Welcome to Minnesota, dahling.
Kathleen Turner pasted on the weighty eyelashes of actress-diva Tallulah Bankhead for two previews of Tallulah Oct. 1 at the State Theatre in Minneapolis, prior to the official Oct. 3 opening of the Broadway-bound solo show.
Performances continue to Oct. 8 at the State, and bookings in 10 cities follow, ending up with a residency — a likely April opening — at a Broadway theatre to be announced.
Michael Lessac directs the play by Sandra Ryan Heyward, which spotlights film actress Turner ("Romancing the Stone," "Body Heat") playing the elegant, heavy-lidded actress as she prepares to host a fundraiser for incumbent president Harry S. Truman. As she fusses and frets over every detail of the party, Tallulah sips champagne and divulges secrets and passions in her life. Her wardrobe will be by Bob Mackie, who outfitted Cher, Carol Burnett and others in his high-profile, glam-friendly career.
Turner — no stranger to the stage, in Broadway's Indiscretions and London's recent The Graduate — performed Tallulah in an earlier U.S. staging in 1999 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami and in its 1997 world premiere at the Chichester Festival Theatre in Sussex, England. Heyward has made revisions for the 2000-2001 production. Producers of the tour and Broadway stay of Tallulah are SFX Theatrical Group Inc., James L. Nederlander in association with Duncan C. Weldon and Tony Fantozzi.
Director Lessac's credits include TV's "The Drew Carey Show" and "Everybody Loves Raymond."
The tour will visit the State Theatre in Minneapolis (Oct. 3-8), the Wilbur in Boston (Oct. 10-22), the Byham Theatre in Pittsburgh (Oct. 24-Nov. 5), the Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore (Nov. 7-12), the Shubert in Chicago (Nov. 14-26), the Merriam Theatre in Philadelphia (Nov. 28-Dec. 3), the Royal Poinciana in Palm Beach, FL (Dec. 5-17), the Majestic Theatre in Dallas (Jan. 9-14, 2001), Curran Theatre in San Francisco (Jan. 16 Feb. 11, 2001), the Fisher Theatre in Detroit (Feb. 13-March 4, 2001) and the Palace Theatre in Columbus, OH (March 6 11, 2001).
Bankhead (1903-1968) is perhaps best known for her Broadway stints in Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes, and Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth (and was notoriously heckled as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire). Bankhead also starred in Alfred Hitchcock's 1944 film, "Lifeboat," as a glamorous lady journalist-castaway. The Southern-born, gimlet-eyed actress lived a high life and was considered something of a survivor despite her frayed edges.
Kathleen Turner made her Broadway debut as a replacement in the long running Albert Innaurato comedy, Gemini. Since then, she's been nominated for a Tony for her portrayal of "Maggie the Cat" in the 1990 revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and appeared in the 1995 production of Jean Cocteau's Indiscretions.
With her trademark husky voice, Turner came to Hollywood attention in the 1981 film "Body Heat," leading to sexy siren roles in films like "V.I. Warshawski," "The Man With Two Brains," and "Prizzi's Honor." Other roles include "Serial Mom," "Romancing the Stone," "The War of the Roses," "Crimes of Passion" and the recent "Baby Geniuses." Turner received an Oscar nomination for her lead role in the Francis Ford Coppola 1986 film, "Peggy Sue Got Married." She's currently featured in "The Virgin Suicides."
Tallulah is something of a trend this season: On Sept. 19, the actress Tovah Feldshuh began Off-Broadway previews for a three-character show, Tallulah Hallelujah! at the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre. It takes place during a USO benefit in which headliner Ella Fitzgerald is delayed, so Tallulah "vamps" and tells her story in song and anecdote (with the assistance of a pianist who turns out to be Meredith Willson, played by Bob Goldstone, and a young G.I., played by Mark Deklin). The script is by Feldshuh, with additional material by Larry Amoros and Linda Selman. William Wesbrooks directs.
The shows have nothing to do with another project, Tallulah's Party, which featured Feldshuh a couple seasons about Off-Broadway. Helen Gallagher has also played the actress in the past.
Also, Off-Off-Broadway this season is the Tallulah-related play, Dahling, a new eight-actor play by Nana Schmid, beginning Oct. 19 at the Grove Street Playhouse. The New York premiere of Nan Schmid's play — which uses Bankhead's famous drawled term of endearment as its title — being billed as "not a one-woman show," in response to the Broadway-bound Kathleen Turner solo vehicle., Gareth Hendee, an associate director of James Lapine's on Dirty Blonde, directs Dahling. The play had its premiere in 1998 at Los Angeles' St. Genesius Theatre. Official Off-Off Broadway is Oct. 28.
— By Kenneth Jones