For a moment, first-nighters at the world preem of David Auburn’s “The Columnist” didn’t know if it was Grace Gummer or Mamie Gummer walking Billy Crudup down the aisle of the Samuel J. Friedman Theater on April 25. After all, it looked like Grace, but Grace is in the show. Indeed, it was Grace, who quickly ran backstage for her entrance.
In addition to Meryl Streep’s two daughters (since Mamie was also there) and Crudup, the Friedman was chock-a-block with the thesps of young Broadway. Well, maybe younger Broadway, as in Daniel Breaker, Norbert Leo Butz, Brian D’Arcy James, Steven Pasquale, Sherie Rene Scott and Ben Walker.
They were joined by Glenn Close, who arrived with her “Albert Nobbs” co-star Janet McTeer. The two sat right in front of Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas, who at the Copacabana afterparty ran to congratulate MTC artistic director Lynne Meadow. She introduced Thomas to “Hairspray” helmer Jack O’Brien, who exclaimed, “Marlo, I’m such a huge fan of yours!” Donahue remained a few yards back, near the staircase for a quick getaway.
“The Columnist” is a bioplay about Joseph Alsop, a fierce supporter of the Vietnam War. There’s a lot of J.J. Hunsecker (“Sweet Smell of Success”) and Waldo Lydecker (“Laura”) in Auburn’s take on Alsop. But Auburn, as well as star John Lithgow and director Daniel Sullivan, don’t see it that way.
“Not really” was the precise response all three gave to the Hunsecker/Lydecker question.
Sullivan added, “This man’s life was so colorful, you didn’t need other models.”
Lithgow, who played Hunsecker in the musical version of “Sweet Smell,” opined, “Hunsecker’s ice cold, and Joe is full of life.”
Auburn asked, “Who’s Waldo Lydecker?”