Oscar, like Tony nine months before, picked The Big Ship for its Best of 1997, so it was, with some vested interest, that Titanic (The Musical) hosted Broadway's Oscar party at Laura Belle's the night that Titanic (The Movie) sailed off with a boatload of Oscars (11, tying Ben-Hur's all-time chariot load). It's a slight point - and, perhaps, a chauvinistic one -- to point out that the Titanic musical still had a better award batting average: 1.000 (five for five), and it continues to carry capacity crowds down to sea in ships eight times a week.
The Titanic movie tied another long-standing record: number of Oscar
nominations -- 14, same as All About Eve (in Broadwayese: Applause) -- and yet not one of those nominations was for Best Screenplay. The last time a film won Best Picture without a screenplay nomination was The Sound of Music, a primal crowd pleaser -- and it's certainly proving that again at the Martin Beck. In lieu of a helicopter swooping in on a hilltop Julie Andrews, the revival has Rebecca Luker tearing madly down a steep bridge onto the stage in full title tune.
Cabaret, where Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli did their Oscar toiling, is also back with us, providing Tony-caliber work for Alan Cumming and Natasha Richardson. This is not Natasha's musical debut. She made that years ago as Tracy Lord in a London production of High Society. Melissa Errico currently occupies the part in a totally reworked stateside version. Katharine Hepburn, of course, owns the role, having done it onstage and screen when the property was The (Tuneless) Philadelphia Story; not the least of its distinctions was an Oscar-winning James Stewart.
Oscar luster eluded Li'l Abner, but it was fun to find Burke Moses scampering by in the title role for the excellent "Encores!" series of concert readings at City Center. Biggest surprise: Julie Newmar, still stupefyin' in a role she originated 42 years ago -- Stupefyin' Jones. It took her two weeks to get in shape for the part, she says -- and "they built the costume on me, you know." Believe it!
-- By Harry Haun