ON THE AISLE -- February 1997
Considering she once fluttered down to an Oscar podium via umbrella, it's not surprising Julie Andrews made a terrific reentry into Broadway's Victor/Victoria. Again, an award was waiting for her: On Feb. 3, the day before she jumped back into her old gender-bender drag, she and seven others were inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame at New York's Gershwin Theatre.
Her beau in the show, Michael Nouri, stylishly emceed the ceremonies while her other leading man, Tony Roberts, provided her introduction, eschewing any and all remarks that might rekindle his tabloid war with her vacation replacement, Liza Minnelli. Talk about taking the high road, he paraphrased Shakespeare ("a little touch of Julie in the night")!
Last to arrive and first to leave was Bill Cosby, attempting despite his personal tragedy to conduct business as usual--in this case, bringing his TV dad (the great Earle Hyman) into that august group. The effort was tumultuously applauded.
Brian Bedford, away "subsidizing his love of theatre in L.A." (translation: doing a film), got a word symphony from Peter Shaffer, a playwright well-served by the actor in times past and particularly in Equus and Five Finger Exercise.Eileen Atkins, in from England for the affair, was similarly rhapsodized by Zoe Caldwell, an old friend and director (Vita and Virginia).
Fittingly, the person with the most Tonys as a director and as a producer--Hal Prince--brought on the costume designer with the most Tonys (more often than not, for his shows), Florence Klotz
A designer who drafted Klotz into her grand designs for the original The King and I--Irene Sharaff--received one of the event's three posthumous prizes via her fellow designer, Donald Brooks.
Washington critic Richard Coe was praised by George Grizzard, and vocal coach David Craig recited the best critical bouquet ever flung at his late wife: "When Nancy Walker strikes an attitude, the attitude strikes back!"
The Founders Award, announced by Otis Guernsey, went to critic Henry Hewes, who apologized in public for all the nasty things he had said in print. Pause. Then, the twinkling postscript: "The fact that I was always right is no excuse."
-- By Harry Haun