STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: March Merriment

STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: March Merriment Aren't we all ashamed? I mean, there was the United States Post Office giving us the opportunity to commemorate West Side Story on a stamp. All we had to do was send in our endorsements by Feb. 28, via a voting circular that the office distributed. There were 30 possible nominees all of which dealt with events that happened in the '50s - such as Victory over Polio, Drive-in Movies, Tail-fins and Chrome on Cars, Rock and Roll, "I Love Lucy," Dr. Seuss's "Cat in the Hat," the Yankees-Dodgers World Series, Desegregation of Public Schools, Teen Fashions, and U.S. Launch of Satellites. Those, by the way, are the Top Ten. West Side Story didn't even make the Top 15, and, alas, will not be commemorated.

Aren't we all ashamed? I mean, there was the United States Post Office giving us the opportunity to commemorate West Side Story on a stamp. All we had to do was send in our endorsements by Feb. 28, via a voting circular that the office distributed. There were 30 possible nominees all of which dealt with events that happened in the '50s - such as Victory over Polio, Drive-in Movies, Tail-fins and Chrome on Cars, Rock and Roll, "I Love Lucy," Dr. Seuss's "Cat in the Hat," the Yankees-Dodgers World Series, Desegregation of Public Schools, Teen Fashions, and U.S. Launch of Satellites. Those, by the way, are the Top Ten. West Side Story didn't even make the Top 15, and, alas, will not be commemorated.

All right, it's too late now for us to help the Laurents-Bernstein- Sondheim classic. But starting in May, there'll be a voting for events that happened in the '60s. If the powers-that-be are good enough to include Fiddler, Dolly, or Funny Girl, send in those ballots! Let's not let this happen again!

Okay, on to other matters:

* How many jokes do you think Marcia Lewis, our favorite Mama Morton of Chicago, has endured during this Monica Lewinsky business?

* Back in 1955, do you know what Ethel Merman chose as the first sentence to begin her autobiography? "I can't remember ever being afraid of an audience, so I can see no reason to be afraid of you." Atta girl, Merm! * Mind if I spend a moment defending The Capeman? Having seen the show a second time, I was again reminded that there is not one moment of music in this show that I don't like. And I'm very grateful that the announcement before the show that tells us not to take pictures or make recordings in repeated in Spanish -- making a whole new audience feel welcome on Broadway. Bravo!

* If I were starting up a new Off-Off-Broadway theater company, where would I put it? In the Wall Street area. More than one newspaper has published an article on how that area has been infused with young urban pros -- most of them single, most of them making good money -- who are frustrated because there's nothing to do down there at night. Get down there fast, all you young ambitious directors, designers, and actors!

* Did you catch the irony in Mizlansky/Zilinsky, when Lewis J. Stadlen angrily called Nathan Lane "Toad of Toad Hall?" Well, a little over a dozen years ago, the then-not-so-well known Lane was appearing as that character, in that Wind in the Willows musical that played a couple of nights at the Nederlander.

* Speaking of things you might have missed: Did you hear what the National Basketball Association did during the half-time show of its All-Star Game in New York's Madison Square Garden? "A Tribute to the Broadway Musical." I didn't see it, and only heard about it later -- leading me to wonder: Did they include "She Likes Basketball" from Promises, Promises? I have a sad suspicion that they didn't. Anybody out there know?

* Have you ever heard of the show, "Yes, Yes, Nanette"? No, I don't mean Yes, Yes, Yvette, the 1927 show that No, No, Nanette producer Harry Frazee produced (to far less profitable effect) two years after that smash debuted. No, "Yes, Yes, Nanette" was the name of the 1961 TV series that starred Nanette Fabray -- and ran only slightly longer than Yes, Yes, Yvette.

* Have you seen Scott Stanton's new book, "The Tombstone Tourist" from 3T Publishing? It mostly deals with rock and country personalities, but it will give you directions on how to find the final resting places of some of our heroes. Al Jolson and Allan (The Fig Leaves Are Falling) Sherman are in Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, CA, while Jerome Kern and Judy Garland are ensconced at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, NY. But the champ is Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx -- where reside the remains of Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, and Victor Herbert. Now you know!

Given the military policy of the Clinton administration, don't you think that that cabaret called Don't Tell Mama on 46th Street should change its name to Don't Ask Mama, Don't Tell Mama?

* You know that Lorenz Hart lyric in "Manhattan," in which he mused that someday a couple would take their kids to, Abie's Irish Rose. I hope they live to see it close." Well, over the years, I've heard that lyric changed to apply to most every hit -- but what a treat it was to hear at the Rainbow Room, "They'll see Titanic close" as the ultimate test of time. Not bad for a show that had that poisonous word of-mouth during previews, eh?

* And speaking of Titanic: Were you just a little disappointed when you heard that the Titanic movie received 14 Oscar nominations? Nothing against the picture, which, like the musical, has triumphed over some staggering odds. But to tie in the most nominations of the 71-year-history of the Academy? I used to relish the irony that the movie that had previously held the record for 14 nominations -- All about Eve -- had the theater as its inspiration.

* Finally, have you heard that Showtime will allow us on April 19 to attend "The Tale of Sweeney Todd"? No, it's not the Sondheim musical, but a new dramatic adaptation, that essentially begins at Act II of the musical. Sweeney (Ben Kingsley) is the barber, and Mrs. Lovett (Joanna Lumley) is baking his quarry into meat pies. It all starts to unravel when an investigator (Campbell Scott) comes from America to find some missing money and jewels. (Bet you can guess what happened to their owner.) There is a young female ward -- but she's Sweeney's -- and the investigator falls in love with her. Add to this a young mute who works in Sweeney's employ, some full dorsal nudity, and a flagellation scene that makes the Judge's song in the musical look like "Do-Re-Mi." Set those VCRs now!

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