Monday, May 8, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Big business!

Liz and Glenn at the Theatre Hall of Fame lunch which honored Ms. Close.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Manic Monday — Renee Fleming ... Glenn Close ... Sarah Paulson ... Judy Abrams ... Hilary Knight.

“THE TROUBLE with retirement is that you have no days off,” said basketball’s Abe Lemons.
©Decca/Andrew Eccles
MUSIC lovers and tons of people who have been sobbing into their pillows at night over the impending “retirement” of the beloved, beautiful and thouroughly nice Renee Fleming, can relax!

Renee is not retiring, in spite of what the New York Times insists. She is simply not going to be accepting opera roles.

She will be looking for new venues and “downtime,” with husband Tim Jessell. She’ll do concerts and if you can think up new and different options for this most charming big talent, feel free.

So there!
I, Liz, told you sometime back about the Theatre Hall of Fame lunch honoring Glenn Close and said I’d report later what Glenn had to say at this informal Terry Hodge Taylor event. She showed up at noon at the Palm Restaurant and found Hal Prince, producers Roger Berlind and Judith Ann Abrams, as well as Brian Stokes Mitchell, Barbara Carroll, Bernadette Peters, Estelle Parsons, William Ivey Long and many other theater names saluting her. (Some of them were being honored too!)

Glenn casually sauntered in as if she doesn’t have a night job. (I hope I get this in the column before Glenn moves on from her smashing limited run in “Sunset Boulevard.”)

Everybody there wanted to kiss Glenn and vice versa. As “looks” are what count these days, I can report that this star appeared light years younger than ages ago when she first opened “Sunset” in California as the aging silent movie star. And Glenn looks younger than when she starred in the movies — “Fatal Attraction” and “101 Dalmatians.”

I thought Glenn should be resting for the night’s staggering and demanding role. But no! She seemed delighted to be with fellow theatre darlings and she sat rapt and gorgeous-looking, as the handsome Brian Stokes Mitchell started the awards. Fortunately, he cautioned everyone who spoke to be brief and most complied.

The high point for me was the Hal Prince memory of first discovering Glenn and giving her the leading lady’s role in a play where the famous leading lady couldn’t remember her lines.

Glenn’s appearance for one night only at Birdland is already sold out. Just wait! She’ll surprise us again and again when she finally looks like an adult!
Producer Judith Ann Abrams took this photo with the caption: "The talent at this table ... overwhelming!"
I WAS at this lunch with producer Judith Ann Abrams and she is part backer of the hit “Kinky Boots” (to name just one hit). She told me people who win Tony Awards have to pay for the actual physical award to take it home. Same with London’s Olivier Award. People who have been given a win more than once, sometimes skip buying a second time.

Seats for the Tony’s are sky-high and spouses of winners have to pay the going-price for their seats.

Theatre is big business! And expensive, even for winners.
JUDY Abrams was in a kid’s show as a child. Then she grew up. Now people call her, “The producer who went from ‘Puss ‘n’ Boots’ to ‘Kinky Boots.’” You can try to get in another one of her hits “Come From Away.” She’s on a roll.
SO THERE I was sitting in my seat at the opening night of Bette Midler in “Hello Dolly!” just minding my own business. I was happy finally to be seated, waiting for my guy, Denis. The entire Shubert Theater auditorium was talking at once. The din was tremendous.

Photograph by Julia Noni for TIME
Suddenly, a beautiful person came in my aisle. Lo and behold, it was one of “The 100 Most Influential People” in the world, according to Time magazine.

It was the actress Sarah Paulson, who I just happen to actually know.

There she is in Time, Ms. Paulson, who never acts like a celebrity or the star that she is! No wonder the great Cate Blanchett did Sarah’s write-up for Time. Blanchett said of Sarah, “she has been at the forefront of a generation of women who are changing the landscape of the film and television industry.

“She has played everything from a two-headed circus performer (American Horror Story: Freak Show) to an unflappable Marcia Clark (The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story).”  

Sarah is just plain super nice and personally adorable. I have known a lot of them but I find Sarah the nicest and most intelligent human being I ever met in the entire business of show.

Brava, Sarah!
YOU WILL benefit by going to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts to see "Hilary Knight's Stage Struck World," a show that features works by the creative artist behind the American classic "Eloise," through September 1.

You can also see Knight's costume designs brought to life by Adrian for "The Great Ziegfeld" and for Sabu from "The Elephant Boy" in the '30s. There is more exotica from the artist's own costumes, portraits, magazine covers 100 items on display.

And only 12 blocks north, in an exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, you can see more of Knight's work in an exhibition called "Eloise at the Museum" from June 30 to Oct. 9. Knight is in his 90s now, but you'd never know it.

Contact Liz here.