Monday, March 16, 2015

LIZ SMITH: Putting on a show ...

Mickey and Judy were always putting on a show ...
Monday, March 16, 2015
by Liz Smith

"Doctor Zhivago" — Endless Love and Russia's Great Purge in Musical Form ... Lucie Arnaz wants to put on a show — "Hazel."

“HOW DOES ‘Dr. Zhivago’ hold up? No, um — longueurs?”

That’s what Julie Christie asked me a few years ago, during an interview. We spoke of her career, and I mentioned that her classic film, based on Boris Pasternak’s novel had just been on TCM. Even when I assured her the movie “held up,” Miss Christie gave me a skeptical smile.
The peasants are Revolting, but Miss Christie remains stylish.
I WAS reminded of this because of all the current billboards and advertisements for “Doctor Zhivago — A New Musical," starring Tam Mutu as Yurii Zhivago (Omar Sharif for you movie-lovers) and Kelli Barrett as Lara (Miss Christie’s role.) It opens on April 21, 2015 at the Broadway Theater.

The David Lean film is sprawling, and the only drawback today, is how anachronistic Julie Christie looks. The story is set in the early 1900s. But Julie looks inescapably 1965. Like she just stepped off the set of her Oscar-winning Mod movie, “Darling.”

I’m always amused and impressed at what imaginative composers and writers transform into musicals — often the darkest, or least likely material. Sometimes it works out very well (“Les Miserables” “Sunset Boulevard”). Sometimes not (“Gone With the Wind — The Musical.’) I’m waiting for the musical version of “War and Peace” or “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” or “Psycho.” You know it’s bound to happen. (“War and Peace” has already been an opera, however.)

“Zhivago” boasts a score by Lucy Simon, Michael Korie, and Amy Powers. Book by Michael Weller. Des McAnuff directs.

Oh, and on April 14th there will be a special performance of the show, benefiting Denise Rich’s Gabrielle Angel Foundation for Cancer Research. Call 646-861-2033 for info about this event.
Tam Mutu and Kelli Barrett with director Des McAnuff.
MORE THEATER Thoughts: Remember the old Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney movies, in which they were eternally “putting on a show?” In a barn or a garage or an abandoned warehouse; for British orphans or just for the hell of it. Judy and Mickey barreled through and came out on top.

Well, I think that is what theater is like these days. People just “put on a show.” For instance, there is the divine Lucie Arnaz who is trying to bring “Hazel: A Musical Maid In America” to Broadway.
Shirley Booth as Hazel (1961).
Based on the old cartoon character and the TV series which starred Shirley Booth, Lucie is offering her “Hazel” to the Equity Lab, which will present four invitation-only readings at the Lyric Performance Space on May 28/29. (Arnaz is the “Hazel” director, and a show biz veteran; the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz although she overcame that all on her own.)
Lucie Arnaz with her mother Lucille Ball and brother Desi Arnaz, Jr.
Klea Blackhurst stars as Hazel, earthy and commonsense, who knows how to fix everybody’s problem. Score by Ron Abel and Chuck Steffan, book by Lissa Levin.

Judy and Mickey couldn’t have been better equipped to conquer The Great White Way, as is Miss Arnaz, who began her theater career at the Jones Beach Theater, in “Annie Get Your Gun,” achieved fabulous success in “They’re Playing Our Song” and eventually played Maria Callas in “Master Class.”
MY Texas friend Gigi Benson, who married the Scots photo genius Harry, writes me re: my longtime crush on Kevin Spacey.

She says of his movie “Beyond The Sea,” where he starred as the late Bobby Darin, was “incredible” and we all love “House of Cards!”

Gigi adds: “Harry photographed Kevin at the Old Vic where he climbed a tree on stage and knew all about what it takes to make a good photograph!”
Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic, photographed by Harry Benson.
DAWN O. Hammitt writes to remind us that our much-admired Kevin Spacey can imitate other famous stars and current politicians and celebrities. His abilities have been seen on Letterman, Leno and Fallon!

If you’re not on the Kevin Spacey bandwagon, get on!
WE received an outpouring in the matter of the Academy giving the Oscar to Doris Day. She is still working hard to save all animals. But she needn’t appear at the Oscars in person. She’ll be 91 on April 3rd.

Jay Springer writes, “Doris is much revered here in her home town of Cincinnati where she still has relatives. I would say she still trumps our other current ‘it’ star, George Clooney!”

Doris Day and Betty Grable were tied as the biggest box-office draws of their respective eras. (Grable never gets the respect she deserves as 20th Century-Fox’s powerhouse blonde.) Betty passed away too soon, but Doris is still with us!
Doris waves to fans on her 90th birthday, which she celebrated last April.
PAUL Brogan writes from New England sending us encouragement about Doris Day’s mythical honorary Oscar. He says she is touched by our on going efforts to honor her amazingly diverse career that has stood the test of time. “Director Norman Jewison, who worked with her on two movies, has actively urged the Board to honor her. Doris has been too often dismissed by those who have never even watched one of her films who considered her an overage Girl Scout and/or sexless virgin. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Brogan says: “I am teaching an upcoming class on Doris Day here in New Hampshire. All 30 of the slots in the class were filled in a matter of hours. These classes are part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. And we teach classes for free. Bless you for recognizing the loyalty you show for so many. Never change.”
Norman Jewison and Doris in 1963.
FROM our pal, Linda Yellen: “Liz, you and Denis outdid yourselves on our ‘Kickstarter’ attempt to finish the Dennis Hopper movie. Jackie Bisset is so excited by it she wants to put it on her Facebook page. More exciting is that you guys scooped everyone else. With immense gratitude, Linda.”
Jackie plays the ex-wife of Hopper's character in the "The Last Film Festival."
ENDTHOUGHT: How much in common do the ancient Egyptians have with modern-day Republicans? Quite a bit, actually! Back in antiquity, whenever a pharaoh passed this mortal coil, enemies would smash his statues, scrape away hieroglyphics and essentially attempt to erase all evidence that such a person existed.

Well, Republicans aren’t waiting until President Barack Obama dies. Every effort is being made to eradicate and overturn any and all Obama contributions, excise his legacy, humiliate and degrade him. (The Republicans' “Letter to Iran” telling the Iranians to utterly disregard the president, is staggering in its implications — and not just for Obama and the Democrats; what goes around comes around.)

Yet, we still know about those ancient Egyptians; smashing statues could not destroy history.

Even in this world of micro-second attention spans, social media inanity and partisan hatred, two-term president Barack Obama will live on. Like the pyramids.

Contact Liz Smith here.