PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: LoveMusik Loveland, It Ain't

By Harry Haun
04 May 2007

The show subscribes to Weill's bias about Brecht, and Pittu suspects there might be truth in that. "I think he'd be really difficult to be around. I find him fascinating, if imperious."

His favorite moment is the one that introduces Brecht as a figure of fun "Tango Ballad," which he prances out with a help of his harem (Judith Blazer, Ann Morrison and Rachel Ulanet) and the energetic, comic choreography of Patricia Birch, a six-time animator of Prince musicals who gets a pretty strong workout here staging the musical numbers.

Their method of working remains the same, said Birch: "We meet very early on in preproduction and agree on what we think it should be, and then I go do it." Simple.

"Tango Ballad" is also Birch's favorite moment and Blazer's as well. "That's a fun moment, and I love the people I'm with very much," the latter admitted. "What we do do is fun, but it's fast, hard work. We change a lot of clothes and a lot of hair. Paul Huntley made me very happy, let me tell ya. Louise Brooks is a good look for me on stage. I originally had another character so there were four Huntley wigs; now there are three."

Morrison is making her first Broadway appearance since her debut in the 16-performance run of Merrily We Roll Along in 1981. Prince, who directed her in that, just crooked his finger and threw in the Donna Murphy understudy job as well. "He said, 'Would you come do this?' And I said, 'Honey, anything for you,'" Morrison said. She has been back to New York for a couple of one-shot Sondheim concerts Children and Art and the 20th anniversary revival concert of Merrily. "What a healing that was! Just 21 years before, I watched an audience walk up the aisle. Now they were on their feet like at a rock concert.

"I didn't want to come back to New York when I had gone off to Los Angeles for a while. My husband and I had split up. We decided to keep a friendship instead. We had a little boy, who was five, and he said, 'Mommy, why is it when people say what they're going to be when they grow up, they never are?' And that changed my life. I knew I couldn't come back to New York at that time. I needed to find out what I wanted to be. And it was also about being a performer, but it was about being here for a purpose so I spent a good 20 years, creating that. I'm proud of my life. I have two theatre companies for developmental disabilities. I work with brain injuries, autism, all kinds of learning differences, creating theatre, creating art."

George Davis, the gay Vanity Fair editor who befriended the newly Americanized Weills and became Lenya's second husband, is played by John Scherer, last seen on Broadway as Bertie Wooster in By Jeeves. Here he doesn't show up until Act II when World War II chases the couple to this country. "It's a little hard not being in the first act," Scherer admitted. "I have a late call. I don't have to be there till the curtain goes up. I always have to check in with the stage manager, who tells me he's not going to start until he knows I'm there. Fortunately, I only live a block away from the theatre. I come in, and I go downstairs and watch over the monitor and listen to what the audience is like and what the rhythm of the piece is. It really is like hopping on a train that is already moving."

Tall and strapping Graham Rowat has the heavily taxing job of playing the lovers in Lenya's life. "It has been a blast, and Donna has been so nice," he said. "I have to manhandle her every night, and that's a strange feeling, but she's very gracious. I haven't actually counted, but I'm sort of the template for all of [Lenya's] lovers. In Act I, I play Otto, who seduces her when she's mad at Kurt and takes all her money. In Act II, I play Allen Lake. He's an amalgam, actually but there really was an Otto. I'm the same hunky guy in both acts, which in itself is interesting because who ever sees himself as a hunky guy?"

Erik Liberman is marking his Broadway debut with LoveMusik the hard way playing 14 roles, both genders and a range that runs from German to American to French. "It's great flexing those character-actor muscles," he confessed. "Working with Hal Prince is like being a link in a chain, and it's just such an honor. He's not only a voice of great tradition, but he's very relevant to today, and I think that's why his success continues."

A number of Tony-winning actresses led the first-night list: Lauren Bacall, Phyllis Newman, Christine Baranski, Sutton Foster and Adriane Lenox (just back from the West Coast where she shot a "Shark" episode). Doubt, which won Lenox her Tony, was just done by another Tony winner, Linda Lavin, and her husband, Steve Bakanas, as the inaugural offering of their brand-new Red Barn Studio in Wilmington, NC. "Here," said Lavin, passing out a flier for the Metropolitan Room where she would start a four-day gig the following night, "put that in your pocket so it doesn't look like I'm advertising."

Fresh from the Westport tryout of All About Us, Kander & Ebb's Skin of Our Teeth, Shuler Hensley plans in mid-May to squeeze in a reading of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for the Roald Dahl Estate before rehearsals begin for Young Frankenstein.

Hunter Foster, resting up having wrapped The Producers, said he was gearing up for a show in Williamstown and The Full Monty in Maine but he won't be giving his all to Maine: "My wife would make me a tenor." That wife, whom he met in Urinetown Jen Cody is busy with five different shows. First out of the hopper, May 17, is Don't Quit Your Night Job.

Thoroughly Modern Millie's Tony-nominated book writer, Dick Scanlan, declared that his "whole life right now" is Sherie Rene Scott's performance piece which he co-wrote with her and, with David Drake, will co-direct May 14-15 at the Zipper Theatre.

MTC also invited a couple of playwrights it will feature during the 2007-2008 season: Theresa Rebeck, author of the upcoming Mauritius, and Adam Bock, whose play The Receptionist will be done at City Center, directed by Blackbird's Joe Mantello and starring Well's wonderful Jayne Houdyshell; Bock will also be represented at Playwrights Horizons in the spring of '08 with The Drunken City. From last MTC season came the new Pulitzer Prize winner in town, David Lindsay-Abaire, revisiting the premiere site of his prize play, Rabbit Hole.

Also in attendance: Legally Blonde's somewhat relieved director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell, Jerry Bock, playwright Charles Busch and his Our Leading Lady, Kate Mulgrew, Sean Elliott (actor-husband of LoveMusik's leading lady), Nellie McKay, Penny Fuller, eternal chanteuse Julie Wilson, Richard Maltby Jr., James Lipton (in the Pat Birch rooting party), Anne Kaufman Schneider, lyricist Susan Birkenhead (waiting for her director, Michael Mayer, to finish with 10 Million Miles at the Atlantic to do a reading of the recent rewrites prior to a big workshop of The Flamingo Kid), Mark Jacoby (starting Ferenc Molnar's The Play's the Thing next week at New Jersey Shakespeare) and, at her usual post at the theatre entrance, The Post's Cindy Adams.