Costumer Willa Kim certainly has her work cut out for her.
Raquel Welch will succeed Julie Andrews in the title role(s) of the Broadway musical Victor/Victoria as of June 3, the New York Post reports.
The curvaceous former pinup girl is expected to have fun trying to squeeze into the role of Victoria Grant, a starving singer who succeeds at passing as a man who is a drag artist, in order to work.
"I think I'm going to have a lot of fun with this character because I get to play the guy part and the girl part," the Post quoted Welch as saying. "My figure will be under wraps for some of it, and we'll have fun playing with what's under the wraps."
Among other songs, she'll get to sing "If I Were a Man," "Le Jazz Hot" and "Living in the Shadows." This will not be Welch's first starring role on Broadway. She replaced Lauren Bacall in the original Broadway production of the 1981 musical Woman of the Year She was to have done a Broadway-bound national tour in another Bacall show, Applause, in 1996, but withdrew. The tour eventually launched with Stefanie Powers, but closed after just a few months.
Welch's name was not among those proposed by Playbill On-Line members in a summer 1996 Playbill Poll asking who could step into the role of Victoria Grant in the multi-million-dollar musical at the Marquis Theatre.
Welch is signed to play the role for six months.
"It's a provocative, interesting choice," co-producer Tony Adams told Playbill On-Line. Everybody's wondering how we're going pull this off, and that's exciting. Blake [Edwards] sees a comic aspect to her that hasn't really been explored yet, and she has a real perspective on herself, on her image, which she wants to have fun with. As she told Variety, `I'll just have to put my assets under wraps and later blossom out.'"
"We're proud of bringing legends back to Broadway, and Welch is our third," said Adams. "We consider it a service to Broadway. And just like with did with Liza, we'll take the show from top-to-bottom and see what has to be done." The actress will begin rehearsals in April.
Welch is best known as a film actress, from One Million Years B.C. and Myra Breckenridge. That film, critically drubbed in its time but highly influential in its style, featured Welch as the dream-vision of a young pre-op transvestite (played by theatre critic Rex Reed) -- essentially a man dreaming of a woman who's actually a man trying to seduce both men and women.
As for the rest of the Vic/Vic cast, Michael Nouri recently renewed his contract through September; Tony Roberts, like Andrews, ends his tenure May 31 but might renew; Rachel York's contract runs to April, and she's considering moving to L.A., but Adams said he's trying to get her to extend with the show in NY.
Victor/Victoria has produced more than its share of headlines even before opening in fall 1995. Julie Andrews returning to the Broadway stage was the theatrical equivalent of a Beatles reunion: something nearly everyone wanted, but never expected would happen. She reportedly agreed as a favor to her husband, director and librettist Blake Edwards. The musical is an adaptation of Edwards' film, in which Andrews also starred.
When the show failed to be nominated as Best Musical in 1996 -- indeed, no one from the show but Andrews was nominated for a Tony -- the star declined her nomination, saying she preferred to stand in solidarity with her "egregiously overlooked" castmates.
Andrews had several illnesses, including the removal of her gall bladder, which caused her to miss some performances. In January 1997 Liza Minnelli subbed for a vacationing Andrews, during which co-star Tony Roberts feuded -- and made up with -- Minnelli.
Andrews has become a fixture at New York theatre-related events (other than the Tonys), and her nightly audience appeals on behalf of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS made the show a juggernaut winner of fundraising prizes at BC/EFA events like the annual Gypsy of the Year Award and Easter Bonnet competition.
As recently as March 3, the show made headlines again at a New York political parody event in which Mayor Rudolph Giuliani appeared dressed as a woman. Andrews, dressed as a man, popped out to join him, and they joined in poking fun at the fact that while Andrews plays a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman, Giuliani is a "Republican pretending to be a Democrat pretending to be a Republican."
Through everything, Victor/Victoria has continued to get standing ovations at virtually every performance.
Coincidentally, Andrews' run in Victor/Victoria ends the same weekend as the 1997 Tony Awards, and it will interesting to see whether she and the awards use the occasion to bury the hatchet.
Andrews' original contract called upon her to stay with the show for a year. If the show hadn't turned a profit, she agreed to stay an additional six months, which expire in April. After that, she had the option to stay or go.
-- By Robert Viagas