Those of you who enjoy comparing stage and film treatments may want to check out "The Velocity of Gary (Not His Real Name)" in either -- or both - of its current permutations. As with Shirley Valentine and various other monodramas, the film version has expanded the roster considerably: What were once monologues are now scenes for Salma Hayek, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ethan Hawke and a batch of other actors. The movie opened July 16 in New York and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, New York's Duplex is presenting the original one-man version of the piece, starring Danny Pintauro of "Who's the Boss?" fame. (With Judith Light stepping into Wit and Tony Danza doing O'Neill and Miller on Broadway, "Who's the Boss?" is beginning to rival Juilliard and Yale as a theatrical launching pad.) Playwright James Still wrote both the play, which is scheduled to run through July 30, as well as the screenplay. The film is being released by Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video, which generally means a quickie release in preparation for its debut on video, so the Duplex run might actually outlast the movie.
Two other foreign films have stage pedigrees, and both have been adapted by the original playwright. Francis Veber, best known for his "La Cage aux Folles," has converted an earlier one-act of his into "The Dinner Game," out now, and Dejan Dukovski has collaborated with director Goran Paskaljevic for the last four years on what has become "Cabaret Balkan," opening July 30. The film, which depicts a typical night in Belgrade, opens with a familiar sight to musical theatre fans -- a leering, heavily made-up emcee enticing the audience into the decadence that awaits.
In a previous column, I had questioned why Keith Nobbs (Stupid KidsThe Lion in Winter) had joined John Cameron Mitchell in Sundance for the "Hedwig & the Angry Inch" workshop. Two different sources attached to the production have informed me that Nobbs is playing Tommy Gnosis, the "16-year-old pockmarked, Dungeons & Dragons-obsessed Jesus freak" turned rock god. It hadn't occurred to me that Mitchell probably wouldn't play both characters on film, as he did on stage. Nobbs is just the right age and certainly looks the part; if he's got the vocal chops, it's a great choice.
* I made one glaring omission when I ran down the various theatre adaptations at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Ayub Khan-Din's East Is East, which just completed a run at Manhattan Theatre Club, received several strong notices at Cannes but currently has yet to find a U.S. distributor. Its cachet may be boosted with the rising star of Om Puri, who won an acting award at Cannes and is currently wowing audiences as the conflicted taxi driver in "My Son the Fanatic."
Who'd have guessed that America would see Patti LuPone topless and Howard McGillin in "South Park," all in one weekend? McGillin, owner of arguably the purest male singing voice in the theatre, is somewhat out of character in "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut": He provides the singing voice for Gregory, the cloying 8-year-old that leads the foul-mouthed tots in "La Resistance." LuPone's role in Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam" amounts to little more than a cameo, but she gets more than her share of exposure in it, as do stage veterans John Leguizamo and Bebe Neuwirth.
Jude Law, who's forged a career mostly in sci-fi mind-benders ("Gattaca," "eXistenZ") since hitting it big in London and New York with Indiscretions. Now he's returning to his theatrical roots -- sort of. The Royal Shakespeare Company vet is set to star in a Christopher Marlowe biopic for Natural Nylon, his London production company. Meanwhile, Rupert Everett, who has played Marlowe (in "Shakespeare in Love") and characters from Shakespeare ("A Midsummer Night's Dream") and Wilde ("An Ideal Husband"), all in the last year, is taking a well deserved break from high culture. He plays Claw, Matthew Broderick's arch-nemesis, in "Inspector Gadget," due out July 23.
Other familiar faces to watch for in theatres include Allison Janney, who has a small role in "Drop Dead Gorgeous," and Kevin Chamberlin in the gay comedy "Trick." Both hit theatres July 23 as well. Meanwhile, "Mystery Men" has gone out of its way to paint itself as an antidote to the bloated "Batman" franchise. When it opens July 30, it will feature some extremely unorthodox superheroes, including William H. Macy as The Shoveler (yes, he fights crime with the help of a shovel strapped to his back) and perennial London up-and-comer Eddie Izzard as Tony Pompadour.
With the announcement that "Elizabeth" director Shekhar Kapur has signed on for the war actioner "Air Pirates," the Phantom of the Opera adaptation moves still further into the background. Kapur, who had been rumored to be extremely close to signing up a few months ago, now has three projects in the pipeline before "Phantom" would happen. And unlike actors, who can move onto their next project the day after filming wraps, directors generally spend a year or more in pre- and post-production. Granted, Kapur hails from Bollywood, the notoriously prolific center of Indian filmmaking. But his other projects -- "Steinbeck's Point of View" and especially the Nelson Mandela biography "Long Walk to Freedom" -- promise to be large in scope and therefore time consuming. Don't expect to hear anything about "Phantom" until late 2001 at the earliest.
-- Eric Grode is New York bureau chief of Show Music magazine and a theatre critic for Back Stage.