From At Liberty, to at liberty.
After May 27, Elaine Stritch will pack up her black tights, white shirt and cache of trophies and clear out of the Neil Simon Theatre.
Stritch gave the last regular performance of her autobiographical, one woman Elaine Stritch at Liberty on May 26. The May 27 show is a benefit for the Actors' Fund.
Stritch, now 77, commenced her long season of praise and adulation on Oct. 26, 2001, when At Liberty—which was "constructed" by New York drama critic John Lahr, and then "reconstructed" by Stritch, and directed by George C. Wolfe—began previews at the Public Theater's Newman Theater. The show was quickly identified as one of the best and most tantalizing attractions of the year. It was also the fall's most highly sought after ticket; the Off-Broadway run, which extended three times, sold out. It finally closed on Jan. 13 and then reopened at Broadway's Neil Simon on Feb. 6.
And then began the onslaught of prizes, awards and honors (most of which Stritch did not pick up in person, opting to preserve her strength for the nearly three-hour show; she sent actress Claudia Shear to claim her Tony Award nomination). All told, she won: an Obie Award; a special citation from the New York Drama Critics Circle; The Distinguished Achievement Award in Musical Theatre from the Drama League; a Drama Desk Award for outstanding solo performance; a Drama Desk for outstanding book of a musical (sharing with John Lahr); a Lucille Lortel Award for unique theatrical experience; an Outer Critics Circle Award for outstanding solo performance; and a Tony Award nomination for unique theatrical experience. She is considered a heavy favorite for the last. At the Drama Desk Awards she expressed her wish to get out of her own tights and into the costume of a fictional character. Stritch made it clear she is not settling into retirement.
A recording of Elaine Stritch At Liberty appeared in record stores — in its two-CD live cast album form — on April 9, according to DRG Records. The CD was recorded Jan. 9-10 at The Public Theater.
In the acclaimed solo show, the legendary Broadway actress muses about her youth, her loves, her co-stars and her fondness for alcohol (and how she beat it) . The show overflows with musical numbers related to Stritch's life and career, including "Zip," "The Ladies Who Lunch," "Broadway Baby" and obscure specialty material.
Due to the strenuous nature of the performance, which includes songs musical-directed by Rob Bowman and orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, Stritch (who turned 77 Feb. 2) performed the show on Broadway five times a week, 8 PM Wednesday Saturday and 5 PM Sunday. Only 80 performances were scheduled.
The Broadway run is produced by John Schreiber, Scott Sanders of Creative Battery, Margo Lion and Robert Cole, in association with Roy Furman and The Public Theater/NYSF.