Wednesday, January 20, 2016

LIZ SMITH: "Hello, Dolly!"

Carol Channing will be passing Dolly Levi's feathered headdress to Bette Midler.
by Liz Smith

"Trainwreck" at the Critics' Choice Awards ... Bette Midler Says "Hello, Dolly!" and Broadway Weeps With Joy ... Cher Quenches Our Thirst for Real Good Deeds in a Naughty World.

"GOOD TASTE is death; vulgarity is life," said Mary Quant, credited by many for introducing the mini-skirt back in the 1960s.
Speaking of "beards" ... here is Will Forte's puzzling interpretation of one during the Critics' Choice Awards.
SO I SUPPOSE we could say there was a lot of "life" onstage over the weekend during the Critics' Choice Awards in L.A. Much bleeping of expletives as presenters and winners got up on stage, free to be themselves and bereft of wit.

I caught only bits and pieces of this show, now in its 21st year. I don't recall that I've ever seen all of it, over the past several decades. Although it is set-up in Golden-Globe-ish fashion, with drinks and dinner and potential winners placed all over the room (or an old airplane hangar, in this case) the better to have winners struggle awkwardly through the tables to get to the podium.

I was channel-surfing and also reading a book about the history of beards. (Really! It's fascinating and I'll tell you more later in the week.) So I didn't monitor every moment.

Popping in and out, I saw enough. Among other things, I think Matt Damon, one of the genuinely nice guys in the biz, is getting a little tired of all the ribbing over "The Martian" being placed bizarrely in the Comedy category at the Golden Globes. That particular well of quips has run dry.
Deservedly annoyed — Matt Damon.
…I was glad to see Christian Slater winning for "Mr. Robot" (seems like a real class act, still so sexy, and kind of pleasantly surprised by the attention he's been receiving for this new series — he also won a Golden Globe last week. The star of that show, Rami Malek, Mr. Robot himself, also took an award)
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, Christian Slater ("Mr. Robot").
Best Actor in a Drama Series, Rami Malek ("Mr. Robot").
... charmed by "Big Bang Theory" actress Mayim Bialik's stunned reaction to "the first thing I've ever won!"
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, Mayim Bialik ("Big Bang Theory").
... and relieved that at least the Critics' Choice — like the Globes, but unlike the Oscars this season — exhibited a bit more diversity, with honors going to Idris Elba ("Luther") and Andre Braugher ("Brooklyn Nine-Nine.")
Best Actor in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series, Idris Elba ("Luther").
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, Andre Braugher ("Brooklyn Nine-Nine").
But I did manage to catch, in full, director/writer/producer Judd Apatow introducing his "Trainwreck" star Amy Schumer. She was winning some kind of special award, called the MVP. (Most Vulgar Person?)

Apatow indulged in a fairly long, profane and sort of faux angry (or was it?) semi-attack on the concepts of "drama." The audience didn't seem quite to know what to make of it.
Judd Apatow and his "Trainwreck" star Amy Schumer.
Finally, Miss Schumer ascended the stage, looking very pretty in a simple white gown. That was as good as it got. She was meandering, boring, unprepared. She was bleeped only once, but perhaps considering her amateurish performance, she should have cursed more? It went on and on. She also made a comment about the middle of her body, saying "When a woman has all this, she has to write for herself!" First of all, not true. Second, at the moment, Schumer doesn't have much of "all this." She's been dieting. Finally, she was gone.
But not for long. She also took Best Actress in a Comedy movie. Apparently, nobody at her table advised her, "Honey, speed it up and know what you're talking about if you win again!" So there she was once more — boring, meandering, unprepared. (Her onstage compliment to fellow nominee Lily Tomlin was something that should have been saved for the after party, just among friends.)  About the only thing I got out of it is that Amy loves her sister.

But she still looked very pretty.
WELL, by now the news that the divine Bette Midler will return to Broadway in Jerry Herman's "Hello, Dolly!" is the talk of New York, and indeed the world. (Miss Midler is very much an international treasure.)

Jerry Herman conceived "Dolly!" for Ethel Merman. When Merman, Mary Martin and Nancy Walter turned it down, he went with Carol Channing. It opened in 1964 and the rest is history. Carol had been a smash on Broadway in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" in 1949, and won a Tony Award for her revue "Show Girl" in 1961, but she was not yet a name known widely in Podunk.

And despite the fact that everybody from Pearl Bailey to Ginger Rogers, to Martha Raye, to Betty Grable, to Ethel Merman (at last!) to Phyllis Diller to Betsy Palmer to Dorothy Lamour to Barbra Streisand, all eventually played Dolly Levi — on Broadway, on the road, or in the movies — the role remained totally owned by Carol. (I attended Channing's final performance of "Dolly" during the show's 1996 revival. It was one of the top five hyper-emotional experiences in the theater I've ever had.)

Jerry Herman says: "Who is out there that has the necessary stature, warmth and incredible talent and singular outsized personality for a 21st century Dolly? Only Bette Midler."
Carol Channing was the first to take on the role of the Dolly Gallagher Levi in a Broadway musical, in 1964.
Ethel Merman in the final performance of "Hello, Dolly!" on Broadway in 1970.
Barbra Streisand in the 1969 film version.
I agree! I applaud! Not only that, unless there is some kind of catastrophic financial or natural disaster that affects the world and Broadway, Bette's "Dolly" is an assured box-office triumph.

Opening night is set for April 20th, 2017. And I have a feeling that a lot of people — whether they have "New York values" or not — are going to flock to Manhattan and find solace in the pure entertainment value that Bette Midler, singing Jerry Herman — and performing the Michael Stewart book — will surely provide.
And who knows? Maybe the show will be such a success that after Bette's engagement ends, "Dolly" will go on and on, as it did back in the day, with every actress of a certain age who can carry a tune, stepping in?

Come on, wouldn't it fun to see, for example, Goldie Hawn, Dolly Parton, Vanessa Williams, Brooke Shields, Halle Berry, Sally Field, Susan Lucci, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bernadette Peters, Glenn Close, Angela Bassett, Meryl Streep, Kathy Bates, Queen Latifah, Debbie Harry, Madonna or Cher, being welcomed back to the Harmonia Gardens in Yonkers?
OH, speaking of Cher, the great star has stepped in and is doing more than commenting on Twitter, regarding the ghastly water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Cher, partnered by Icelandic Glacial, has donated more than 180,000 bottles of water to the beleaguered city. They are expected to arrive today.

And a particular shout-out to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, who put the crisis on the map, with relentless nightly reporting. Now, everybody, including President Obama and candidate Hillary Clinton are in on the Flint situation, but it was Maddow who laid the groundwork.
ATTENTION READERS: Our fearless leader, Liz Smith, has had a slight mishap. She is fine, but will be hors de combat for a brief interval. Denis Ferrara will be pinch hitting for Liz.
Contact Liz Smith here.