LIZ SMITH: Terrific as always ...

Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes in A Farewell to Arms.
Katie Holmes Commands Broadway and Her Life ... Norbert Leo Butz Dominates " Dead Accounts" ... Jessica Walter Rules "Archer" ... Anne Hathaway Courts an Oscar for "Les Miserables."
by Liz Smith
Tuesday, December 4, 2012


“I AM confused by life, and feel safe within the confines of the theater,” said Helen Hayes.
Jessica Walter as Lucille in Arrested Development.
Walter in Play Misty for Me.
RAN INTO the divine actress Jessica Walter at the official opening of “Dead Accounts,” the new Broadway show starring Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Holmes as brother and sister. I was seated across the aisle from Jessica, in the second row. I over-heard her at one point, laughing, “I hope everyone is wearing pants, I’d rather not be looking up someone’s skirt!” (Actress Holmes wore jeans, Judy Greer wore a voluminous housecoat and Jayne Houdyshell’s skirt was so tight there was no way of peeking, even if one wanted to.)

Jessica has been seen in recent years on the sitcoms “Arrested Development" and “Retired at 35.” She is terrific as always. But she is even better as one of the voices on the outrageously raunchy animated series “Archer.” There, she plays the Medusa-like mother of secret-agent Archer and she is a riot. The show has been picked for 13 more episodes. “Archer” is not for the faint of heart, but Miss Walters, spitting out an endless stream of invective is priceless. (Her husband, Ron Leibman will join Jessica on the new season of “Archer,” playing — her husband. Now she’ll have two men to torment.)

Jessica Walter’s first brush with fame arrived in 1971, where she was Clint Eastwood’s psycho stalker in “Play Misty for Me.” And however she has managed it, Miss Walters looks very much the same as she did back then. No pumped-up face — or sausage lips, either. Just a great-looking, normal-looking woman.

Oh, and speaking of the ageless, Victor Garber of movies, TV and stage, was also in the audience at “Dead Accounts.” Garber, who is one of the nicest guys in the biz, still looks positively boyish in person. He never changes, not even after all those years on “Alias.”
“DEAD ACCOUNTS,” is well written by Theresa Rebeck and quite cleverly staged and directed by my old friend Jack O’Brien. (I liked the cast changing time onstage in the dark!)

Katie Holmes in DEAD ACCOUNTS.
Miss Holmes, who has been the focal point of the publicity, post-Tom Cruise, is assured and charming, as a young woman who feels trapped living with her aging parents in Cincinnati. At one point, Katie, increasingly frustrated by events around her, works herself up into such a furious lather, raving about banks and mortgages, that the audience broke into her speech with applause and whistles. (For the record, reviews have not been over-kind. But the audience seems to love the show! The people around me were clapping their hands off throughout and almost jumping out of their seats from time to time. )

All the actors are excellent, but “Dead Accounts” belongs to leading man Norbert Leo Butz. This show is mostly a comedy — at least it has a lot of laughs. But Mr. Butz gives a performance — even during long comic monologues — that can be described as nothing but harrowing. The energy he expends fills the theater and totally exhausts and engages the audience. As a man who has returned home with a stunning secret, Butz is manic, pathetic, sexy, wildly amusing. There is no justice if this astonishing, relentlessly kinetic performance isn’t recognized at Tony time. (He already has two of them.)

As for Katie Holmes, she has moved on from tabloid fodder and former wife of a superstar. She can command the stage and — even more importantly — command her own life. I speak for many who say it’s good to have her back.
Norbert Leo Butz, Katie Holmes and Jayne Houdyshell in DEAD ACCOUNTS.
Miss Holmes making a grand entrance.
THE AFTER-PARTY at the gorgeous Gotham Hall (another bank turned into a party ballroom) seemed rather subdued, though everybody was enthusiastic about the play. Maybe there were a lot of nervous investors there?

I had to leave before Miss Holmes made what surely was a grand entrance, but I did spot her beaming parents. (Boy, did they look happy!) They were there with the likes of Nathan Lane, Cherry Jones and celeb stylist Robert Verdi, who wore fingerless black leather gloves — you know, the kind you always see on Madonna.

The food, an Italian feast, was delish, but the big hit of the night was a table serving ice-cream. It was rather charming to see all these so-called jaded New Yorkers, ooohing and aaaahing over ice cream. (Forget the ravioli, let’s get right to dessert.) Everybody asked for a double scoop.

One of the guys dishing it out whispered to his co-worker: “Don’t offer them two scoops anymore. We’re running low!”

This was a clever ploy on the part of the party-planners. Cincinnati ice cream plays a big role in “Dead Accounts.”
FROM STAGE to Screen: I attended a very special screening of Tom Hooper’s massive movie adaptation of “Les Miserables.” (Hooper directed the Oscar-winning “The King’s Speech.”) There is a great big embargo about reviewing the movie right now — it opens on Christmas Day. And as I don’t wish to be banned from Peggy Siegal’s events, I’ll comply, grudgingly.

Jackman and Seyfried's friendly smooch. Photo: Dave Allocca/Startraksphoto.com.
I will say this; the film is unsparingly intense. All the hype about Anne Hathaway’s Oscar chances in the role of Fantine is for once hype with spine. She is brilliant, heartbreaking. If she wins the Oscar it will be well-deserved.

There was no embargo on the after-party at Porter House, attended by almost the entire cast, including Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne. (Eddie will be the movie’s breakout star.)

Hathaway still appears wan from the weight loss and the severe haircut “Les Miz” required but was radiant nonetheless. Others on hand included Joan Collins (who must bathe in the blood of virgins — she looks incredible!) ... Sharon Stone ... Brooke Shields ... Chelsea Clinton ... Tea Leoni ... director/producer/writer Linda Yellen.

The evening’s highlight was provided by Hugh Jackman, who sang a steamy, smoky ‘Happy Birthday” to Amanda Seyfried, while giving her a dry-hump lap dance. The memory of Marilyn at JFK’s birthday party finally has some competition! Amanda is 27, looks 18 and blushed adorably during Hugh’s performance.

More on “Les Miz” when permitted.

Contact Liz Smith here.

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