PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Lysistrata Jones Bosoms and Neglect

By Harry Haun
15 Dec 2011

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The company hit Dallas without a star in place, thinking Whoopi Goldberg could be cajoled into the role of the omnipotent observer and all-round shady-lady, Hetaira, but they never had a chance to ask because Mikel so fully filled the bill — this, according to Mikel. I told her I heard they were after Twiggy, which produced a raucous Ha! from her and "No, you need a woman of substance."

She doesn't give out her measurements in numbers. "Well, I'll just tell you like this: Exciting-Enticing-Awesome." She repeated this, making the three stops on her body, then re-evaluated and tried it again. "Maybe, it's Awesome-Exciting-Enticing."

Let the record show that she has done her homework on her role. "I know she is all-knowing. She is wise. Hetaira, as a person in ancient times, was a courtesan, and she was the one who was really accepted in all circles social and political. Men would flock to her establishment. She paid taxes, was well thought-of as a business person, endearing to the community, even though she may not have been openly received.

"I think — well, I know — that I'm very fortunate that Doug and Dan and Lewis have so much belief in me. Lewis tailored the songs to highlight what I could do, and the same with Doug's writing and Dan's direction. They rallied around my strengths. It was a total rewrite effort along the way. I know there were some things that were included because of my crazy little sense of humor and my Texas twang."

Book-writer Beane, who is not above Kitty Dukakis jokes ("all those k's bring the house down"), had the look of a man who was very pleased with his work. "As any person who has ever written a play or a musical knows, 400,000 people pass and tell you it's bad, so, when the show finally happens on Broadway and it's what you wanted it to be, it is amazing, joyful, unbelievable."

And to think that the whole thing came to him in a flash: "Lewis and I were looking for something to do, so I said, 'Let's do a classic play and make it contemporary,' so we nailed Lysistrata, and I just said as a joke, 'Cheerleaders won't put out with their boyfriends until they win a game.'" And voila, a plot was born.

Beane's next scripting skullduggery includes a new play for Nathan Lane, to be directed by Jack O'Brien and a role-reversal rewrite of Rodgers and Hammerstein's television musical, Cinderella.

If Xanadu seems first cousin to Lysistrata Jones in its campy giddiness, that's became some of the same hands are involved in both. Prominent on the Beane team is the leading lady, Patti Murin, who found her husband (Curtis Holbrook) in the Xanadu cast. "I was a swing for the first six months of Xanadu," she remembered, "but, because of a lot of injuries that happened, I actually went on for opening night, and then I took over the part of one of the muses, and I understudied Kerry Butler in the star part."

Here, she started in the star part, which, in the playing, gets reduced to "Lyssie J," but she makes a pert spark-plug for this particular non-sexual revolution. "To share what I have created here with a lot of people has been amazing," she admitted.

Lewis Flinn and Douglas Carter Beane
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The only real casualty of this revolution is her romantic relationship with the basketball captain, played by Josh Segarra, who was more up to the pressure of making the basket on stage. Murin, he said, had the most pressure scoring the last point. [Taking no chances, director-choreographer Knechtges decided to have two teammates hoist her up to the basket for an easy slam-dunk.]

"But, for me," Segarra happily noted, "I've been playing basketball my whole life so that's where I feel best — that's where I'm most comfortable — when I play on stage because that's when I get to show off a little bit and show I can play. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I get to do it. This is my dream: I've always wanted to play basketball or become an actor. And here I get to play a basketball player."

Midway through the play, his thwarted affections stray to the librarian on campus, played by Lindsay Nicole Chambers, "a genius," he said. "She has taught me so much. This isn't her debut. She's a veteran, and she has just been my rock."

He and the rest of the basketball team — Teddy Toye, Alex Wyse and Alexander Aguilar — are making their Broadway bows with this show.

"The whole team moved up. When they told us that we were all moving up, it was the best feeling in the world because there's always that fear that somebody's gonna get replaced — somebody who was a part of you for this journey — and we're all together. We did it downtown, and now we're doing it here. I couldn't be happier."