Ladies and gents,
I’m currently at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY — the home of the original Buffalo Wing. I’m four Labatt Blues (and a dozen hot wings) in and feeling wistful about the recently departed Nanette Fabray. Oh, we were never friends (though not for lack of trying on my part), but I admired her from afar for almost all of her career. She made it to the astonishing age of 97, and her passing marks the end of a certain kind of Golden Age royalty.
I only saw her perform live once — in her last Broadway outing as the star of Irving Berlin’s Mr. President, for which she was nominated for the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical (she had previously won the same award for her role in Love Life). She made it look so effortless that I thought, for a brief moment, that I might have a shot at a career on the boards.
I started taking voice lessons from a German coach named Claus van der Werken who believed the key to proper tone was getting over childhood trauma. Each 50 minute session was split up between 40 minutes of deep regressive analysis and 10 minutes of vocal exercises. After six weeks he told me I was “blocked,” rendering me a hopeless case. I was, according to his receptionist, the first and only client he ever fired.
So I gave up that particular dream and continued reporting, deciding that proximity to talent was the next best thing. And speaking of proximity to talent, I was snuck into the first rehearsal of Children of a Lesser God by a crafty press agent who shall remain nameless. Director Kenny Leon, whose work I first fell in love with at the invited dress rehearsal to The Mountaintop and that love was enhanced with his recent TV work on NBC’s “The Wiz: Live” and “Hairspray: Live,” gave an inspirational speech rallying “the troops.” Producer Hal Luftig, who helped make a smash hit out of Kinky Boots, has spent four years bringing this great play back to Broadway. Why four years? Well, finding the perfect cast — and by “perfect” I’m talking about Joshua Jackson, Lauren Ridloff, and Anthony Edwards — was a feat! I loved the original, as directed by the late great Gordon Davidson, which I saw fourteen times at the Mark Taper. (It’s one of the great love stories about inner office romance, set years before the great overreach of the #MeToo movement.) I plan to see this revival fifteen! First preview, by the way, is March 22, which is the same exact day that original production began previews.
Tidbits from around town…
Spotted longtime Broadway Video exec (and Lorne Michaels “whisperer”) Cristina McGuinniss checking into the Hotel Henry.
Overheard legendary agent Lionel Larner regaling a group of eager young theatricals with tales of cherished clients of seasons past, including some not-fit-for-print doozies about Ethel Merman and Dorothy Loudon.
Caught Queen Latifah doing treadmill wind sprints at the Equinox at Printing House.
And, finally, a brief public service announcement: despite nasty chat room rumors about a triple sec shortage at the Marquis Theatre, I have it on good authority that the Escape to Margaritaville lobby bar has been, and remains, fully stocked.
As always, a toast of something sparkling to you and yours!