Abbott won many raves in his 107 years

GOOD MORNING: “This is going to be a rave. No question about it.” That was the lead of Hobe Morrison’s Daily Variety review of “The Pajama Game,” May 14, 1954. And Wednesday, when I spoke to George Abbott’s widow, Joy, in Miami Beach, she told me that, up until Abbott’s death (at age 107) Tuesday night, he had been working on — a Broadway revival of “Pajama Game.” “He was revising the second act,” Joy told me. He wanted to bring back the show — because of the success last year of his Broadway revival of his 1955 hit “Damn Yankees.” I saw “Yankees” both in ’55 with Ray Walston, Jean Stapleton, Gwen Verdon and Jimmy Komack and in ’94 with its current cast, which will soon see Jerry Lewis making his B’way bow. The Motion Picture Academy recently had a retro evening on “Damn Yankees,” with many of the principals on hand. Komack told me, “Anyone who worked for George Abbott considered that a high point of their life — and career. And it certainly was for me. He (Abbott) gave me my big break. And ‘You Gotta Have Heart’ still brings me the most attention wherever I go.” Abbott’s advice was invaluable to him. “When I was doing ‘Chico and the Man,’ he told me, ‘Keep writing — it’s much more rewarding (than acting).’ ” P.S.: Komack just sold another project, “Shootout,” a Western, to Hearst … Joy Abbott told me there will be a private service in Miami Beach on Saturday. Hal Prince wings in from Switzerland to join family and close Miami Beach friends such as Nancy and Joe Kanter at this service. Prince will then organize a memorial to be held on Broadway. Hal started out as office boy for Abbott and brought him an idea for a musical, Richard Bissell’s novel “7 1/2 Cents.” It became “The Pajama Game.” And Abbott and Prince were close ever since … Joy told me phone calls have been coming in from many who worked for and with Abbott , including Eddie Albert (“Room Service”), Nanette Fabray and Donald Sadler (“High Button Shoes”) and Natalia Makarova (“On Your Toes”). Although Broadway was darkened for a minute in tribute Wednesday night, it will forever be brightened by the plays of George Abbott.

ADDING TO THE BROADWAY SCENE is Brian Dennehy, who bows next month in Brian Friel’s “Translations,” which introduced Stephen Rea and Liam Neeson to Dublin theater in 1980. Although Dennehy says he has been onstage 30 years, this is his first time on B’way. “It reminds me why I became an actor in the first place.” He’s signed for six months. “But I’ll be pleased if it went that long. It’s a play about ideas and words. It’s the kind of thing every actor should do.” While he’s working on the legiter, Dennehy’s also editing “Shadow of a Doubt,” an NBC telepic that he directed, co-wrote and stars in. He also completed starring in “Tommy Boy,” with Chris Farley for Lorne Michaels, and “The Stars Fell on Henrietta,” co-starring Robert Duvall. “Henrietta’s” produced by Clint Eastwood. Of Eastwood, Dennehy laughs, “He doesn’t fool around.” The movie came in 11 days under sked … Also back on the boards, but Off Broadway, is B’way alumna Linda Lavin in “Death Defying Acts,” three one-act plays by Woody Allen, Elaine May and David Mamet. Lavin’s in Woody’s “Central Park West” as “the other woman,” and May’s “Hotline” as a hooker on a suicide phone line. Michael Blakemore directs. Lavin, who won a divorce case fight absolving her of payment of alimony to her ex, says, “I am now at the best point of my life. I love being free.” She just bought three acres at Sag Harbor, has homes in Malibu and Virginia and an apartment on Central Park West. And — she has a CBS TV development deal for “13 on the Air.”

OPRAH MAKES A RARE, latenight talkshow date, Friday with Jay Leno. Same show, Joni Mitchell makes her first live U.S. TV appearance in 25 years … Leslie Nielsen receives UCLA’s Jack Benny Award Feb. 9 … Worth magazine celebrated its third birthday with a cocktail’er at the Bel Air Hotel. Randy Jones, CEO and founder, noted 95% of new magazines fold in under three years. But they boast 500,000 circulation, “and the richest magazine median household income –$ 118, 000.” (Daily Variety’s average household income is $300,000, circulation 26,000 ). Greeting the local rich and famous was Worth’s editor-at-large, Nancy Holmes, well known here and abroad as journalist and author, also editor John Koten, who says next issue’s top story is about — the IRS. “If they audit us, we’ll have another story!” Among those there, Michael Viner and Deborah Raffin, Charles and Mary Jane Wick, Eva Gabor and Ray Katz, Joan Collins and son Sascha, Dina Merrill and Ted Hartley, Peter Strauss, Wendy Stark, Dominick Dunne, Barbara Howar, Lee Minnelli and Curtis Harrington (he’s readying to direct “Night Song”) , Nancy Olson and Alan Livingston, Hugh O’Brian, Bob Bookman.

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