Thursday, May 11, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Declarations

Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza in “South Pacific."
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Billboard Declares: Cher is Officially Iconic. (We Knew That, Already). Also "Labyrinth" soundtrack reissued ... Billy Lykken at The Metropolitan Room ... Bette and "Dolly!" Own Broadway.

“AFTER ALL, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of truth,” said J.R.R. Tolkien.

Well, that is not always so. Often — in show business, particularly — legends are legends simply because somebody has lasted long enough and are anointed “legendary” as a reward for  longevity.  Real legends tend to roll their eyes at the word.

And nobody has done more eye-rolling on this score than Cher, who is, indeed, actually legendary.  She has the required longevity, but more than that, elasticity, durability and a tremendous sense of humor. (If you can’t appreciate the hilarity of mass worship you are a dead duck!)  

Cher has passed through the fire time and again, risen phoenix like from the ashes, changed with the times without ever really changing herself. Not the essence of herself.  She has always had the ability to stand aside from the legend, the image, and be vastly amused by it.  In taking her work, but not herself, seriously (at least not to burden her public with all that) she has become one of the beloved women in the world.  And personally, one of the dearest, nicest women we’ve known in “the biz.”

On May 21st at the Billboard Awards, Cher — Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and Golden Globe winner — adds another shiny object to her shelf.  She will receive Billboard’s Icon Award.   I was very startled by this news.  I’m not sure how long Billboard has been handing out Icon Awards, but I felt certain that Cher should have taken one a long time ago. Like, maybe, the first year!
Whatever — she’s getting it now.  The bonus, the plus, is that Cher won’t just ascend the podium, say a few words and depart with her latest doorstop.  She’s going to perform her monster 1998 hit  “Believe,” which became the “comeback” song to end all others. Its impact is likely never to be matched.  This will also be Cher’s first awards show performance in 15 years.
I don’t know who else is appearing at the event, and I don’t care. For me, it’s gonna be all Cher.

The show will be broadcast live from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.  Which means Cher won’t have a lot of traveling to do.  She remains in residence at the Park Theater in the Monte Carlo Hotel, right in town.  Her show is called “Classic Cher.”  But to be honest, right from the start — like, 1965 — she was a classic, and a class act.  She had us at, “I Got You, Babe.”

On Friday, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the famous 1986  fantasy movie, “Labyrinth,” starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly, the Bowie/Trevor Jones soundtrack will be released on vinyl.  It has been marvelously re-mastered, and the original album jacket and artwork have been reproduced. Bowie — it is still difficult to think of him as “the late” David Bowie — wrote and recorded five original songs. Trevor Jones — perhaps best known for this work, as well as his scores for “Excalibur,” “The Dark Crystal” and “The Last of the Mohicans” — composed twelve tracks.  Directed by Muppets master, Jim Henson, “Labyrinth” was a mild success upon release but has become a cult favorite over the years.  To pre-order, go here.
... SAVE the Date:  On Saturday, June 24th, at four p.m. at NYC’s Metropolitan Room, Billy Lykken, one of cabaret’s most unusual, eclectic, electric performers will offer a special Gay Pride weekend show. Titled “Lykken ‘The Sacred Monster’ Live!,” this evening of “soul, eyelash and pizzazz” was nominated last year as Broadway World’s “Best Debut” in cabaret.  Reviewers have evoked the names Eartha Kitt, Tallulah Bankhead, or simply thrown up their hands to declare Billy to be utterly unusual and totally himself — whoever he happens to be at any moment during his performance. Rick Skye and Yasuhiko Fukuoka are the director and musical director, respectively.  Call 212-206-0440.
BETTE Midler, in case you haven’t noticed, has made Jerry Herman’s “Hello, Dolly!” famous all over again.  The show, barely officially opened, is reaching the epic proportions of the early 1950’s when “South Pacific,” starring Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza generated standing jokes about how impossible it was to get tickets.       

Probably the most famous of these was of a woman seated down front at a matinee, weeping.  Her seatmate asked why she was crying? She said, “My husband just died.”

The seatmate sympathetically asked, “Why aren’t you at the funeral?” “Well,” answered the distressed lady ... “I had these tickets to “South Pacific!”
Bette’s “Dolly” is climbing these heights and reached the largest pre-performance sale in Broadway history.

It has already been nominated for ten Outer Critics Awards and ten Drama Desk Awards. Other astonishing stats include highest grosses for its first week, shattering all previous records.

Bette and her “Dolly”-mates — actors David Hyde Pierce, Gavin Creel and Kate Baldwin, director Jerry Zaks, choreographer Warren Carlyle, costume designers Santo Loquasto, lighting designer Natasha Katz, and Larry Hochman (orchestrations) are all up for awards and honors.
In addition, Bette is receiving the Drama League Award for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater. (This happens May 19th at NYC’s Marriott Marquis.)

Can a sweep of the Tony Awards, happening June 11th, be far behind?  Is it inevitable? 

No, no. Let’s not use the word “inevitable.”  It inevitably seems to go wrong. We’ll just say, seems quite possible!

Contact Liz here.