It was deja vu — again. We had walked up to Broadway and 45th Street from the Friedman theater on West 47th, en route to the post-preem party of “To Be Or Not To Be” at “Planet Hollywood.” As we reached B’way, I noted the Virgin building on the site of the Criterion theater, where I worked as an usher while going to high school. I did my homework in the ushers’ dressing room in the split shift. I worked a new Year’s Eve when the enormous mob on B’way swept me up to the huge windows of the Bond store where, luckily, our 6’5″ theater doorman snatched me. The Criterion theater is gone as well as its replacement, Center Stage (two) where the Roundabout held forth for years…
Then it was onto the side entrance of Planet Hollywood — and time for another look back for me. I had hosted the Oct.21, 1991 opening of the first Planet Hollywood on 57th Street, next to the Russian Tea Room and Carnegie Hall. That Planet Hollywood moved on — with me hosting openings in London, Las Vegas, etc. And happily the Russian Tea Room has re-opened. It was the site for many happy lunch interviews for me.
And so, while “To Be Or Not to Be” was not to receive sensational reviews, it was a fulfilling night for us. And it was another excuse to phone Mel Brooks. Most of the reviews compared the 2008 legit version to the Ernst Lubitsch 1942 charmer which starred Jack Benny, Carole Lombard and Robert Stack. There were little or no critical comparisons to the Mel Brooks’1983 version of “To Be Or Not To Be ” starring Mel and wife Anne Bancroft. Brooks told me “The critics didn’t even beat us up when we came out after Lubitsch! We were pretty damn good — maybe it’s because we did a lot more about antisemitism?” Brooks is itching to “get another show on the boards.” He has already written three songs for a “Blazing Saddles” musical — but admits, “The problem for the Broadway musical is the farting scene!” He allows “Blazing Saddles” was ahead of its time–because of a black sheriff.
You’ll Enter — and Leave — Laughing
I was told by everyone to see “Enter Laughing,” the latest incarnation of the novel written by Carl Reiner. And am I glad we did. It has only two more weeks to run at the York. However, there are all sorts of plots afoot to bring it back. The super-talented Joe Stein — can you believe he originally wrote the play while also creating “Fiddler On The Roof”? — graciously met us at the theater to chat about the possibilities for another life for the show directed by Stuart Ross, with music and lyrics by Stan Daniels. The entire cast, led by newcomer Josh Grisetti and show-stopped by seasoned George S. Irving, received non-stop applause. It would be a loss if this show and company do not continue. Coincidentally, with us at this performance were Gil Cates and Jay Roth. They had just returned from Paris confabs for the DGA with SASCEN. (Roth is DGA exec director, Cate, secretary-treasurer). Cate, who loved the show, was also eyeing it as a possibility for his Geffen Theater.
It was renewed excitement viewing the return of “South Pacific.” It continues to get deserved standing ovations at the Vivian Beaumont at Lincoln Center. And it brought back double memories for me — as I had a taste of the Navy, Pearl Harbor and WWII as well as a never-to-be forgotten visit to the Hawaii location of the 1957 film with Mitzi Gaynor, Rossano Brazzi, John Kerr and Ray Walston directed by the great Josh Logan. Kelli O’Hara and Paulo Szot head the cast with Loretta Ables Sayre as “Bloody Mary” getting repeated show-stopping applause. Director Bartlett Sher makes the show move like opening night every night.
While the already-established “South Pacific” continues to win audiences, the newly-arrived “In The Heights” also has repeated showstopping numbers in its nonstop energy-baffling numbers. Whatta joy!
We had spent an evening with Kirk and Anne Douglas at his theater before heading to N.Y. and they told us of “13,” which had its origins in workshop at his Culver City theater, moving on to play at the Mark Taper of the Center Theater Group, where the excitement of the teenagers whipped up by the cast won it a B’way bow. It was a double treat to watch the audience reaction to the show. It was a kick to examine the sub-and-post teens arriving in the wardrobe of those on stage. The parade of the audience was an exuberant show in itself. “13” wins its way well into their parents–and grandparents.
Sidebars in N.Y: Elaine’s continues to be the favorite meeting place for fourth estaters from the major publications. Editors from both the NYT and Post were seated but a few tables apart from us. Opinions about the election, World Series, football, hockey filled the high-decibeled space. P.S.: everyone had something to whisper to Elaine! Also there was Ruda Dauphin, back from Deauville doings and plotting fests in the Amazon as well as Nimes–now that’s a combination! — as well as Nikki Haskell, completing a shoot for her new Star Caps campaign.
Bobby Short is gone, of course, but the Cafe Carlyle and good music goes on. We were happy to meet again and enjoy the special musical treats of John Pizzarelli and wife Jessica Molaskey as they wafted us through “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” to “Meditation” — or “Happy Talk” — with their own brand of happy talk, reminding us again of the genius of “South Pacific.” Steve Tyrell returns to the Cafe Carlyle Nov.4, lingering through New Year’s Eve: a treat for N.Y.
We returned to L.A. in time for tonight’s premiere of “Rare” by Nicole Maloney. Nick Caruso hosts the book’s bow at the Grove. Nicole “is on a mission to change the world one photograph at a time.” The preem party book price is $250 (regularly $69.95), with all royalties from the sale going to The International Rescue Committee (IRC). And I am proud to be one (two!) of her 199 pages. Among those incredibly creatively photographed with their wildlife counterparts are Warren Buffett, John McCain, Paris Hilton, Alice Walker, Vidal Sassoon, Glenn Close, Peter Guber, Jack Nicklaus, Buzz Aldrin, Dustin Hoffman, Barron Hilton, James Caan, and Chaka Kahn. A book signing will be held Nov.6 at Book Soup on the Sunset Strip.