PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Butley — Grim and Bear It

By Harry Haun
26 Oct 2006

McCann was missing at the after-party. "She went home after greeting guests," Phillips explained. "She's in the Jewish Home right now, getting rehab, and she has to get more surgery for the knee in the next two weeks. Then it'll be three more immobile months."

Another producer, the titian-haired and elegant Chase Mishkin, lamented the show's limited engagement: "It has to be a limited run. There's a real-estate problem on Broadway." Which is to say, too many shows wanting homes. She'll now be turning her attention to one of those orphans-in-the-works: LoveMusik, starring Michael Cerveris and Donna Murphy as composer Kurt Weill and actress Lotte Lenya. Rehearsals are to begin in March, under the direction of Hal Prince. The book is by Prince's Parade mate and Pulitzer Prize winner. Alfred Uhry. Music will be drawn from Weill's songbook.

Since the overly cautious Murphy is having trouble admitting she's Phyllis in the Encores! Follies, I thought it best not to broach the subject and the let producers believe she'll be Lenya. "I'm not being coy," Murphy said. "I have to do what Management tells me to do."

Her husband, Shawn Elliott, is putting career on hold for the moment and playing papa to 18-month-old Darmia Hope, but he does get out and, in particular, he has seen the revival at The Zipper of a show he originated 31 years ago: Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. "I've seen a bunch of productions throughout the years, and that's the first one I've really, really liked," he admitted. I've seen them just go too far, sorta try to reinvent the wheel with the piece. This production stayed close to what others found in the beginning and yet found some of their own things that were quite unique."



Michael Ritchie from L.A.'s Ahmanson — another trying to get a show squeezed into this season — had not heard that The Wedding Singer will be ringing out the old, leaving John Kander & Fred Ebb's Curtains (which he presented at the Ahmanson) eminently available for the Al Hirschfeld. He was at Butley supporting Martin, who had directed his wife, The Constant Wife, in Hedda Gabler. Kate Burton, he lamented, was stuck in L.A.

"I told Kate the minute I saw Rabbit Hole, I had to find something for her and Cynthia Nixon to play sisters," said Martin. Three Sisters, perhaps? "We'll see how The Cherry Orchard goes." That's the Chekhov next on his list at the Huntington, with Burton as Mme. Ranevskaya. "I have quite a cast for that. Among others — I've only done half of it — I have Bob Dishy and Dick Latessa. Isn't that great?"

Other Butley buffs: Charles Busch, Michael Cumpsty, Mario Cantone and Jerry Dixon, Justin Theroux, chef Rocco Dispirito, Christen Stewart, Joe Mantello, Anne Kaufman Schneider, Louise Hirschfeld, producers John Hart and Randall Wreghitt, lawyers Mark Sendroff and John Breglio, casting directors Jay Binder and Daniel Snee, Brooks Ashmanskas, John Guare, director Gary Giddens and Claudia Shear.

Sylvia Miles, on the arm of the show's associate producer Tommy DeMaio, declined to comment on the rumor she's Roma-bound for a movie.

Now that The Pain and the Itch is gone at Playwrights Horizons, Jayne Houdyshell said she's heading out in new directions — singing, and not playing moms. "Next week I go into rehearsal to replace Carol Kane in Wicked," she said.

Two Scotts hopped by — Scott Wittman in from the Canadian "Hairspray" filming with Travolta, Walken, et al to do more on his Terrence McNally-Marc Shaiman musical, Catch Me If You Can, and set designer Scott Pask, whose finishing up The Coast of Utopia and The Vertical Hour before bracing for an equally busy spring: Patrick Marber's Howard Katz for Roundabout and director Doug Hughes starring Alfred Molina in March, and David Harrower's Blackbird for MTC and director Joe Mantello starring Jeff Daniels in April. There were also two director Susans in attendance —Susan Stroman, who directed Lane in The Producers on stage and screen, and [director] Susan Schulman, who is casting To Kill a Mockingbird for the Stratford Festival in Canada. It goes into rehearsals in February with Peter Donaldson as Atticus.

McNally, a playwright who has provided numerous plays in which Lane has distinguished himself (my abiding all-time favorite: The Lisbon Traviata) is really under the gun — make that The Guns of Navarone — nowadays with two major plays on the boards. The Off-Broadway is a century-long sweep of single-sex marriage in America, called Some Men, that tried out in Philadelphia last year. Under the direction of Trip Cullman, it will start previews Feb. 20, open officially in March and run through May. Then, McNally's life partner, Tom Kirdahy, and Devlin Elliott will produce Deuce at the Music Box the first week of May in time for the Tony cutoff. Angela Lansbury, in her first Broadway role in 23 years, and Marian Seldes will play a pair of retired, but not retiring, tennis players.

The Drowsy Chaperone composer Greg Morrison sailed in the Booth with a redhead who was not his Tony-winning lyricist, Lisa Lambert. She was the real Janet Van De Graaff (played at the Marriott Marquis by Sutton Foster). It seems Hubby Bob Martin was busy in a hit, and the two made a convenient couple for a night out.

Andrea Martin said Butley was peppered with her favorite people: "Every time I see Nathan Lane, every time I see Jessica Stone, I have a good time. It doesn't make any difference what it is. They are wonderful performers, and Nicky's my dearest friend [he helmed her Dolly Levi, too], so how could I not have a good time?" she reasoned.

"I'm shooting a miniseries in Canada right now, based on a Mordecai Richler book called 'St. Urbain's Horsemen,' and I'm doing a pilot for Showtime in December." Anything for the stage? "Yes, a lot of benefits. Y'know, you start doing things for free at a certain age."

Yet another who counts Nicky "a dear, dear friend" — they also use those exact words, sweet shades of "The Manchurian Candidate" — is Hope Davis, and she has especially good cause: "He introduced me to my beloved husband [Jon Patrick Walter, member of the High Fidelity ensemble]." He'll be doing the stage work for the family for a while. "I have little children at home so, as soon as we get through that rough bedtime hour, I hope to get back on stage. I miss it so much." Meanwhile, there's TV. She's a regular on ABC's "Six Degrees."