Bringing Back Bette

Why are theater and film buffs still enamored by Bette Davis, whose career was in its heyday in the 1930s (1938 Oscar for "Jezebel") and had peaked by 1950 (Margo Channing in "All About Eve") although she continued to act until 1989, the year of her death?

One person who seeks to answer this question is L.A.-based playwright, Camilla Carr, with her one-woman bioplay, All About Bette, starring popular Dallas actress, Morgana Shaw. The show opened June 30, 2006 on Theater Three's downstairs stage.

Killer Charm

Could anyone play an aspiring Mr. Charm with a hidden agenda better than suave Maxwell Caulfield? He opened last night Off-Broadway at the Promenade as Victorian Age George Love in the American premiere of Tryst.

Breaking Out is Hard to Do

Avid musical fans know Michael Berresse as a dancer capable of unbelievable feats. Remember him as the love-struck Bill Calhoun bounding up and down that three-story set in the 2002 revival of Kiss Me, Kate; and as sexy, doomed gigolo Fred Casely in the 1996 revival of Chicago (like that TV battery bunny, still going and going)? Berresse was nominated for a 2000 Tony Award as Featured Actor/Musical for Kate and nabbed a 2002 Olivier Award for Supporting Actor/Musical for his performance in the West End production.

Charlotte Rep's Artistic Agony

The
drama began behind closed doors in 2001. Chairman J. Michael McGuire lay down
the gauntlet at a joint meeting of Charlotte Repertory Theater's board of
trustees and the company's top administrative staff. The Rep's new goal was to
win the Tony Award for best regional theater within the next five years.
Convulsive shakeups -- in personnel, production practices, and repertoire --
began within months. Charlotte
native Michael Bush became the new producing artistic director after a 20-year

Hushing Sweet Charlotte

Three days after Charlotte Repertory Theater, its lone Equity house, unexpectedly shuttered, the North Carolina city was still abuzz. Radio talk-show host Mike Collins succinctly summed it up on his "Charlotte Talks" program last Wednesday morning. He had gathered three former directors from the newly deceased company and two local theater critics for a postmortem broadcast on the city's National Public Radio affiliate, WFAE. "Charlotte is all about image," Collins declared. "It is not about substance."

Sweet Charlotte

It was a year of expectancy. When 2002 began, pilgrimages to Ground Zero were still in progress -- along with a grim cleanup. We waited for Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden to go the way of the passenger pigeon and the Taliban -- all the while dreading the next scourge of terror. We waited for President Bush to flout the UN and bomb Baghdad. We waited for the Dow to bottom out and the economy to bounce back. And we're still waiting.

The Little Orphan's Daddy

Long before he became famous for directing and lyric writing -- and for Annie -- Martin Charnin was quite gifted writing songs for revues. At Sam's Dream Street Cabaret on West 45th Street, with an official opening on October 6, 2004, he's celebrating that lost art form with The Next-To-The-Last Revue.

Chicago Theater Highlights Of 2000

It was a year for comebacks: After last season's financial setback, Famous Door scored a long-run hit with Ghetto, followed by an all-star The Homecoming, to finish out the year with the currently-playing Early And Often. City Lit recovered from its organizational difficulties to re-open in a new space with the imaginatively-crafted Alice In Wonderland. And Raven Theater, evicted from its Rogers Park home, announced its resurrection in spacious new quarters.

Bells Are Ringling

In 1953, Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey Circus was directed by Broadway choreographer John Murray Anderson. Operetta vocalist Harold Ronk auditioned for ringmaster. Anderson's idea light-bulb lit: Voila!, the singing ringmaster was born. And, with Ronk's use of Broadway tunes as background for many of the acts, a new tradition was born to circusdom.

Paul Baker's Living Legacy

Paul Baker, Founding Artistic Director of Dallas Theater Center from 1959-1982, was awarded the Texas Medal of Arts in Education by the Texas Cultural Trust on April 3, 2007, in a ceremony at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas. "The Awards honor citizens who have achieved greatness through their creative talents...." This award was bestowed upon Mr.

Maine Man: Joseph Cariani Tells His Stories

Can the clean, wintry air of the uppermost reaches of Maine be the cure for the common cold or migraine headaches? Actor, now playwright, John Cariani believes so.
In his whimsical romantic comedy Almost, Maine, where under the spell of the Northern Lights the residents of a small town (called, naturally Almost) are falling head over heels, literally, in and out of love at an alarming rate, it's a midwinter night's dream!

Peeking

In the recent Broadway production of Closer, Patrick Marber's corrosive look at sexual mating among four London denizens (one of whom is an American expatriate, played by Polly Draper of "Thirtysomething" fame), the highlight of the evening occurs when Dan (Rupert Graves), an acerbic obituary writer, has a tantalizing cyberspace chat with the equally tart-tongued Larry, a dermatologist.

45 Years to Off-Broadway

Not even a can of the most intense Raid can stop Bug, at Greenwich Village's Barrow Street Theater, just off Seventh Avenue in Greenwich House, from becoming the most talked- about play of this season. For good measure, you can throw in its motley crew of trailer park trash characters.

Patti Cohenour Returns To New York For Encores' Adeline

She's certainly no ten-cents-a-dance girl, but Patti Cohenour has returned to New York City. Alas, it's for a limited, five-performance engagement only, in the Encores!, Great American Musicals in Concert [at City Center February 13-16] staging of Sweet Adeline.  Helen Morgan, fresh from her Show Boat, first played the role in Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern's 1929 tuner. Series artistic director Kathleen Marshall was among the many who thought Patti's absence had been much too long.

Patti Cohenour Steps Into the Light

Patti Cohenour, who has been playing Signora Naccarelli (Fabrizio's mother) in The Light in the Piazza, has come to call Tuesday and Wednesdays her "flip nights." At those two evening performances, when Tony Award winner Victoria Clark, is out, she plays Margaret Johnson.
"At the Wednesday matinee," says Cohenour, "with Vickie back, I return to playing Signora. It's really bizarre and can get confusing, but I just put the key in the ignition and get rolling!"

Suddenly Seymour - The Life of Cy Coleman

Cy Coleman is Broadway royalty, with more hit shows than any living American songwriter. The website of ASCAP calls him "a permanent jewel in Broadway's musical crown." His shows are from the same classic fabric as those of Richard Rodgers and Irving Berlin. But not quite. Would any of those icons ever compose a song titled "Don't Fuck Around With Your Mother-In-Law"? Not likely. Cy Coleman did, demonstrating that he mixes tradition with hip modernity.

Como? Si!

Perry Como never appeared in a musical stage play, but he deserves a special mention in the history of Broadway musicals.

For two decades he was the voice most closely associated with the hit songs from almost all the long-running musicals. His versions of "If I Loved You," "Some Enchanted Evening," "Hello, Young Lovers" and "No Other Love," among many others, were played on all the disc-jockey programs and were the best-selling recordings.

Arthur Kopit's Dangerous World

Arthur Kopit, author of Oh, Dad, Poor Dad, Momma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad (and other plays with shorter titles), would probably like to be in two places at once. His play, BecauseHeCan (a revised version of Y2K, which made its brief Off-Broadway debut at the close of 1999) opens Friday, March 30, 2001 at McCarter Theater, under the direction of Emily Mann. That date also marks the world premiere of Kopit's Chad Curtiss: Lost Again, the umbrella title for three short one-act plays with a

Karen Ziemba & Boyd Gaines: Making <I>Contact</I>

They've known each other ten years, since Karen Ziemba's husband introduced Boyd Gaines to her when she was creating magic in Kander and Ebb's And the World Goes 'Round.  Then she saw him in his Tony winning turn in the She Loves Me revival.  "We have mutual friends and were always seeing each other," laughs Karen, "but never worked together until a reading of [K&E's] Steel Pier. It's a small world, and our lives have often interconnected."

Side By Side By Barbara

Spring has come a little late this year (2002). In the past, a sure sign of spring would be Barbara Cook appearing nightly at the elegant Upper East Side Cafe Carlyle, where it seemed Cook was singing just to you as if in the intimacy of your living room. Well, it's the dog days of summer and Cook is appearing Sunday and Monday nights in Mostly Sondheim at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center.

Spring Brings Barbara Cook To The Café Carlyle

There's no surer sign of spring than Barbara Cook bursting upon New York -- accompanied as always by the sensational Wally Harper -- at the Cafe Carlyle.  Through May 3rd, Cook, a legendary star of Broadway and a leading light of the cabaret, concert, and recording world, will mesmerize audiences in this intimate, elegant boite, one of the most romantic spots in town, with her lush renditions of Broadway classics.   This season's theme is "Oscar Winners II," a tribute to the lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II, which, as it happens is the title of her new DRG Records (91448) CD.

Heroism, The Roman Way

Responding to the comment that Shakespeare never blotted a line, Dr. Johnson quipped, "Would that he had blotted a thousand." Johnson might well have had in mind several rocky out-croppings in the stream of Coriolanus, a decidedly rhetorical play, to change my metaphor. Much of the text is reportage: something has happened elsewhere. Still more text consists in tales to be re-told, though these, blessedly, are planned for some off stage events (in Act One, scenes 1, 4, 7, 10; nearly as much in Act Two, and thereafter).

Spanish Nights

Reus is a surprising Spanish town. Though partly overshadowed by booming Barcelona, a mere 70 miles to the north, the hometown of architect Antoni Gaudi is no sleepy Mediterranean village. I arrived there in late October for Cos, the Eighth Annual International Theater Festival of Mime and Gesture (or however that best translates from Catalan). Artistic director Lluis Graells assembled 20 companies and performers from various regions in Spain as well as France, Israel, Belgium, Peru, Poland, Cameroon, England and Italy.

Mart Crowley Revisits The Boys

In 1967, when "starving" writer Mart Crowley, "on the brink of destitution" but sitting in the lap of luxury, finished his play The Boys in the Band, he says he intended it to be controversial. But, having distanced himself from gay politics, he didn't set out to be a rights activist. "I probably didn't even know what that meant," he laughs.

Cruz Control

The great grandfather's eyes seemed like pieces of gold to the young girl, who saw wisdom when she looked into them.  Playwright Migdalia Cruz is talking about Isabel, the 13 year-old Puerto Rican girl, and the relationship she has with her 112-year-old great grandfather, the co-protagonists in her play, Yellow Eyes, now having its world premiere at Crossroads Theater Company.  "The play," she explains, "is about two journeys.

Rhythms Over Accents

Nilo Cruz, intense 44-year old Cuban playwright, says he was named after the Nile River. He is the first Hispanic playwright to win a Pulitzer prize (April, 2003, for Anna in the Tropics.)  Two days prior, he was awarded the American Theater Critic Assocation's Steinberg Award for Best New Play.
When I spoke with him last week, he was preparing to go into rehearsal at Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse for Anna which he is directing.

Robert Cuccioli

He was in a rehearsal studio overlooking Times Square, but he didn't stand out. Cucc, as some fondly refer to him, was missing something. Robert Cuccioli of Jekyll & Hyde fame -- all six-plus strapping feet -- once whipped an incredible mane of hair onstage like an acid rock guitarist in the throes of hot licks. That look wouldn't work for his current metropolitan area gig, playing Captain Von Trapp in Rodgers & Hammerstein's endearing tale, The Sound of Music at Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, NJ [through December 14, 2003].

The "New" Robert Cuccioli Sings Brel

Robert Cuccioli is back from his voyage of self discovery after taking Broadway by storm in Jekyll & Hyde, and he's landed in Paris...the Off-Broadway one of Jacques Brel.

Though he's been away -- and sometimes not that far away -- for almost six years, he returned quite invigorated about his life and career. He's sporting a new look with his cropped hair, but the voice hasn't changed; it's still a stellar attraction.

John Cullum Lives in Sin

As an actor in Broadway musicals, comedy and classics and acting and directing on the big and small screen, John Cullum has had a varied career and the unique ability to move smoothly from one medium to the other. At a time when actors his age might be resting on their laurels (and Tony Award nominations and wins), Cullum's Off Broadway portraying a controversial prince of the Roman Catholic Church, Bernard Cardinal Law, in Michael Murphy's Sin (A Cardinal Deposed).

Curtain Up One More Time for Kander & Ebb

"Audiences are howling from the start, and they never stop," says book writer, Tony Award-winning Rupert Holmes of Curtains, his and Kander and Ebb's musical comedy murder mystery which opens tomorrow. "There's more fun in this show than anything I've ever written."

Curtains: What's Not To Like?

"I don't want to jinx it," says the book writer, Tony Award-winning Rupert Holmes of the world premiere production of Curtains, his and Kander and Ebb's musical comedy murder mystery, "but we have a 1,600-seat house, packed at every show, and audiences are howling from the start, and they never stop. There's more fun in this show than anything I've ever written. Oh, I know about standing ovations these days, but we're getting them at every performance. To say I'm thrilled would be a vast understatement."

Dame Edna's Back -- And Broadway's Got Her

There is nothing like a dame, goes that familiar refrain from Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific, and certainly there's nothing like this dame: Dame Edna Everage, the wisteria-haired Aussie expatriate who claims to be British royalty. In appearances in venues around the globe, Dame Edna has always promised: "I will not disappoint." In her Broadway debut, Dame Edna: The Royal Tour, at the intimate Booth Theater, she never breaks that promise.

The Dame Comes to Dallas

What Joanne Woodward did for the 1957 biopic, "The Three Faces of Eve," and Sally Field did for Sybil in the eponymous 1976 TV bio, Dame Edna Everage has been doing for Australian actor, Barry Humphries, since 1956. Unlike Eve's three personalities and Sybil's 16, Dame Edna Everage, the fearless, flamboyant Australian housewife, has only one other personality: her creator, Barry Humphries.

New Theaters for Old in Sarasota, Florida

Golden Apple Dinner Theater of Sarasota city, which was forced to close a sister theater in Venice, south county, last year, will have a new one in 2005 to the north in Bradenton. Robert Ennis Turoff, owner of Coastal Productions, will also manage the indoor, cabaret-like theater in the Town Center of Lakewood Ranch, a mega-development. Along with an outdoor amphitheater, the Golden Apple will be at the center of an arts center styled after St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy.

The Challenge of Wit

It isn't every day that an actor prepares for a stage role by training for the triathlon. And it's hardly a prerequisite for a woman preparing to play a 50-year-old professor of 17th-century poetry who has just learned she has fourth stage metatastic ovarian cancer. But Suzzanne Douglas, who plays Vivian Bearing Ph.D. in the New Jersey premiere of Margaret Edson's play, Wit, met the challenge, as she says, "head on."

The 2004 Drama Desk Awards

New York theater's finest actors, directors, musicians and designers gathered May 16, 2004 for the 49th Annual Drama Desk Awards, which honored productions in the 2003-2004 theater season. The show was held at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School at Lincoln Center.

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