Jackson's London tour gears up - in Burbank

WHEN I first arrived in New York back in September 1949, fresh from the University of Texas, times were so tough that one had to have several “roommates” to make it from payday to payday. One of my first “roomies” was a stage-struck girl from Philadelphia named Shirley Herz. She was working hard to get into ATPAM, the theater’s union for press agents. Shirley used to moan, “I’ll never get into the union!” But this didn’t stop her from trying. Recently, ATPAM announced that “the veteran Broadway publicist Shirley Herz will receive a Tony honor this year for excellence in the theater.” This goes to “individuals and /or organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in theater, but are not eligible in any of the established Tony categories.” Shirley — the girl who taught me my first Yiddish and who I used to call “Sam Spade, master detective” because she always knew where the bodies were buried — is winning the first such honor given to a female ATPAM member. She is in good company because the other non-competitive Tony winners are composer Jerry Herman, Virginia’s Signature Theater, and writer/actress/producer Phyllis Newman. Miss Broadway, my kid from Philadelphia!

HUNDREDS OF workers are toiling in Burbank on the sets for Michael Jackson’s stage concerts, to be seen this July in London. “MJ” — as everyone refers to him instead of saying his whole name — is omnipresent, on hand overseeing the hundreds of workers. After the sets are done, they’ll be shipped to England and reassembled for the sold-out concerts. Do you wonder how Jackson can make a “comeback” after all he’s been through and all that has happened since he beat the rap at a much-publicized pedophile trial? Well, for one thing, he has Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz as a producer. Mr. A. once owned the Southern Pacific Railroad. His company, AEG, also owns Staples Center in L.A.

IF YOU are one of those people who has sat through Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” wondering “But what does it mean?” –be prepared for the production on Broadway (after 50 years! at Studio 54 Theater. Inventive director Anthony Page has presented his four super-super-talented actors — Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin, John Goodman and John Glover — in a brilliant outing where this quartet outdoes itself in outbursts of, not just talent, maybe genius. I have seldom seen such matched performances. They bring Beckett back to comic and tragic life in a manner I can hardly believe. Goodman is larger than anybody’s life, fabulously costumed and unforgettable as the whip-snapping oligarch, Pozzo. Meanwhile, his slave, Glover, who is a fine character actor, deserved something special for his turn as a shivering packhorse being urged on by the perils of despotic pseudo-aristocracy. (He won a Tony nomination. His big speech, which sounds like something out of James Joyce, is punctuated by various inspired droolings and nose bleeds.) Lane and Irwin are just super, examining friendship and loyalty and fealty and pernicious selfishness, fear and laughter and the entire human condition. Believe me, you will never forget their Estragon and Vladimir. They are two of the theater’s greatest. This presentation is once-in-a-lifetime. Don’t miss this “Waiting for Godot” — it’s waiting for you and we’re all “waiting” for-you-know what!? The answer, the end, the beginning, the mystery to be solved! Beckett already solved it. It is unknowable.

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