The name "Auntie Mame" certainly conjures up a lot of names from the world of commercial theatre and film: Angela Lansbury, Lucille Ball, Rosalind Russell... But for one night only, Sept. 14 at Off-Broadway's American Place Theatre, NYC will get a reading of Auntie Mame with perhaps the most unusual casting yet.
Patrick Dennis' classic comedy about an eccentric aunt raising a young boy amidst a whirl of her international friends and boyfriends, will star Charles Busch, the cross-dressing author and star of such plays as Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Queen Amarantha and The Lady In Question.
Adding tradition to transition will be Peggy Cass, recreating her original role as Mame's Agnes Gooch. According to co-producer Josef Reiter (reached Aug. 27), also in the all-star cast are Richard Bell, Maxwell Caulfield, John Davidson (Bully on tour; State Fair), Marilyn Farina, Barbara Feldon (of TV's "Get Smart"), Marcia Lewis (Chicago), Juliet Mills, Jan Neuberger, David Staller and Thomas Toner.
Richard Sabellico directs this benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which is presented by Reiter & Hans Freidrichs in association with NETworks. The benefit is similar to an Auntie Mame reading done in December 1997 at the Off-Off-Broadway venue Dixon Place. There, Mame was played by Peggy Shaw, opposite such downtown notables as Everett Quinton, Paul Bartel and the Five Lesbian Brothers.
For tickets ($20; $150 VIP tix include post-performance cocktails) and information on Auntie Mame at the American Place Theatre, call (212) 840-0770. Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS was founded Oct. 1987 and has raised millions in the fight against HIV and AIDS and raised tens of millions "through the mobilization of the theatrical expertise of the entertainment industry."
How does such a grass-roots organization fight an international plague? By distributing funds in three ways: to individuals, to AIDS service organizations and to events that raise money for the cause. Each year, thousands of entertainment industry individuals living with AIDS receive money through the Actors' Fund Of America's AIDS Initiative. Projects funded to help PWA (People With AIDS) include those offering food, shelter, transportation and non-reimbursed emergency medical expense coverage. Other annual events include the Easter Bonnet Competition and Broadway Bares.
In other BC/EFA news, it's time to start marking your fall and winter calendars! The charitable organization has announced its special New York fundraising events for the months ahead.
Here's the line-up:
Sept. 13: 7th Annual Broadway On Broadway concert, co-sponsored by the League of American Theatres & Producers and the Times Square Business Improvement District.
Sept. 27: 12th Annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction
Sept. 27 & Oct. 5: 5th Annual Gospel Celebration at Symphony Space
Nov. 30-Dec.1: 10th Annual Gypsy of the Year Competition
Feb. 14, 1999: 2nd Annual Broadway Bears Auction - Sunday, February 14, 1999
According to a League spokesperson (reached July 8), as with last year's event, more than 50,000 people are expected to attend the 90-minute revue, "Broadway On Broadway," Sept. 13, which features casts from current and upcoming shows, and is presented by Continental Airlines and American Express.
Admission is free. The stage is located at the downtown end of Times Square, near 43rd Street. Audience members stand during the show. Last year's event served as the first, pre-opening showcase for tunes from The Capeman, Triumph of Love and The Scarlet Pimpernel.
* The 12th annual Broadway Flea Market will be held Sunday, Sept. 27, according to a spokesperson at Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The Sunday date is a departure for the yearly event, usually held in Times Square's Shubert Alley on a Saturday. The availability of city permits was greater for Sunday, explained BC/EFA.
Other than the change in day, however, many of the other Flea facts remain the same. As always, a Grand Auction will be held. There will be the usual "celebrity table" full of Broadway, Off-Broadway, sitcom and soap opera stars with their John Hancocks at the ready. The event will last 10 AM to 7:30 PM. All proceeds from the Flea Market and auction will go to BC/EFA; last year's event raised $484,000.
Here, according to the BC/EFA website, is the celebrity line-up for the Flea Market:
10 AM-4 PM: Thom Christopher (Carlo Hesser on TV's "One Life to Live")
10-noon: Kevin O'Rourke - TV's "Remember WENN"; Judy Kaye, Peter Friedman, Mark Jacoby & Marin Mazzie (all from Ragtime), Christiane Noll (Jekyll & Hyde); Patti Cohenauer (The Sound of Music); Jere Shea (Passion).
12-1 PM: Liz Callaway (Cats), Marcia Lewis (Chicago); Kim Hunter (original Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire); Betty Comden (co-author Bells Are RInging, On The Town), Sandra Joseph (The Phantom of the Opera).
1-2 PM: Bob Cuccioli (Jekyll & Hyde); Ednita Nazario (The Capeman); DeLee Lively (Smokey Joe's Cafe).
2-3 PM: Barnard Hughes (Da), John Littlefield (TV's "Another World")
Lots to be auctioned off at the Flea Market include:
Opening Night tickets and party passes to Footloose, Swan Lake, On The Town and Peter Pan.
A free conducting lesson and a chance to conduct the curtain call for Broadway's Phantom of the Opera.
Walk-on roles in TV's "Friends" and "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," including airfare and hotel.
A walk-on in the group therapy scene of Broadway's Rent, including 4 tickets for friends and family, autographed CD and participation in the show's curtain 0Br> A walk-on in several scenes of Broadway's Jekyll & Hyde
A signed and framed musical phrase from Stephen Sondheim's Assassins.
Tickets to Gypsy at NJ's Paper Mill Playhouse, including taking dressing room tea with star Betty Buckley.
Vintage (1920s) Playbills, including one signed by Ruby Keeler.
Autographed Playbill from Jerry Seinfeld's recent solo
Autographed program from Elizabeth Taylor's 1997 Birthday Celebration.
The 1997 Gypsy of the Year competition was won by the dancers of The Lion King. The Broadway company of Rent also won for raising the most money: $106,622, a new record. Total raised by 58 Broadway and Off-Broadway companies and tours) totalled $1,335,313.18 -- also a record. That number also includes more than $15,000 in corporate sponsorship and $41,670 in ticket sales to the Gypsy shows. In 1996, 49 companies raised a then-record $1,262,633.40.
The awards capped a 150-minute revue in which the "gypsies" or dancers from 20 Broadway and Off Broadway shows alternately poked fun at themselves and promised to fight for a cure to the disease that has devastated so many theatre folk.
For more information on these and other BC/EFA events - please visit their website at www.bcefa.org or call (212) 840-0770.
-- By David Lefkowitz