On the Aisle -- May 13
As the curtain slowly closed on the 1995-1996 season, a number of golden oldies made 24-karat comebacks on The Great White Way.
The King and I resurfaced there for the first time in a decade (and, more importantly, for the first time since the demise of the original, Tony- and Oscar-winning monarch, Yul Brynner). Lou Diamond Phillips takes a more playful, puppyish approach to the role that neutralizes a comparison to Yul-Know-Who and eases the story through some ticklish feminist waters. Donna Murphy is a flinty sparring-partner fit for the king, and this classic collision of East and West, Man and Woman, reaches some surprising emotional depths.
Among the first-nighters welcoming its return: Dame Joan Sutherland, Ralph Macchio, Melissa Errico, Terrence Mann, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Gavin MacLeod, Dana Ivey, Dorothy Sarnoff, Barbara Rush with Hollywood Reporter Robert Osborne, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charlotte Moore and Paige O'Hara.
1963's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum followed it a week onto Broadway and into the Marriott Marquis for its opening-night blowout. Nathan Lane is very much in the driver's seat of this reactivated clown-car--here, packed to capacity with Laughter on the 23rd Floor cohorts (Mark Linn-Baker, Lewis J. Stadlen, Ernie Sabella, director Jerry Zaks). One of its chief "mechanics"--Larry Gelbart, who wrote the book with Burt Shevelove--could hardly quarrel with the Times rave (he just didn't like it sitting under a headline that said "Sondheim's Roman farce"). Holding court at a table of cronies that included Jack Paar and Jerry Vale, he insisted, "It's not accurate, and it's misleading."
Stephen Sondheim, who bowed as lyricist and composer with Forum, defied the tux-or-toga dress code and showed up in rumpled gray as if protesting something.
A classy, impeccable cast (Rosemary Harris, George Grizzard, Elaine Stritch, Mary Beth Hurt , Elizabeth Wilson, John Carter) and director Gerald Gutierrez caught A Delicate Balance beautifully, making Edward Albee's opus more applicable and accessible now than it was in its 1967 debut. The times have overtaken the avant garde. No longer do we sing, "What's It All About, Albee?"