PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: All About Me The Dame and the Damned

By Harry Haun
19 Mar 2010

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Feinstein concedes there was tension getting it all together, but it was easier than he imagined. "One knows all the stories about putting together any kind of Broadway show, and working with Barry Humphries is something that I've wanted to do for a long time we both have wanted to do it but our schedules made it impossible for us to physically start rehearsing together until January. We had one week about a year and a half ago together, rehearsing, coming up with stuff. Then we spent part of August and early September, meeting again in London, but we knew that we wouldn't see each other again until January, and we knew that it wasn't until we both were in the same room and until we got in front of an audience that we'd really know what worked, what didn't work, of all these crazy ideas we had.

"Basically," the pianist added, "we put the show together in front of the audience from the first preview to the last. There wasn't that much tension, either and that was something that was shocking to me, shocking to Barry because he hadn't done a book show in so long that we were both flabbergasted at how relatively easy it was."

Feinstein, who struck up the band with Gershwin's "Strike Up Band," has an authentic affection for George and Ira. In point of fact, he is doing a movie about George as he was creating Porgy and Bess, scripted by Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Wright. "It's an absolute go," Feinstein declared, "and I'm co-producing it with Marc Platt. They have been talking to Zachary Quinto about playing George." Quinto played Spock in the 2009 "Star Trek."

In addition to directing, Nicholaw got the boys dancing. "Not their strong suit," he admitted, "but they had a lot of fun doing it. Both said right off the bat, 'I don't dance,' so I said, 'Okay, we'll be patient. We'll see how it goes.' It was adorable."

His big function as a director, he said, was as an editor. "Our first preview was two hours and 20 minutes with an intermission, and now it's 90-ish with no intermission. There were things that needed to go. Dame Edna is used to having the audience as a scene partner, and Michael is, too, so we really didn't know how that was going to work. It was very clear what worked, and what didn't, after the invited dress. Very clear. We did it really quickly, and, in four days, we cut half an hour."

Next up for Nicholaw like, next week is rehearsals for Anyone Can Whistle at Encores! with Donna Murphy, Raul Esparza and Sutton Foster. "Then Robin and the Seven Hoods at the Old Globe in San Diego. We just put offers out this week. Elf will hopefully be this fall, and we're working our butts off on Minsky's, too. Whole different take. We've been working on it, and I think by the time we get it to where it's going to be, it will be about 80 percent different than it was in L.A. And I don't think that it's taking a step backward. It really feels like we're moving in the right direction. We needed time to figure it out. It's tough to do regional and have a few afternoons to fix a show."

Christopher Durang, who shares credit with Humphries for the script, gives full credit to his ad-libbing skills. "He did it all the time in rehearsal," he recalled. "Eventually, they got me a script assistant, which was great, so she and I together would say, 'Now, what did Barry say?' We didn't want the script to keep getting longer so sometimes we'd say, 'Well, should we put it in the script, or should we see if he says it again and, if he doesn't, then we'll let go of it?'"

For a seasoned playwright, Durang took the eventual script-vetting well. "I'm more sensitive about cutting if it's a play I've written, but this reminded me of the times I've written cabaret or been in nightclub stuff so I wasn't as attached to it and plus, of course, it was written with Michael and with Barry so some of the material was mine and some of it was theirs and some of it merged so you couldn't tell."

He will be happy to return to some really serious solo writing. "I have a commission from the McCarter Theatre, and I think what I'm going to write is something I've started, called I call it in my head Chekhov in Pennsylvania, which is where I live, but it's presently called Manya and Sonya and Masha and Spike and it's set now, more or less. I've started it, but, once I started All About Me, it got put way on the back burner, but now I look forward to going back to it."

A lovely line of Old Hollywood was evident at the party: Arlene Dahl and Marc Rosen, Jane Powell and Dick Moore, Celeste Holm and Frank Basile. Just before the overture (a fractured-funnies version of dovetailing show tunes), Liza Minnelli swooped to her aisle seat at the theatre to a smattering of applause, but she didn't escape a Dame Edna insult: "Burns the candle at both ends, doesn't she? And sometime swallows it."

Christine Baranski attended All About Me's last critics' preview because she had to attend the premiere of Julianna Margulies's new movie, "City Island," the night of the opening (they're co-stars on TV's "The Good Wife").

"In real life, I'm also a good wife 26 years, to be exact," Baranski chirped when she arrived at the party. Theatre is not in her game plan. "I'm on an hour-long drama, and that locks me up pretty much, but I did nine months on Boeing-Boeing."

Feinstein's at the Regency manager (Jessica Poli) and cigarette-girl (Felicity Blum) joined the festivities late, after their respective shifts.

"Well, my next production is due in July," quipped director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall, pointing to her prominent belly. "We've got twins on the way, a boy and a girl. Mack and Mabel is that inappropriate? Nick and Nora will be the next set. There's all kinds of Fred and Adele, is that too much pressure?"

Work couldn't be farther from her mind. "I'm doing a couple of readings in May, but I probably won't be in rehearsal in production for something again until the fall."

Other first-nighters included Elvis Costello with Diana Krall; Jonathan Tisch; composer-singer Jimmy Webb; Penny Fuller (who's playing The Metropolitan Room March 22 and 27); lyricist-director Richard Maltby Jr.; director Michael Wilson, whose Orphans' Home Cycle is "virtually sold out" at Signature and bracing for Broadway in the fall; Michele Lee; Cause Celebre's Susan Charlotte with Joan Copeland; pianist David Lewis; TCM host Robert Osborne; Joel Grey; Loni Ackerman; Broadway Boswell/filmmaker Rick McKay; composer Charles Strouse; Judith Light; Atlantic Theatre's Neil Pepe and Mary McCann; Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson; Ann Kaufman Schneider; Karen Ziemba, preparing a Michigan concert with her Curtains stage husband, Jason Danieley, while his real wife, Marin Mazzie, toils without a song in Enron; Billy Stritch, gearing up for a Fred & Ginger salute this weekend at the 92nd Street Y with La Ziemba, James Naughton and Debby Boone; Barbara Walters arm-in-arm with Cindy Adams; Tony-winning funny lady Andrea Martin; composer-singer Neil Sedaka and wife Leba; Countess LuAnn [Delesseps] from "The Real Housewives of New Jersey"; Jim Dale; and saxophonist Dave Koz.