‘Drum Song’ appears B’way bound

GOOD MORNING: There’s no biz like showbiz, as I was reminded over the past 48 hours. Sunday night I was at the Mark Taper Forum in L.A., where the bow of (the new) Rodgers & Hammerstein “Flower Drum Song” helped the audience forget its war worries for a few hours. The 2001 version brought repeated ovations during the show and a prolonged standing ovation at its finale. But what would Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II have said of their “Flower,” given a new bouquet by playwright David Henry Hwang? They would have loved it, Mary Rodgers (daughter of Richard R.) enthused to the Taper’s Gordon Davidson. As did James Hammerstein (son of Oscar Hammerstein II). Ted Chapin, prez of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, told me they are thrilled with the production, creators and performers … C.Y. Lee, author of the novel on which the musical is/was based, told me, “Even though the story if different (than the original), the feeling is closer to my original novel. I think the music has more energy and the dancing more exciting!” No, he had no idea of what was coming: “I let David (Henry Hwang) surprise me.” The show’s future on B’way is a cinch. Gordon departed L.A. for N.Y. on the red eye Sunday night; Monday he started rehearsals for “QED,” another Taper grad starring Alan Alda. He said N.Y. producers were already skedded to head west for their own look-see, following the rave reviews for “Drum Song” in the N.Y. Times, L.A. Times and, of course, here in Daily Variety Monday. There was also talk about the possibility of dates pre-B’way in cities like SanFran (where the show could have a “sit-down” company, said Davidson), also Chicago, D.C. and –? … Backstage at the Taper after the curtain was like a scene from an MGM musical; the superlatives were flying from everyone, like John Lithgow who had starred in Hwang’s “M. Butterfly.” I’ve never seen anything this great at the Taper ever!” He heads to Chicago to start rehearsals for his B’way-bound musicalized “Sweet Smell of Success.” The excitement continued into the night as guests dinner-celebrated at the Empress Pavilion in Chinatown. The excitement of the show’s success and the party dancing was too much for costar Jodi Long’s dad, Larry (an alumnus of the original “Flower Drum Song”): He suffered “a slight heart attack” and was ambulanced to a hospital for observation.

AND NO PEOPLE LIKE SHOW PEOPLE: After Sunday’s closing in Chicago with the national company of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific,” star Michael Nouri told me he had collected over $75,000 for Clear Channel Relief Fund (to all Sept. 11 agencies) by appearing in the lobby with his duffel-bag prop from the show after each performance. He said he’ll continue his six-month tour with the show, heading today to Florida cities Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and then to Boston. Nouri, who had dinner’d with Mayor Daley (Chi gave a million $ to the NYC fund), has asked producers Fran & Barry Weisler to do a benefit performance in D.C., to “toast the President and the administration” — with the total take of the performance going to the Pentagon’s relief fund … Meanwhile, here in L.A., Jerry Herman is busy writing special material for his stars Angela Lansbury (“Mame”) and Carol Channing (“Hello, Dolly!”) to perform, for the first time together, Nov. 10 at Cal State (L.A. campus) in a “Tap Your Troubles Away” tribute to the words and music of Jerry Herman, to benefit the Actors’ Fund. Jerry said Bernadette Peters, Tyne Daly, Leslie Uggams and Brian Stokes Mitchell will also sing from his shows. Herman says he’s busier than ever, readying a TVersion of “Mame” for ABC, a company of “Dolly,” a new score for “Miss Spectacular,” and a new treatment of “La Cage Aux Folles,” a la “Cabaret” set in a club, tables, etc. Herman reiterates, “We need entertainment more than ever” … Meanwhile, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, when not busy with their respective duties you-know-where, have been viewing segs of Par’s “Enterprise” series on the mess deck. The showbiz troupe has received their positive comments. The TV crew at Par is continuing to supply ’em with copies of “Enterprise” segs. E-mail received from one crew member noted, “We are all looking forward to watching the series regularly when we get home.”

THE REOPENING of the David L. Wolper Center for the Study of the Documentary and Doheny Library reopen Wednesday at the USC School of Cinema-TV, with Wolper showing his 1964 ABC docu on Marilyn Monroe, with new additions and photos, he says were never seen before. The new docu will also be a DVD, “The Legend of Marilyn Monroe,” which he owns with WB and will be distributed by Creative Design Art Inc. Wolper’s “swan song” will be a docu celebrating the 25th anni of “Roots.” The one-hour show will air on NBC. In case you forgot, the mini was originally aired on ABC! … Choral director-composer-conductor Ray Charles and wife Bernice celebrate their 61st wedding anni today. They met when she was playing piano in a music publishing house in Chicago … The re-skedded preem of “The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition” will be held Wednesday at the Paris Theater in N.Y., with party following at the Plaza Hotel’s Baroque Room. The preem benefits the families of the WTC and underwritten by Morgan Stanley. which financed the movie — and had h.q. in the World Trade Towers … But the “Riding in Cars With Boys” preem Thursday in N.Y. is canceled.

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