John Lithgow owned the stage at the Taper Monday night. He sang “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” It was the next-to-closing number in the Salon at the Taper series, this one celebrating the songs of Jimmy McHugh. And this tune was by McHugh with lyrics by Dorothy Fields. At the party following the show, Jimmy McHugh II told me of the upcoming McHugh bio, “I Feel a Song Coming On” by Alyn Shipton for the U. of Illinois Press. The idea of a B’way musical was talked about. Who better to star as Jimmy McHugh than…John Lithgow?
I reached Lithgow Tuesday as he and wife Mary were leaving for Germany to see son Nate performing with the “My Brightest Diamond” group. I told him of the McHugh musical idea. “Oh my God!” his reaction. “What a great idea–his (McHugh’s) song are a DNA of our lives–like ‘The Jersey Boys’. “Why not a Lithgow-starring musical–he won a Tony for “Sweet Smell of Success” and was nominated for “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” in which, he reminded me, he played 438 performances, never missing one.
It was indeed “A Lovely Way to Spend An Evening” as Michael Feinstein again magically and musically hosted this Salon At The Taper. He interspersed his take of McHugh’s life and music with his own inimitable vocalistics and pianistics. The songs included “It’s A Most Unusual Day,” “I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night,” “Don’t Blame Me,” “I’m in the Mood for Love.” Amanda McBroom sang “Warm and Willing” by McHugh with Ray Evans and Jay Livingston. Evans, 92 was at the Taper. He said he and Jay Livingston had written another tune with McHugh. It was “36-24-36.” And written for Marilyn Monroe-the title of the tune–her measurements.
The Taper’s Salon singers were backed by the trio of Mike Greensill on piano, Kirk F.Smith, bass and Albie Berk, drums. The vocalists included: Jason Graae, Wesla Whitfield, Terence Blanchard, Karen Benjamin and Alan Chapman, Amy Pietz, Kevin Earley, Freda Payne, The Alley Cats, and tap dancing show stopper Channing Cook Holmes. Everyone joined Lithgow and Feinstein singing “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and hummed it heading out of the theater. Chairs Marc and Eva Stern said the evening raised $50,000 for the Center Theater Group’s Discount Ticket Program.
The McHugh family at the Taper was represented by three grandchildren and two nieces. Among the music lovers on hand, Nolan Miller who had designed the costumes for Joan Collins and Linda Evans in their cross-country tour in “Legends.” Miller had recently designed the “Nancy Reagan Rose” for his jewelry collection on QVC-with a percentage of sales goes to the Nancy and Ronald Reagan Alzheimer’s Association for research. And a similar percentage from the sale of Miller’s “The Gracious Heart” goes to Cancer research. He had a lung removed in cancer surgery last March and recently completed chemotherapy. Miller will appear with both his jewelry items March 12 on QVC.
And talking jewelry, I’m told that Elizabeth Taylor, who heads her House of Taylor jewelry line, will unveil a spectacular diamond necklace at her 75th birthday party in Las Vegas Feb.27.