ABBOTT AND AFTER: In his last interview, 106-year-old hit-maker George Abbott was asked what was the greatest change in theatre since he took up producing-directing. Mr. A pondered the question thoughtfully and replied "Electricity."
Were only the annual awards of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation, named in his honor, so succinct. This year's to-do in New York City, marking the Foundation's 30th year and its 11th dispensing of The Mr. Abbott Awards (the first since his demise), was "Long Night's Journey Into Day."
The only honorees were Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber 's Really Useful Company, Bernadette Peters and Gordon Davidson , but all had endless testimonials (as if they were needed--even Patti LuPone voiced no objection to Really Useful).
Davis ("Phantom") Gaines, Laurie ("Cats") Beechman and Karen ("Sunset Boulevard") Mason left some musical evidence of Sir Andrew's worth; Stephen Sondheim, Richard Maltby Jr. and James Lapine sang Peters' praises (figuratively, mercifully), and Sam Waterston, Tony nominee Anna Deavere Smith and Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner spoke for Davidson.
The latter certainly had his Lifetime Achievement Award coming, being a shining light in L.A. where, observed presenter Lucie Arnaz , "theatre is looked upon as missionary work." Ken Page, Joel Grey and Laurence Luckinbill did turns, and even The Widow Abbott (Joy) got off a song.
A less glittery, but no less Name-studded, bash at Tapeka welcomed Jerry Stiller and Rita Moreno (once of The Ritz ) to Anne Meara 's "After-Play" at Theatre Four: Nipsy Russell, Heather MacRae with mom Sheila, "Too Jewish?"'s Avi Hoffman, Phyllis Newman (fresh from "The Food Chain," with hubby Adolph Green in tow), Valerie Harper (after "Death Defying Acts") and Mary Travers.
After "After-Play," Moreno takes on "The Size of the World" by Charles Evered at Circle Rep; Louis Zorich co-stars, with Austin Pendleton directing.
"John Cusack 's perfect for the third role," Moreno said, "but wouldn't read the script for fear he'd want to do it." Fearless Liev Schreiber, who was "Moonlight"ing with Jason Robards recently at the Roundabout, got the part.
-- By Harry Haun