PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Ann; A Big House for the Little Lady

By Harry Haun
08 Mar 2013

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All of the above is a lone star turn, save for the voice of the governor's secretary — boss-battered but unbowed Nancy Kohler. That part was phoned in by Tony-winning Texan Julie White [Austin, TX]. Two other voices (one of them, Greater Tuna's Joe Sears) were silenced in slimming the show down for Broadway.

Dorothy Ann Willis Richards lived 73 years and 12 days, but it was a sparky, inspiring life, not without flaws and certainly not without friends. The vast Beaumont lobby was rife with her "peoples" — liberals, feminists and Texans.

Fiery newspaper columnist Molly Ivins, who was one of each, is quoted in the play as saying Richards "had Republican hair." At intermission, Kathleen Turner was heard to whisper, "She also said, 'The higher the hair, the closer to Heaven.'"

Turner, who had Taylor as her literary agent in "Romancing the Stone," hopes to bring to New York her one woman show, Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass wit of Molly Ivins. In fact, she said, "I'm trying to convince Holland that we should put them together so we each would only have to do four shows a week." She added that her rumored revival The Killing of Sister George is off. "I couldn't get the rewrites that I thought I needed for it, but I will be doing Mother Courage at the Arena Stage down in Washington."

Columnist-for-real Liz Smith [Fort Worth, TX], a friend of both Taylor and Richards, got the two of them together once for lunch at Le Cirque — the only time they ever met — but, after Richards' death, that meeting weighed on Taylor, sending her to the stacks for the four years of research that went into Ann. This may be why Smith feels a particularly personal connection to the piece. So far, she has seen it three times.

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Holland Taylor
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

"Holland Taylor is always, and was always, sexually outrageous, both personally and professionally — this is why she was so perfect in 'Bosom Buddies,' in 'The Practice' and in 'Two and a Half Men,'" the columnist said. "When I first met Ann, who was about to run for governor, she was past all that. She was outrageous in a conservative Texas for her political activism, her liberal ideology and her 'smarts.' Sex didn't really occur to her anymore, except as something to joke about. But Holland has caught Ann's dedicated persona and, as she is a terrific actress, she is great. Ann, it seems to me, ended her life by giving Holland a new kind of religion."

Taylor, more or less, said "Amen!" to that when she arrived at the after-party, which was held — as long as the producers were thinking Texas-size big and got the Beaumont — at the Plaza. Double-decker sight-seeing buses were waiting at the theatre to whisk first-nighters off, through the rain, to the hotel. It may be the first one-person show, on Broadway or Off-, to rate the posh Plaza treatment.

The actress was greeted with wild applause when she made her fashionably late star entrance in the Plaza's main third-floor dining room and tried her darnedest to eat her first meal in a while, despite the rush of well-wishers and the pesky press.

"I just feel like the vessel," she admitted with unforced modesty. "Something magical has happened in my life. I would never just do something like this. Ann was a magical lady. That's why I did the play. I did the play to make an echo of her, of her inspiration. A young man came up who'd never heard of her and said he had never been so inspired. I said. 'That's exactly what I wanted. Thank you. My job is done."

An Emmy winner for "The Practice," she's not counting her Tony before it's hatched. "This is the reward. It's on, playing. It's doing wonderfully. People love it. That's it."