INTO THE VALLEY OF STING RODE THE 300: After The Last Ship sailed Dec. 21, its players assembled on the stage of the Neil Simon with the new kid in the cast to sign copies of their original Broadway cast recording, released less than a week earlier by Universal Music Classics just in time for some last-minute stocking-stuffing.
The newcomer, of course, was the show’s songwriter and prime mover, Sting, who is playing the key supporting role of shipyard foreman Jackie White until Jan. 24 when the Grammy winner departs for his latest world tour. Sharing centerstage with him was Jimmy Nail, the six-foot-four actor that Sting is spelling for a spell.
Far from sulking over surrendering his role to the brand-name star, Nail is happy to return the favor. “I worked on television in England for the past 30-odd years, but I got disenchanted with it and stopped about five years ago,” the raily Brit relayed.
“I wasn’t going to do any more acting, and then Sting asked me if I’d sing on the guide vocals on some songs that he was writing for a musical idea. I had no intention of being in the show, but it kinda happened naturally over those five years.” Now, he finds himself not only making his Broadway debut and his musical debut but also his theatrical debut. He will return to the role as soon as Sting vacates it.
The two were surrounded on both sides at the autographing tables by the other key players: Michael Esper, Rachel Tucker, Fred Applegate, Aaron Lazar, Sally Ann Triplett and Calin Kelly-Sordelet. The chorus, presumably, called it a day.
Patrons at this particular matinee were given the opportunity to purchase the original cast recording CD, and the first 300 who did so were then given a wristband that entitled them to file by the cast, shake hands and get their autographs.
CATCH HER IF YOU CAN: Another Broadway-bound Grammy winner, Metropolitan Opera soprano Renee Fleming, will begin an 18-week engagement of Joe DiPietro’s Looking for Love at the Longacre Theatre on April 1. She’s making her Main Stem bow as an opera star, and, just to make it a stretch, her character is on a downward career spiral. Nothing could be farther from Fleming’s current situation.
While many were surprised by the announcement, she has been saying she would do the show since mid-September when she attended the Broadway premiere of Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth. “I have to,” she said. “I’m booked five years in advance, so my only chance to do something like this is set aside a big block of time.”
She gave the comedy a test run last summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, with Douglas Sills, Anna Chlumsky and Justin Long in support, and it went over well enough to warrant a Broadway gig. Kathleen Marshall will direct it again.
Based on Garson Kanin’s last play, 1985’s Peccadillo, the plot concerns a pair of longtime theatrical marrieds—she’s a singer, he’s a conductor—who have jealousy-inducing flings with their respective ghost-writers. And, yes, she gets to sing.
TOWN SCRIBE: Save for The Whale (his Drama Desk/Lortel Award winner about a morbidly obese teacher), the titles of all of Samuel D. Hunter’s plays so far bear the names of towns in his home state: first, his Obie Award-winning A Bright New Boise and now Pocatello, which will be playing through Jan. 4 at Playwrights Horizons.
“I’m in a town phase right now, I guess,” admitted the native of Moscow, Idaho. “The next two plays that I’m working on are sorta in conversation with one another, even though they are two distinct plays that are separate. One is called Lewiston, and the other is called Clarkston. These are actual towns. Clarkston is set in a Cosco store in Clarkston, Washington, and Lewiston is set in a fireworks stand off the highway to Lewiston, Idaho. They’re both vaguely about the modern-day legacy of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. We did a reading of both plays back-to-back in San Francisco recently, and it was interesting. I’m still not sure how they will come out.”
SPIRITS OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE: Composer Larry Grossman and book writer Duane Poole are already plotting their next Christmas outing. Scrooge in Love takes up where A Christmas Carol left off. “The premise is that, after he was transformed, he had everything in his life except someone to share it with,” said Grossman. “Now that he’d become part of the human race, he has to find that missing component.”
As sequels go, this sounds like A Doll’s Life, which Grossman wrote with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, imagining what happened after Nora slammed the door in A Doll’s House. “Never thought of that, but it is—‘The Further Adventures of . . .’”
It was workshopped a few weeks ago at Grossman’s alma mater, Northwestern. Their current Christmas outing (which they wrote with lyricist Carol Hall from Truman Capote’s autobiographical short story, A Christmas Memory) is in its last holidays at the Irish Repertory Theatre, playing through Jan. 4. It could be called Truman in Love, recalling The Boy Capote’s last holiday with a dotty elderly cousin he loved (Alice Ripley in Geraldine Page’s memorable Emmy-winning role, Sook).
HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW: To turn a 53-year-old Irish Catholic actor into a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter requires a shave a day.
“Otherwise,” said Tom Dugan, “I get a five o’clock shadow on my head.” He maintains an immaculate, hairless dome these days, playing Simon Wiesenthal in the one-man-show by that surname playing at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row.
“It’s fun for an actor to have an excuse to transform like that. Not only does it grow back—I’ve been shaving for a long time. I have white-white hair, and it grows back darker. I had no idea that was possible, but sure enough that’s what’s happening.”
He takes some solace in the fact that Laurence Olivier had to go through the same shaving ritual to the Wiesenthal-esque Ezra Liberman in 1987’s “The Boys From Brazil.” “Olivier went to see Wiesenthal, and Wiesenthal said, ‘Please don’t really play me--just play a kind of guy like me, because it’ll make me look a little schmaltzy in the work that I continue to do.’ Olivier agreed, and they changed the name.”
Dugan said that he hopes he will be “running with this show so long I won’t have to use old-age makeup.” And it just might happen. Producer Daryl Roth has booked Wiesenthal through Feb. 22, and, with extensions . . .