STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: February Follies

STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: February Follies So what leading character from a classic, world renowned Broadway musical has the same first name as a classic, world-renowned Russian playwright?

So what leading character from a classic, world renowned Broadway musical has the same first name as a classic, world-renowned Russian playwright?

While you're thinking, may I ask a few other questions? Like, what would you rather have -- an episode of "E.R." that costs $13 million each week, or a $13 million Broadway musical each week?

Did you notice that at the New York Theatre Workshop, Shopping and Fucking has a sign posted as you enter, that says, "Shopping and Fucking contains graphic language and sexual situations." As the Frenchmen say, "de trop."

I know this is a question not expected from your average man, but do you ever think we'll ever get a soundtrack to the recent "Cinderella"? As bad as the outlook may seem, let's never forget that impossible things are happening every day.

Given that TV awards not only the Emmys, but also the Daytime Emmys, shouldn't the Tonys offer Daytime Tonys for the performers who only play matinees? I bet I'll get some agreement from a few people who have spent their Wednesdays and Saturdays in Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, not to mention Rob Evan in Jekyll & Hyde. And speaking of Jekyll & Hyde -- just in case you missed this piece of info along the way: Did you know that on the lengthy pre-Broadway tour, the "Confrontation" did not have Robert Cuccioli singing to himself, one moment as Jekyll, the next moment as Hyde? Instead, Cuccioli, as Jekyll, sang to a movie of himself as Hyde. What we have now -- Cuccioli possessed, then struggling to be free, then again possessed -- shows that people, not machines, make for the best theater.

Don't you think that when Cabaret opens in its environmental setting at "The Kit Kat Club," that for dessert or during intermission it should serve Kit Kat candy bars?

Need a hint on that opening question? The Russian playwright is Chekhov.

Do you know what happens where you're driving south, down Route 95, when you leave Rowland, NC, go over the state line, and reach Hamer, SC? North Carolina respectfully yields to South Carolina.

And speaking of that 1776 line -- you know how I've always said that the reason the movie of 1776 doesn't work is because we can't don't have that calendar and tote-board to remind us how little time is left till July 4, and how far away everyone is from agreeing? Well, while I was watching the letter-boxed laserdisc, I thought, ? wouldn't it be nice if we could have the date and a running total of "yeas" and "nays" constantly changing on those black bands situated above and below the action?

May I add another 1776 thought? I was happy to see "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men," which is on the first edition of the laserdisc, but wasn't shown in theaters. Once again I was reminded of how its opening words ("OH-Ho, say, can you see") and the first four notes are identical to those of "The Star-Spangled Banner." And while at first glance, that seems odd -- that the anti-independence faction would sing our national anthem -- no, it does makes sense. For "The Star-Spangled Banner" didn't become our national anthem until (this may surprise you) 1937. But the song was around in 1776, when it was a favorite English tavern song. So it rather fits these English-biased characters, after all.

Did you hear that the genuine Shroud of Turin is going on tour for all to see? You don't think this means, do you, that we'll have a revival of Into the Light, the 1986 horror-show whose focal point was the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, the cloth that alleged wiped Jesus Christ's face and left an impression? As Peter Stone once wittily remarked, "They should have called that show A Face in the Shroud."

Speaking of shows that played the Neil Simon, do you hear anything but the best things about Marie Osmond in The King and I? Maybe we should all catch her before she departs after her 111th performance, which, incidentally, is 110 more than her brother Donny had in 1982 at the very same theater with Little Johnny Jones.

Have you seen The Sound of Music's TV commercial? It has a mother telling her young daughter about her first Broadway show she ever saw (The Sound of Music, natch), and what a wonderful thrill it was. "And my mother gave me my own ticket," she said, as we see in flashback her mom doing just that. Except that the ticket bears no resemblance to those wonderful old-world tickets that the kid would have had in 1959 -- the thinner ones that came in a panoply of colors, depending on where you were sitting.

We must forgive, though, that when we see the kid watching The Sound of Music in delight wasn't shot in the Lunt-Fontanne. Understandable, though. The place has been awfully busy as of late, what with Titanic there.

Nice, isn't it, that the Tony-winning musical is getting all that residual publicity from the wildly successful movie? And to think that both properties sounded so dubious for success, and thoroughly triumphed. Not only that, Titanic's soundtrack has been #1 for a few weeks, is about to go triple platinum, and quadruple is expected. (That's the soundtrack. Not, alas, the original cast album.)

Remember how much we looked forward to see Al Pacino in Salome a few years back? And how disappointed many of us were? Well, now's the time to see Salome from the up-and-coming Palindrome Players, who are occupying the old Pearl Theater on 22nd Street. Whatever you thought of Pacino, bet you'll think that Brian Tom O'Connor got into the creepy skin of Herod. Director Heather Arnet wisely combined a slew of minor characters, probably because she had John Kinsman to play all the roles. Nice New York debut, Mr. K.

Need another hint on that opening question? The musical in question is one of the '50s most highly regarded shows.

Do you know who George Spelvin is? Of course you do. You've seen him listed in Playbills enough over the years. This "actor" is no actor at all, not even a real person -- but a name used when the actual actor who's playing the part wants to remain anonymous, or when the playwright wants you believe there's an extra actor in the show. But did you know that you'll never see George Spelvin listed in a London programme? For in British theater, he's "Walter Plinge."

Need an answer on that opening question? The Russian playwright's first name is Anton, the musical in question is West Side Story. Now do you remember that Tony at one point tells Maria that his actual name is Anton?

Finally, while walking around the Strand Bookstore, I noticed a new book in that "For Dummies" series. This one was "Roses for Dummies." And I started angrily thinking, so why hasn't someone written "Broadway for Dummies"? Then I realized why: Because Broadway, of course, isn't for dummies.

-- Peter Filichia is the New Jersey drama critic for the Star Ledger
You can e-mail him at Pfilichia@aol.com