THE FAMILY WAY: A grand old theatre tradition is being revived on Broadway this season: the familial custom of a husband producing a show starring his wife. First we have Blake Edwards not only co-producing Victor/Victoria starring his wife Julie Andrews, but also writing the libretto and directing the musical, as well as Robert Whitehead co-producing and presenting his wife Zoe Caldwell in Terrence McNally's mega-hit Master Class. All of this recalls such illustrious bygone teams of husband/producer and wife/actress as William A. Brady and Grace George; Florenz Ziegfeld and both Anna Held and Billie Burke; Guthrie McClintic and Katharine Cornell; Billy Rose and Billie Burke; Elmer Rice and Betty Field; Leland Hayward and Margaret Sullavan; Daniel Frohman and Margaret Illington; Richard Halliday and Mary Martin; Frederick Brisson and Rosalind Russell; and more recently, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sarah Brightman. Can you think of anymore husbands who produced (not wrote) plays starring their wives?
SWAN SONG: When Sunset Boulevard was being filmed in 1950, a song was written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston for Gloria Swanson to sing. It was called "Paramount Don't Want Me Blues." It ended up on the cutting room floor.
ENCORES!: City Center's highly acclaimed concert series, Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert, winner of both Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics Circle Awards, has announced its three musicals for the 1996 season. The first will be Cole Porter's rowdy 1939 hit, Du Barry Was a Lady (February 15-17); the Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash/S.J. Perelman 1943 hit, One Touch of Venus (March 28-30); and John Kander and Fred Ebb's 1975 hit, Chicago (May 2-4). Casting and directors for the series are to be announced. For the third consecutive season The American Express Company will be a major sponsor of the series. Last season's three musicals at City Center--Call Me Madam, Out of this World and Pal Joey--were all recorded by DRG Records, featuring the City Center casts and The Coffee Club Orchestra conducted by Rob Fisher. For ticket information call CityTix at (212) 581-1212. THEATRE CARDS: Memorabilia collector Jeff Fleming not only has every copy of Theatre Magazine, a monthly periodical from 1900 to 1930, but he has put their sumptuous color covers on very attractive note cards. Other covers are from such vintage magazines and souvenir programs as Judge, the first Life, the Follies, etc. There are 25 cards to a box ($29.95, post paid) available from Jeff Fleming, 1130 South 800 East, Bountiful, Utah 84010.
MEMORIES OF MERM: Varèse Sarabande Records has released Ethel Merman's Broadway, the original cast recording of Rita McKenzie award-winning Off-Broadway tribute to the great Ethel Merman. Ms. McKenzie, a skilled Merman impersonator, sings the songs that electrified Broadway through the years when belted out by the Merm in musicals by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim and Jerry Herman. Produced by Bruce Kimmel, with musical direction by Robert Bendorff, the recording is available on compact disc and cassette.
FOR THE FAMILY: The League of American Theatres and Producers has released the fall 1995 edition of The Family Guide to Broadway. This is a parents' directory of current shows--both plays and musicals--with descriptions of recently opened shows and appropriate age recommendations. A laudable new section, "Eating Out with Children," lists restaurants that offer children's menus and special services for the family. Based on listings in the Times Square Restaurant Guide, the section lists prices and suggested menu selections. Call 1-800-832-8440 for a free copy of the booklet.
TWIN CELEBRATIONS: The New York Public Library is celebrating two major anniversaries: the centennial of the Library's founding and the 30th anniversary of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. In honor of both occasions the Library for the Performing Arts is presenting in the Main Gallery (40 Lincoln Center Plaza) Ten Decades, a free exhibition using treasures from the Library's collections to tell the story of performing arts in America during the past century. The materials range from an 1897 film clip of dancer Annabelle Whitford to a teen-age fan's scrapbook of Beatles clippings. Theatre, films and the art world are richly represented in the exhibition, which is on view through April 20.
-- By Louis Botto