest

Ellis Nassour contributes entertainment features here and abroad. He is the author of "Rock Opera: the Creation of Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline," and an associate editor and a contributing writer


Brad Oscar - To The Max

has just entered its fourth year. This musical juggernaut, with
music and lyrics by Mel Brooks and choreography and direction by Susan Stroman,
starred the redoubtable Nathan
Lane and Matthew Broderick. It received 15 Tony
Award nominations, winning 12 - more than any other musical in theater history.
[Ironically, in two categories three actors lost to their co-stars.] Brad Oscar
was a Tony nominee in the Featured category, at that time playing off-kilter,

Donny Osmond Sheds His Dreamcoat

After selling out houses across the United States and Canada in the lead role of Livent, Inc.'s touring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Donny Osmond left the show in Toronto to join the cast of an upstate New York outdoor religious pageant, playing a prophet of the Mormon faith. But he plans a "major return to theater" in a role that might surprise his legion of fans.

Elaine Paige - Broadway At Last

On London stages, Elaine Paige's reputation was heralded. Now that she has assumed the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black's Sunset Boulevard, a dream to play Broadway has come true. And this tiny dynamo delivers the goods.

Panaro's Panache

Like The Greatest Show On Earth [the circus], The Phantom of the Opera has never been short on hyperbole. But unlike another Andrew Lloyd Webber show, it hasn't gone quite so far as to boast "POTO: Now and Forever." However, 16 years [as of January 26, 2004] and counting on Broadway and, as of February 4, 2004, 6,681+ performances under that dangling chandelier is a sort of "forever" in the world of theater.

Song & Dance & Sexiness: The Allure of Bernadette Peters

Aside from her talent -- and, of course, that's a big aside -- the most impressive thing about Bernadette Peters is how she combines sex and innocence in her persona. Never has there been a performer who exudes such overt sexuality, with prominent bust and revealing necklines, while maintaining an innocent, little-girl character. This is most prominent in her concert appearances, but it also colored her portrayal of Annie Oakley. She certainly had more youthful vulnerability and sex appeal than Ethel Merman.

Pen Pal: Director Lisa Peterson And The Night Governess

The suspense that lurks within the plot of Polly Pen's new musical, The Night Governess, is also active behind the scenes at New Jersey's McCarter Theater. However, the suspense is also marked by hopeful anticipation, as Pen prepares a new musical for the first time without the assistance of her long-time director-collaborator Andre Ernotte, who died last Spring.