Has Elaine Stritch incorporated herself yet? She should. The woman is a veritable cottage industry. Forget Off-Broadway. Forget Broadway and London and the hatching U.S. tour. Forget theatre, period—it's bigger than that. It's multi-media. It's world wide.
Of course you already know about the documentary. D.A. Pennebaker, the famed filmmaker who helped create Stitch's legend with his movie of the cast recording of Company, is busy following her around again, this time in connection to the smash, Tony-winning solo show, Elaine Stritch at Liberty. Apparently, it was Elaine's idea and Pennebaker began tracking her while the show was still on Broadway. So far, there's no word on a title or release date. If it comes to fruition, however, it will be the biggest film credit for the veteran, who has never had much of a career on the big screen.
While Stritch fans are waiting for the flick to come out, they can also wait for the book. She is in discussions to publish her autobiography, according to sources. The book would be based on At Liberty, in which the actress dealt candidly with the highs and lows of her crowded career and turbulent personal life. It could not be learned which publishing house Stritch was considering.
One thing is known: her co-author on the play, John Lahr, will probably lend a hand. As for Lahr, he's a busy boy as well. Not only writing his usual reviews for the New Yorker and occasional book, Lahr is now being sought after as a playwright librettist-script doctor. He would not reveal the nature of the offers hitting his desk, except to say that he was entertaining roughly five projects. My highly original title suggestion: "Elaine!"
Big news on replacement actors this week. Jason Alexander and Martin Short will star in the Los Angeles staging of The Producers, ending months of speculation about the casting of the eight-month sitdown at the Pantages Theatre. The pairing should effortlessly prove the most exciting since Lane and Broderick. Jane Curtin, Kali Rocha, Byron Jenning and several others started slamming doors, throwing props and picking up split-second cues as the new cast of Broadway's hit farce, Noises Off. After a rocky preview period, Anne Heche opened in Proof to spectacular reviews, giving the David Auburn hit a shot in the arm. And, apparently, the producers of Broadway's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Topdog/Underdog, could not find acceptable replacements. The show will close on Aug. 11 when the original cast of Jeffrey Wright and Mos Def leaves. The Seattle hit Hairspray is now in New York. It began previews on July 18 and will run through a month of them before opening on Aug. 15 to New York critics, who will adjudge whether the show has traveled well.
Lincoln Center Theater finally announced what will succeed the long-running Contact in the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. It will be George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's 1932 comedy Dinner at Eight. Gerald Gutierrez will direct. No casting for the couple dozen roles yet. (Apparently, those new LORT salary hikes haven't phased LCT brass.)
Off-Broadway, the new musical adaptation of the beloved children's book, Sarah, Plain and Tall, raked in raves. The show is a limited run at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Don't expect it to stay limited.
It surfaced this week that Jerry Herman's new musical project, Miss Spectacular, once planned for a Las Vegas hotel staging in the 1990s — but scuttled due to a change of ownership at the hotel — will be shepherded by New York producers Kenneth Greenblatt and Ben Sprecher. The where and when are still being discussed. A spokesman confirmed they were talking to director choreographer Tommy Tune for the splashy project.
Finally, a salute to Susan Egan, the former Beauty and the Beast star, and what she won't do to carve out a non-stop theatre career in...southern California. Last May, she starred readings of Jule Styne-Sammy Cahn's High Button Shoes at the Rubicon Theatre Company in L.A. Starting July 22, she is Molly Brown in a production of The Unsinkable Molly Brown at the Sacramento Music Circus. And this fall, she will play Amy in Amy's View at the International City Theatre in Long Beach. But, that only takes care of the evenings. During the day, the 32 year-old will pitch in as the interim artistic director of California's Orange County High School of the Arts. She is an alumna of the 15-year-old school (one of the first, evidently), and will watch over the Music and Theatre, Film and Television, and Production and Design departments. She'll also serve lunch in the cafeteria and construct balloon animals for any passing children.
—By Robert Simonson