“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Tracie Bennett receiving floral tributes on her opening night.
Ladies and gents,
Having the name Scoop Verbena still gets you a prime table at just about any boite in town, but there is one watering hole that I can’t seem to crack. On a bustling block on West 44th Street an unmarked gate with a buzzer leads down a darkened alley way to a heavy metal door. Behind that door lies the most exclusive venue in town, where, I’m told, the champagne flows like water and the conversation is just as sparkling. Oh, and most nights of the week A-listers outnumber civilians three to none. I’m speaking of course about the suddenly famous, by invitation only “Rainbow Room” backstage at End of the Rainbow – the much raved about Judy Garland bio-play that recently opened at the Belasco Theatre. After performances, Rainbow star Tracie Bennett hosts an array of glittering celebs in the salon, which was designed especially for her by Phil Winser and Ben Towill, those hot Brits behind downtown hotspot Fat Radish, along with production designer Kate Dougherty. So just how does one score an invite? I’m told that select audience members are discretely handed a tiny card at intermission with specific directions on how to get back to the hidden speakeasy. Recent guests have included Alec Baldwin, Tommy Tune, Elaine Stritch, John Benjamin Hickey, Jane Krakowski, Marc Shaiman, and Scott Wittman.
While I may not be able to score an invite to The Rainbow Room, I did manage to attend the opening night of End of the Rainbow. I haven’t seen so much red carpet in decades! The whole affair felt just like the film premieres I remember from my misspent youth – and for good reason: a press rep told me the idea was to recreate the 1954 premiere of A Star Is Born (that’s the one starring Judy, not Barbra, for those with lousy math skills … or a cruel streak), complete with an amplified host – a dashing Graham Douglass – interviewing celebrities and playing to the fans. Well the illusion worked – it was if being transported back to a more glamorous time when men wore tuxedos and women wore foundation. In other words, it was heaven!
The real heaven was in the theater, though. When Tracie Bennett took the stage (to thunderous applause, I might add) she grabbed ahold of that audience and didn’t let go for the next two hours. Never have I seen such a towering artist capture so completely a fellow towering artist. I heard dozens of people leaving the theater saying, “It was like being in the presence of Judy!” Well, I remember Judy, and I can tell you it’s every bit as astonishing being in the presence of Tracie!
The curtain call was fittingly dramatic. Not two, not three, but four bouquets shot up from the crowd for the leading lady, and then a shower of single blooms – roses in every color (a rainbow of roses, if you will) were tossed toward the stage from what seemed like every corner of the orchestra. The cast didn’t know what to do with such a mass of flora!
The dressed-to-the-eighteens (that’s double “dressed-to-the-nines” for those with lousy math skills) crowd headed to (where else?) The Plaza’s Grand Ballroom for the post performance celebration. Castmates Michael Cumpsty, Tom Pelphrey, and Jay Russell worked the media while everyone waited with baited breath for Tracie to arrive. (As Judy would have, she made ’em wait.) At last, she made her entrance, looking every bit the star in a full length, beaded Roberto Cavalli gown and stunning Vedura jewels. The guests, many stunned to learn that she’s a) blonde and b) English, gave her entrance an ovation as the band cued up “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Yes, it was as if being transported to a more glamorous time. I didn’t want the night to end and for the illusion to flicker and die. But when I woke up the next morning I still felt high as a kite on sheer gorgeousness of it all.
And after that review in the Times, you’ll be lucky to snag a ticket, let alone an invite to the Rainbow Room!
Tidbits from around town:
Spotted David Hyde Pearce at Orso giving sage advice to an aspiring actor: “Always call in advance. Never try to just walk in.”
Caught Alan Rickman sucking back Long Island Iced Teas at a popular theater hang out that shall remain nameless.
Noticed Whoopi Goldberg working on a stuck zipper with – of all things – a can opener, desperately trying to get her purse open in a bathroom at Trump Tower. The question I have is, where the hell was she storing that can opener?
As always, a toast of something sparkling to you and yours!