Friday, June 10, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Being an audience

Tallulah Bankhead — "Stop the party!"
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Frying Up Friday: Jessica Lange ... Cate Blanchett ... Sally Field ... Holland Taylor ... Seth Sikes ... "Rizzoli & Isles" ... Charles Casillo.

"IF YOU really want to 'help' the American theater, dahling, don't be an actress. Be an audience!"

So said Tallulah Bankhead to some poor young thing who was probably simply asking her advice. Talking with Tallu, often got you more than you ever bargained for.

My own initial experience with the legendary star went very well. I complimented Bankhead on her performance in "A Streetcar Named Desire" — a performance that had been critically lambasted. Miss Bankhead stopped the cocktail party, and announced, "Everybody, I want you to hear what this brilliant girl has to say!"
SPEAKING OF actresses, Jessica Lange's mesmerizing turn in Broadway's "A Long Day's Journey Into Night," ends June 26th.
But wait, the fabulous Cate Blanchett will be in New York later this year in "The Present" by Andrew Upton, based upon Anton Chekhov's "Platonov." Richard Roxburgh co-stars and John Crowley directs. Previews begin December 17th, opening night at the Barrymore Theater happens January 8th.
Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh in "The Present."
Next season will also bring us Sally Field in Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie." Joe Mantello, Finn Wittrock and Madison Ferris co-star (Ferris plays the fragile Laura, in her Broadway debut). Sam Gold directs. The official opening night is set for March 23rd at the Golden Theater.

And for a genuinely fun way to end 2016, make your arrangements now to see the Ben Hecht/Charles MacArthur classic "The Front Page." This one opens October 20th at the Broadhurst and get a load of this cast: Holland Taylor ... Robert Morse ... Nathan Lane ... John Goodman ... John Slattery ... Jefferson Mays ... Sherie Rene Scott. Jack O'Brien directs.

Come on, read all of the above — who says there's nothing to live for?!
Seth Sikes Sings Liza Minnelli. Photos: Jason Russo (HeyMrJason Photography).
OUR young friend, nightclub star Seth Sikes, did another one of his packed-to-the-rafters stints at Feinstein's/54 Below Wednesday night. Singing songs associated with one of his idols, Liza Minnelli (the other being Liza's mom, you-know-who) Seth was in spectacularly good voice, and seemed a bit nervous, but those nerves were charming, and reminded me of the happy jitters that both Liza and Judy displayed at times (Garland sometimes fumbled on purpose, to the delight of her audiences — then she'd start over again, stronger!) Mr. Sikes was recently profiled in the New York Times.

Of course, he got there on the basis of his big talent and the indefatigable work of his brilliant press rep, Scott Gorenstein. But, we're gonna take a bit of a bow, too. We were writing up Seth ages before the Times recognized him. (Seth also said he is indeed mulling a Liza/Judy combo show — just as we suggested.)

The singer will take his act to San Francisco (June 16th) ... Saratoga Springs, NY (June 23rd) and Provincetown, MASS on August 2nd. He's on the road, just like ... Liza and Judy!

P.S. Among Seth's audience were composer John Kander (he and the late Fred Ebb essentially "created" the Liza Minnelli persona, writing dozens and dozens of songs especially for her.) The great choreographer Susan Stroman was also there. The presence of these two fabled giants might have accounted for Seth's nerves.

Another recognizable face was actor Doug Plaut, of Netflix's "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." Discussing the current election — listen, this is topic A-1 everywhere — Doug said: "I like to pretend the election is like that movie, "The River Wild.' Donald Trump is the rapids, Hillary is Meryl Streep, fighting the rapids. And I say, 'Bernie, don't be Kevin Bacon!'" (If you've seen the movie, you know how Bacon ends up.)
Susan Stroman, Seth Sikes, Albert Stephenson, and John Kander.
WHATEVER the stars and producers of TNT's "Rizzoli & Isles" feel about its seventh and final season, which began on Monday night, nobody can complain that it didn't go out with a prestigious bang. The show — still a high-rated winner — was amply praised and appreciated by Mike Hale in The New York Times this week.

Seven seasons is a more than respectable run, and both the female stars were — we assume — well salaried and will collect nice residuals from re-runs. (This show is made to order for monthly marathons, like the "Law & Order" franchise.)
Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander as Rizzoli & Isles.
I watched "R & I" although not with weekly regularity. I loved the interplay between Angie Harmon as the athletically sexy, gravel-voiced, no-nonsense Detective Jane Rizzoli and adorably deep-thinking forensic expert, Dr. Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander.) It was a fun show, nothing too deep, and never went off the rails as, say "Law & Order: SVU" often does.

I'm certain the ladies will be just fine. I wasn't familiar with Sasha prior to this series, but I've been a longtime fan of Angie Harmon, from way back in her "Law & Order" days. She's cornered the market on a kind of prickly, steely-eyed, intelligent professional woman, often concealing her vulnerability in a male-dominated world.
As A.D.A. Abbie Carmichael in "Law & Order: SVU."
She is also a great beauty who looks remarkably unchanged as the years have passed. It's always been a mystery why this talented woman never became a big movie star. Well, there's time — and free time, now. I can see her in a big-screen police drama (as that seems to be her métier) but she'd also kick a lot of backside in one of those Marvel or DC comic book superhero movies.

Hollywood, what are you waiting for?
Charles is not only intelligent, but it turns out he's also a looker!
ENDQUOTE: From author/filmmaker Charles Casillo ...

"Liz, that's a good point you make, about having your column serve as, essentially, your Facebook page; an outlet to voice opinions and thoughts and ideas. As it should be with professional journalists and public figures who have things of interest to express. The problem is that no one today is satisfied with just living their life. They feel as if eating lunch serves no purpose unless there is a photo of it blasted out to the world.

"It's a nation of exhibitionists and voyeurs, which I guess has always been the nature of people, but it was confined to an intimate circle in your neighborhood of acquaintances. Now the whole world is on display and most of the time it's damn boring!"

I've said it before, I'll say it again — I love my intelligent readers!
Contact Liz here.