Thursday, May 18, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Shining Brilliantly

“They Promised Her the Moon" — Jerrie Cobb next to a Mercury spaceship capsule. Cobb, along with 24 other women, underwent physical tests similar to those taken by the Mercury astronauts with the belief that she might become an astronaut trainee.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

"They Promised Her The Moon" Shines Brilliantly ... Making "The Fantasticks" More Fantastic in Its Final Days.

“Authors and actors,
And artists and such
Never know nothing,
And never know much.
Sculptors and singers
And those of their kidney
Tell their affairs from
Seattle to Sydney.
Playwrights and poets
And such horses necks
Start off from anywhere,
End up at sex.
Diarists, critics, and similar roe
Never say nothing and never say no.
People Who Do Things
Exceed my endurance,
God, for a man who
Solicits insurance.”

So said Dorothy Parker in 1927.
I, Liz, went to a terrific new play at the St. Clement’s Church, 423 West 46th Street. It is a surprising and daring historical drama, titled “They Promised Her the Moon.” Playwright Laurel Ollstein has taken a look at the woman who should have become the first female astronaut!

This woman actually existed and she was “done in” by (A) the fact that she was female back in the 1950’s (B) She had a secret betrayer, the glamour girl Jacqueline Cochran. Cochran was an aviator par excellence, with political influence.
You can guess what really happened! Believe me, you’ll be riveted.

An enthusiastic crowd of my pals – 10-time Tony winner Tommy Tune … socially-smart Louise Grunwald … Louise’s escort and friend, the Time’s drama critic Ben Brantley … NBC’s Sr Legal Correspondent Cynthia McFadden … the famous archeologist Iris love … film maker Linda Yellen … philanthropist Elizabeth Peabody … numerous Broadway producers, such as Judith “Kinky Boots” Abrams … and a clutch of “pros” who were “just looking” at the wonders on the West Side.
Edmund Lewis and Andrus Nichols.
If you think off-Broadway exists because it embraces theater lovers who can’t afford B-way’s “Hello, Dolly!” — you are right!

So, please join with me to see what the godchild of Kate Hepburn has wrought. Director Valentina Fratti and her Miranda Theater Company non-profit deserve to have all of our support. Help this effort Valentina has made to create a suitable subject that motivated feminism.
Amanda Quaid, Edmund Lewis, John Leonard Thompson, and Polly McKie.
Polly McKie, John Leonard Thompson, Amanda Quaid, and John Russell.
John Russell and Amanda Quaid.
Valentina is the genuine article and we hope “They Promised Her the Moon” lasts long enough to become the hit it deserves to be. Help us and hurry please!

The actors are future stars acting their hearts out for love. Lighting and staging are superb.

Visit or dial 212-279-4200!

And, am I an investor? You bet! And you should see this play. The ghost of Katharine Hepburn hovers over all who believe in creative independence!
Don't miss the limited three-week engagement of "They Promised Her The Moon" at Theatre at St. Clement's, 423 West 46th Street, from Friday May 12 to Saturday May 27, 2017!
INTERESTING NEWS that playwright Tom Jones is still tinkering with his famous musical, “The Fantasticks.”  This, despite the unhappy fact that the show—which has been running in New York since 1960—will close on June 4th.  

Jerry Orbach and the original cast of "The Fantasticks."
Apparently Mr. Jones has done significant rewriting of the number “Round and Round.”  He has always felt that as it stood the number never really captured the more somber interpretation he had wanted.  The newly re-staged “Round and Round: debuted at last night’s performance, at the Jerry Orbach Theater (1627 Broadway.)  Surely, I don’t need to remind you that Jerry Orbach starred in the original production.  Yes, there was plenty of life and career for Jerry before Detective Briscoe and “Law & Order.”

“The Fantasticks” with music by Harvey Schmidt (Jones wrote the lyrics and book) is a modern Romeo and Juliet tale — minus the swordfights and poisonings.  The score is legendary — “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” ... ”Try to Remember” ... ”They Were You.” 

“The Fantasticks” has become something of a Living Landmark in Manhattan, as much a tourist attraction as the lights of Time Square, Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, The Metropolitan Museum of Art or even The Statue of Liberty.

It is so hard for me to accept or imagine that it truly ends on June 4th.  It’s the kind of thing we need now more than ever. I hope for a miracle.  Still, being a realist, I say, hurry.  Call 212-921-7862 for tickets.
IN OUR item the other day about this or that person taking over for Bette Midler, should she dare to leave the current money-making monster, “Hello, Dolly!” we mentioned, and not at all facetiously, that Charles Busch, the brilliant actor (and playwright) who has appeared from time to time in ladies clothes, might be an interesting Dolly Levi.

This brought an email response from a reader: “Well, I hope you don’t run into Lypsinka!”  (aka John Epperson. Lypsinka is his outrageous drag alter-ego.)  Oh, dear. 

Okay, so Lyp, you’re in the running too. As well as RuPaul, Miss Coco Peru and Laverne Cox.  Tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll be told who I missed in that gender-fluid genre! 
However, another reader, Barbara Humphreys, says that Reba McIntyre and Patti LuPone are names that have been bandied about quite often on social media.  But, she notes, the number one choice is ... Cher! 

Cher still has a knockout, powerhouse voice and her languid, amused style would be fascinating indeed.  I just don’t know how she’d feel about all those turn of the century costumes.  Somewhere along the line she’d have to work in a gown consisting of two beads and a prayer.  (Probably during the Harmonia Gardens “Dolly” serenade.)
Of course, all this is moot because I think the producers of “Dolly” would happily rob Fort Knox to convince Bette to make some sort of personal residency at the Shubert.  To see this woman radiate onstage is to witness great theater and great theatrical history.

Those TV ads are right — years from now there will be the people who’ll recall fondly seeing Bette Midler in “Hello, Dolly!” And then the ones who’ll SAY they saw her!
WHY DID Tennessee Williams’ masterwork, “The Glass Menagerie” decide to close early, on May 21st? 

You’d think having a major star like the beloved and talented Sally Field, in a revival of a recognized classic in American theater would sustain.  Yet it will close early despite a Tony Award nomination for Ms. Field.
I’ll offer an obvious opinion. Even a cherished classic can be revived too often. And the last version, with the brilliant Cherry Jones, seems like only yesterday. (That production ran six months, closing in February of 2014.)

Tennessee was a personal pal and I suffered through his rejections and harsh critiques from The New York Times. But even Tennessee might say, now: “Enough already.  Give it a rest, no matter how eager everyone is to give it their personal shot ... their one and only shot ... their different idea of a star and her audience.”
AND WHILE we muse on things stagey, you should know that the original Broadway cast recording of “War Paint” starring Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole will be available online and in stores, May 26th via Ghostlight Records.

I loved this show, and would happily see it again. What Patti and Christine do, separately and together on the Nederlander stage is magic — dazzling, colorful musical theater with heart. Two legends for the price of one ... incredible costumes ... a strong, witty, often moving, score.

One of the songs, Patti LuPone’s “Back on Top” is being released as a single, on Apple Music. I was going to say, one of the big songs, but all the numbers are big! 

Yeah — it’s that kind of show. 

Contact Liz here.