ON THE AISLE -- July 1998
The minute the curtain falls on the final show of the season, Broadway goes into a month-long dance of nonstop brunches, lunches and award-giving that stops only when everything comes up Tony (and Rosie).
At this year's Drama Desk do, Joel Grey bid Willkommen to this year's Cabaret emcee -- in song: "That Alan Cumming/Is he great or what?/When I played the part/I never showed my -- " Bebe Neuwirth jumped in, just in time, with " -- but that's all we have time for." In the original Grey edition, the character existed only in song and was considered supporting (he has a Tony and an Oscar to that effect), but in this "revisal," the emcee has grown into a show all by himself -- enough to have given Brian Stokes Mitchell's magnificent Ragtime work a run for the awards.
Mitchell did nab the Drama League's prestigious Distinguished Performance Award at Julia Hansen's lavish Plaza feed, always the starriest of events, since the season's players are spread impressively across a two-tier dais!
What that affair is to actors, Theatre Development Fund's Astaire Award is to dancers; this year, it was (dare I say the word?) emceed by Mitchell. The Lion King's Garth Fagan and Ragtime's Graciela Daniele shared (sensibly) Best Choreography honors, and the Best Performance prize went collectively to the gypsies who sing, dance and play instruments in Cabaret's Kit Kat Klub band.
Being the only Drama Desk nominee for Best Book didn't make Ragtime's Terrence McNally rest any easier -- "What if they open the envelope and say, 'There is no winner'?" -- but he got his own star-stuffed luncheon salute from New Dramatists. Next honor coming Mitchell's way is Celebrity Chairman for the New York Blood Center on Friday, August 28, when -- from 8:30 AM to 1:45 PM -- a blood drive will be held at his regular Ragtime residence, the Ford Center for the Performing Arts (214 W. 43rd St.). Potential donors who are from 17 to 75 and in good health may make an appointment to participate by phoning 1-800-933-2566.
-- By Harry Haun