Harvey Fierstein told me he was thrilled by the silence of the opening night audience for “A Catered Affair” at San Diego’s Old Globe Theater Sunday Night. (See Bob Verini’s review). On stage, Fierstein and the troupe appreciated the total silence emanating from the audience as the players enacted many emotional scenes — totally sans dialog as their emotions ran high from their earlier words — and music. I appreciated the play’s description to me by John Bucchino, who wrote the words and music: “this is like an Arthur Miller play with music.”
Fierstein said he decided to re-invent the “Catered Affair” 1950s family drama to show that “gay people weren’t just born in the ’70s. My cousin was gay. We all knew about it — it was something you lived with. Gays and lesbians were always a part of family society. It’s part of family.” Thus, he transformed the single-dimensioned drunk as played by Barry Ftzgerald in the 1956 movie into the feisty gay uncle character he plays. It’s one of the many transitions from the original teleplay-to-movie-to stage which is the “Catered Affair” playing through Oct.28 at the Globe, then taking a break before bowing at the Kerr on B’way on March 25.
During the interim, director John Doyle has two obligations to fulfill. And Fierstein say the time will give him the opportunity to only “tweak” the show. During this down period some of the cast will be busy as well. Faith Prince (magnificent as the mother of the bride) returns to tour with her one-woman show. And Heather MacRae (in the dual role of Delores and The Caterer) also returns to the road with her act, “Songs For My Father” (Gordon MacRae). Tom Lopat (whose soliloquy broke the silence into applause), will also get time to plan to his Fall-’88 B’way show, “Catch Me If You Can” in the role played by Chris Walken in the film — Nathan Lane will play Leonardo Di Caprio’s part.
An added treat in the audience for the cast on opening night Sunday was Debbie Reynolds who trained down from L.A., along with George Furth, to see the legit “Catered Affair” — she starred in the movie in 1956 when she was 24 years old. “I liked this show better than the movie,” she happily admitted to Fierstein and the cast — all of whom wanted to be photo’d with her. . She told me the movie was not a happy set with director Richard Brooks calling her “Miss Hollywood” thruout. However, Debbie said working with the cast headed by Bette Davis, Ernie Borgnine and Barry Fitzgerald, gave her the opportunity to create imitations to later use in her act. She continues on the road, playing the Sun Coast in Vegas later this week. Debbie, who has starred on B’way and on the road says those days are over — “No more eight shows a week for me,” she says . Leslie Kritzer who plays Debbie’s bride-to-be role in the pay, told me she’d viewed the movie starring Debbie before starting rehearsing the legiter. “I loved it,” she said.
Before taking leave of Harvey Fierstein, I had to ask him if he’d seen the film version of “Hairspray,” starring John Travolta. He politely side-stepped with comments like, “I’d seen enough of it — in the coming attractions.” Then his face lit as he hugged me, smiling, and saying, “But, I still get a check from it –every week!” It was an interesting night in Old San Diego.