One of the toughest tickets in town is a seat to listen to a crusty old lady rattle on about her life for two hours.
Confused? Well, put "Elaine Stritch" in for "crusty old lady," and you'll understand why people are lining up for tickets at Off-Broadway's Public Theater. Stritch, a past master at seeming self-aggrandizing and self deprecating at one and the same time, will talk Stritch, Strich and nothing but Stritch at the Public's Newman Theater, in Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, which officially opens on Nov. 7. Previews began on Oct. 26. George C. Wolfe directs.
Sources close to the production speculate that the show is a cinch to extend past the scheduled Nov. 25 close date, or perhaps ever transfer to a commercial run.
Liberty is molded out of the raw material of Stritch's crowded life on and off the stage. The text was "constructed" by The New Yorker drama critic John Lahr and then "reconstructed" by Stritch. Lahr is the author of several book on the theatre, including “Prick Up Your Ears,” “Show and Tell,” “Notes on a Cowardly Lion” (about his father, actor and comedian Bert Lahr) and a biography of Noel Coward. He has also dabbled in the theatre, penning a stage adaptation of the film, “The Manchurian Candidate.” Lahr is a recipient of the George Jean Nathan Award for dramatic criticism.
Stritch's career is strewn with landmark performances, including her turns in Pal Joey, William Inge's Bus Stop, Noel Coward's Sail Away, and, of course, Stephen Sondheim's Company, in which her fame was sealed with a renowned delivery of "The Ladies Who Lunch." Since the Sondheim performance, Stritch has evolved into something of a living legend, regularly profiled, parodied by Forbidden Broadway and generally celebrated for just being herself. In the piece, Stritch will discuss the above credits (no doubt with salty humor and a sandpaper voice), as well as lesser know aspects of her life, including the 15 years she spent living in England following her performance in Company; her job covering Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam; her early days in New York studying with Erwin Piscator and dating Marlon Brando; and her aborted engagement to film actor Gig Young (“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”).
The show has scenic design by Riccardo Hernández, lighting design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, costume design by Paul Tazewell, sound design by Acme Sound Partners, orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick and musical direction by Rob Bowman.
Wolfe is coming off his successful staging of Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog, which is expected on Broadway this spring.