PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: The Velocity of Autumn — Spunk, Spark and Boom!

By Harry Haun
22 Apr 2014

Stephen Spinella
Photo by Monica Simoes

Her pre-formed snooping skills handily picked up The Big Feud backstage between Ethel Merman and Fernando Lamas. ("Nobody liked him. She wasn't the only one.")

She called neither a friend. "People who play leads in musicals are busy so you don't tend to have camaraderie so much. In the first place, you're mostly trying to keep your voice crisp. Even Velocity, eight shows a week can be a drain on your voice if you're not careful, so there's not too much socializing outside the theatre. You've got to keep your voice okay for the work, or I feel that way. I think most people do."

Melissa van der Schyff, who won a Drama Desk nomination for Parsons' Oscar-winning role of Blanche Barrow when the Bonnie & Clyde gang put in a tough December in 2011 as a Broadway musical, made the after-party scene at Sardi's with that show's composer (Frank Wildhorn), Buck Barrow (Claybourne Elder) and Bonnie Parker (Laura Osnes). Birdland has booked La van der Schyff for a solo concert Aug. 11, Elder is waiting around to see if "The Carrie Diaries" will be picked up for a third season and Osnes is winding down in the Atlantic's Threepenny Opera.



Seated at the Parsons table on the second-floor was one of Parsons' twin daughters — Martha Gehman, an actress who lives and works mostly in California ("F/X," "The Flamingo Kid," "Father of the Bride," "A Kiss Before Dying"); the other daughter, Abby, is a writer who has a son in the NBL, Chicago Bears guard/tackle Eben Britton (No. 62).

Also attending: Eden Espinosa of Wicked/Brooklyn/Rent; Cady Huffman of The Nance and The Producers; Christopher Sieber, once of Pippin and now of Matilda The Musical; Karen Ziemba, enjoying a break from Bullets Over Broadway with hubby Bill Tatum; Mark Fuerstein of TV's "Royal Pains"; Rob McClure bracing for Irma La Deuce at Encores! (immediately) and Honeymoon in Vegas on Broadway (later); Nehal Joshi of Working; a couple of The Scottsboro Boys (Joshua Henry, now of Violet, and Colman Domingo); Crown of Porgy and Bess, Phillip Boykin; composer Stephen Flaherty and attorney Trevor Hardwick, tan from their time under the Puerto Rican sun; Annaleigh Ashford, late of Kinky Boots, and Rory O'Malley, late of The Book of Mormon, Tony contenders both; Abigail and Milly Shapiro, an upcoming 54 Below sister-act; Gabriel Ebert, who won a Tony as Milly (Shapiro)'s pop in Matilda and is now bound to Casa Valentina; and Kumar of the "Harold & Kumar" film series, Kal Penn.

A couple of this year's Lucille Lortel Awards nominees — Lynn Cohen for I Remember Mama and Andrus Nichols for Bedlam's Hamlet and Saint Joan — left their party early to make the opening of The Velocity of Autumn. Nancy Ringham, who memorably took over the Eliza Doolittle role on the Broadway opening night of Rex Harrison's last go around in My Fair Lady, showed up with the show carpenter she met on the MYF tour; bracing for grandmother-hood, she was last seen in New York as Soccer Mom.

Reactions to the play were up-close and personal for many in the audience. Patrick Page, with wife Paige Davis, taking the night off before opening April 23 in Casa Valentina at the Samuel J. Friedman, was keenly moved by the experience. "My father passed away last year, and my mother is now alone, so it kinda hit me there," he said. "You don't see that many plays that really address aging in that way."

Tovah Feldshuh, doing her Tony-nominated Golda's Balcony at D.C.'s Theatre J until April 27,was beaming about landing a STARZ network series, "Flesh and Bone," in which she plays the head ballet mistress of an American company. "I must have gotten this job through Pippin because I auditioned for it while I was still on the trapeze.

"I was very moved by many parts of this piece because the playwright struck gold. In his inductive reasoning and his knowledge of geriatrics, his truth resonated for me."