7:30 PM: The Stars Come Out

News   7:30 PM: The Stars Come Out
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Clockwise from top left: Liliane Montevecchi and Tommy Tune, Rosie O'Donnell, Carol Channing, Lauren Bacall and Peter Stone
Clockwise from top left: Liliane Montevecchi and Tommy Tune, Rosie O'Donnell, Carol Channing, Lauren Bacall and Peter Stone Photo by Photo credit: Starla Smith

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By 6 PM the police barricade are up in front of the Lunt-Fontanne for the opening night of Titanic. On the west side, toward Eighth Avenue, print photographers and reporters. On the east side, toward Broadway, a forest of boom mikes for the TV cameras.

Across 46th Street, onlookers crowd, hoping to get a look at the expected celebrities. In the center, a broad area for tickets holders to pass through the doors into the theatre.

Within minutes, 46th Street is gridlocked with limousines and taxis trying to work their way through the tangle of gawkers piling out of the Marriott Marquis Hotel across the street People in tuxes and glittering evening gowns air-kiss and exchange good wishes.

Things get even tighter as Carol Channing makes her appearance. TV lights burst into glow, boom mikes converge and Channing starts bubbling about how wonderful it is to have so many openings. Channing singles out Playbill On-Line intern Andrea Prince and tells her she's planning a return to Broadway in one of several projects she's considering. Which ones? Too late! Channing is inside.

In turn, we are visited by choreographer Geoffrey Holder, caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, director Susan Schulman and actress Sylvia Miles.

Tommy Tune arrives with Liliane Montevecchi on his arm. Both worked with composer Maury Yeston and librettist Peter Stone on Grand Hotel, and Tune, who also directed Yeston's Nine, insists that Yeston is "the perfect man to write this musical" about such an unusual subject.

Montevecchi says she's off to Britain's Chichester Festival this summer to play Madame Dubonnet in a revival of the Boy Friend sequel, Divorce Me, Darling.

Talk show host Rosie O'Donnell makes a grand entrance, clearly delighted with the attention and the excitement of the evening. O'Donnell, who will host the 1997 Tony Awards broadcast, tells Playbill On-Line that she will open this show with a homage -- not to the new musicals that will be the centerpiece of the rest of the evening, but to the musicals that have been running for years on Broadway.

She also says that she will personally take part in segments from the nominated musicals. That's right.

Choreographer Rob Marshall comes next, saying he's off to Los Angeles in May to direct Whitney Houston in the TV adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella with Houston as the Fairy Godmother and TV actress Brandi as the title character.

The stars keep arriving: librettist Peter Stone accompanied by Lauren Bacall, Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken, and many others. But by 6:30, attendants are calling on everyone to take their seats. "Curtain going up!" is the repeated call.

Though both Yeston and Stone have sworn that this opening night would be different, that both of them would spend the night seated -- when the lights go down at 6:50 PM Stone is still scampering around at the back of the theatre.

At least he eventually takes his seat. Yeston stations himself at the tech board at the rear of the orchestra seats. After handing around good luck Lifesavers candies, he grips the board.

The sound of his prologue comes up, and with the first roll of the tympany, Yeston bends his knees slightly to put a little body English into the moment.

The maiden voyage of Titanic is underway.

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