Last year at this time, Dirty Blonde star and playwright Claudia Shear and her fellow cast members, including current Seussical star Kevin Chamberlain, were busy squeezing them in at the New York Theatre Workshop. Their hopes were realized when the successful show made it to Broadway in time for Tony consideration during the last weeks of the 1999-2000 season.
This year, rather than racing toward the last weeks of the Tony season, the Dirty Blonde producers has posted "last weeks" ads. With theatre space at its usual premium, the "last weeks" language in the Dirty Blonde ads sparked rumors about an imminent closing. Among the shows competing for the as-yet-not-vacated space are By Jeeves and Gershwin Alone [See related story "Window of Opportunity Closing on By Jeeves; Gershwin Gets Hayes."]
Closing estimates have ranged from as early as Valentine's Day to March 3. For now, Telecharge says it is selling the show through April 8. And any decision by producers will no doubt be influenced by the recent rise in audience for the show: League stats indicate a jump of18 percent for the week ending Feb. 11. A call to production spokespersons was not returned by press time.
Kathy Najimy assumed the dual role of Mae West and Mae West fan on Jan. 9.
* Dirty Blonde was originally staged at the New York Theatre Workshop. In all, Dirty Blonde garnered five Tony nominations: Best Play, Best Director, Best Performance by a Leading Actress and two for Best Performance by a Featured Actor. It won no awards.
Kevin Chamberlin, the co-star of Claudia Shear's original Dirty Blonde, gave his final performance in his Tony nominated role on July 5, 2000 at the Helen Hayes Theatre. Chamberlin went on to join the cast of The Seussical, which opened on Broadway Nov. 30. Replacing Chamberlin in Dirty Blonde was Tom Riis Farrell, who assumed the role on July 6 last year.
The New York Theatre Workshop production of Claudia Shear's Dirty Blonde opened at the Helen Hayes Theatre on May 1. Claudia Shear (playwright and star) and James Lapine (director) co-conceived the show and shepherded its move to Broadway .
The play marked Shear's return to NYTW, where she triumphed in 1993 with her one woman "tour de résumé" Blown Sideways, a 64-job search for employment. That piece earned her an Obie Award and a Drama Desk Award nomination.
Dirty Blonde involves two single New Yorkers who meet at Mae West's grave site and goes on to trace the couple's changing relationship while simultaneously tracking West's career.
Tickets for Dirty Blonde are $65. The Helen Hayes Theatre is located at 240 W. 44 St. For tickets call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250.