Arts & Entertainment
Originally printed 04/10/2008 (Issue 1615 - Between The Lines News)
"Let me tell you something, when it comes to finishing a fight, 'Rocky' and I have a lot in common. I never quit. I never give up." - Hillary compares herself to "Rocky Balboa," who was the underdog in the Sylvester Stallone flick "Rocky." Ummm, someone might wanna clue Hillary in to the fact that in that movie, "Rocky" lost to a black guy.
Last week I went to the opening night of "Gypsy" on Broadway. Although this production with Patti LuPone will likely go down in theater history, the atmosphere inside the theater wasn't nearly as electric as you'd expect. After all, the majority of that first-night audience had likely seen a semi-staged version of this production over the summer. And real devotees had traveled to Chicago to see Patti's first take on the role at the 2006 Ravinia Festival.
Nonetheless, the stars came out - including Dina Merrill, Lauren Bacall, Sian Phillips, and a former "Mama Rose," Angela Lansbury. The presence of Marisa Tomei was the only indication that I hadn't mistakenly stumbled into an Equity AARP meeting! Also cheering on Patti was her "Evita" co-star, Mandy Patinkin, who's been doing concert dates with La LuPone.
Forget all that celeb stuff - let's get to the show. Critics have been universally gushing that this is not only an incredible production, but that Patti may be the definitive "Mama Rose" (no disrespect to Ethel). Certainly she mines the psychology of the character more than any previous actress. Her voice is in splendid shape and responds to her every whim with...well, not with ease. That wouldn't be "Rose." With gusto. The characterization has tempered since this summer. Someone close to book writer and director Arthur Laurents told me that Laurents felt it was vital to push Patti to be as monstrous as possible initially, and then pull her back to infuse the character with shades of gray. No matter how she got there, this is a towering, headstrong, insecure, staggering, driven and (ultimately) thwarted woman. And don't forget that last part - this "Mama" is most certainly all woman.
The character of "Gypsy" herself undergoes the most drastic metamorphosis and, to be honest, is a role that often annoys me - from "Little Lamb" on down. And yet, in the hands of Laura Benanti, I never felt that I was listening to some insipid singing - I was witnessing a real acting scene in the hands of a pro that well belies her youth. However, it's the performance of Boyd Gaines as "Herbie" that's a revelation. From the first time he meets "Rose," you know this isn't going to end well. It's a toss up if he's more smitten or sickened by "Rose." His eventual departure is as much an act of survival as when "Rose" makes her daughter strip. Over the summer I thought Leigh Ann Larkin's portrayal of "June" a bit arch. Now she's downright caustic. I understand the approach, but I must say she grates on me. And as sweet and capable as Tony Yazbeck is (no relation to the Widow Yazbeck), he simply never jumps out at me as a "star" - which is what I think a good "Tulsa" should do.
The sumptuous after-party took place at the hip downtown venue, Mansion. I was delighted to see a familiar face working the door. There was porn legend Will Clark looking down the front of Bacall's dress. I hasten to add that in order to see the Betty's "goods," one must look very low indeed!
Here's a little gossip. A couple of years ago, Arthur Laurents met with Barbra Streisand, who desperately wanted to make another film version of "Gypsy." No sooner had the duo sat down when Babs sensed Arthur's skepticism. "You don't want me to play 'Rose', do you?" she asked. "No," said Laurents. Streisand sighed, saying, "It's 'cause I'm too old, isn't it." "No, it's not that. I just don't think you can play a bitch." Babs looked shocked and said, "Are you kidding? Ask anyone who knows me - I can be a major bitch." "Yes," said Laurents, "but not on camera!" Silence filled the air for a moment, and then the two burst into laughter.
Speaking of Streisand, I hear that Marilyn and Alan Bergman are writing a stage musical based on "Yentl" - for which they wrote the songs. She may not be able to play a bitch, but she probably thinks she can still play a 16-year-old Yeshiva boy!
"Rent" is not leaving Broadway - at least not yet. The closing performance of the musical was slated for June 1. However, ever since the announcement was made, the box office has been doing great business. The show, currently starring "American Idol" alum Tamyra Gray, is scheduled for eviction on Sept. 7 - God willing.
When "Rent" shutters, it could have yet another "Idol" alum in the cast. Rumor has it that David Hernandez met with the producers about playing one of the roles ("Angel," perhaps?). When he touched down at Newark airport, he was approached by a Hasidic Jew with a camera (which sounds like the beginning of a joke - admittedly, not a very good joke). David asked if the guy was a Pilgrim. OY! When he was asked if he was in town to audition for "Rent," Hernandez said, "No...I'm auditioning for 'Lease'!" Oh, that little queen cracks me up!
Days before Dolly appeared on "Idol," she was onstage at LA's House of Blues to give investors and celebs a sneak peak at her stage musical version of "9 to 5." This show will debut at LA's Ahmanson Theatre in September prior to a Broadway run. Parton was joined by Allison Janney, Megan Hilty and Stephanie J. Block, who will be in the show. Dolly performed some songs from the show, and from her CD, "Backwoods Barbie."
Elsewhere in LA, TR Knight was photographed house hunting with his child bride, Mark Cornelsen - who was wearing a "We All Have AIDS" T-shirt. Ever since snaps of the couple broke on the web, retailers have allegedly sold out of the shirt - which is interesting because when Kathy Griffin wore it in the 2005 Hollywood Christmas Parade, nothing happened! Anyhoo, TR and Mark would have gone out to celebrate at a club, but little Mark still isn't old enough to drink.
Hunky Nate Berkus was vacationing in Hawaii with an unidentified woman and child. Don't worry - he hasn't gone straight. In fact, the handsome heartthrob is dating Bally Shoe designer Brian Atwood (we'll run pics). As happy as I always am to see a pic of Nate, my joy is exponentially increased when I see someone around my age looking slightly out of shape in a swimsuit.
The "Ask Billy" mailbag has been very chock-a-block of questions regarding those little royal princes in Merry Ole England. Rodney in Cleveland asks: "You have run all those hot snaps of Prince Harry. But William is the one I love. Can't you find something hot of him? Pretty please?"
Sigh - my work is never done. I did some digging and one of our UK sources sent us two pics of Willy's willy - giving new meaning to the term "the royal wee." One pic shows William surreptitiously snapped while changing at a gym. The more questionable one was snapped while he changed costumes during a play he was in at school (Eaton) in 1996. 'Cause I know this is right up my fans' collective alleys, I'll post both on http://www.BillyMasters.com.
When Babs can't play a teenage boy or a bitchy mother, it's definitely time to end yet another column. I get to breathe in LA for a couple of weeks before hitting the road again. But, no matter where I am, you can catch up on the dishiest dirt at http://www.BillyMasters.com. For those questions that require my personal touch, you can e-mail me at Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before Marisa Tomei plays "Mama Rose"! Until next time, remember, one man's filth is another man's bible.