STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: August Observations

News   STAGESTRUCK by Peter Filichia: August Observations
All right, before the new season starts, and the usual number of revivals start production, may we learn a lesson that Major League Baseball picked up some years ago?

All right, before the new season starts, and the usual number of revivals start production, may we learn a lesson that Major League Baseball picked up some years ago?

Back in the 70s, when most cities felt they needed new stadiums, they built ultra-modern, cookie-cutter circular monstrosities with little charm or architectural significance. Indeed, Riverfront in Cincinnati and Three River in Pittsburgh are virtually identical. That's the way baseball built until the '90s, when the powers-that-be in Baltimore wisely decided that the best ballpark was a new ballpark that looked like a charming old one, complete with asymmetrical walls and odd angles.

So was built Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which opened to raves. Ever since, cities building new stadiums with new materials, of course, but with a distinct attempt to mirror the old world parks.

So (bear with me -- I'm just about ready to make my point), would it spoil some vast eternal plan if this year's revivals just made new sets, new costumes, new lighting designs -- and kept the shows just the way they were way back when they were wonderful?

That's just one of the questions I'd like to ask this morning. Some others: * Do you think that Catherine Sloper of The Heiress knew how to do the Washington Square Dance? * Have you ever called Ticketmaster for tickets to Titanic? For one thing, the female voice doing the talking pronounces the theater as the Lunt-Fontaine. No, it's Fontanne. But the real kick is that she tells us that the show is "by nine-time Tony-winner Maury Yeston. I think what she means is that he won it for "Nine". The irony is that a nine-time Tony-winner was for a while mentioned for Titanic -- Tommy Tune, who might well now wish that he'd done it.

* If each summer Lincoln Center can hold a Mostly Mozart festival for classical music buffs, can't it also hold a similar type of celebration for the stagestruck -- maybe Mostly Maltby?

* Do you know who's running for the 5th Congressional District in Massachusetts? A guy whose first name is Rick -- which is fine -- but whose last name is Scapin. Could any Bay Stater who knows Moliere's irrepressible and not-quite-honest scalawag ever vote for a guy named Scapin?

* Have you heard what the next attraction at Rainbow & Stars will be? An Evening with James Beard, described as "a theatrical presentation with dinner saluting the Dean of American Cookery." Yeah? Sounds like dinner theater to me. Beard, by the way, once wrote a book called Beard on Pasta. Every time I see that title, all I can think is, "Throw it out!"

* Did you ever wonder how Ed Sullivan felt when he saw Bye Bye Birdie and heard a hymn to him? Michael David Harris tells us in his book, Always on Sunday, in which he quotes Sullivan after the opening: "Sylvia (his wife) and I sat there with all our friends staring at us. I only wanted the floor to open up and swallow us both." Now you know!

* Do you think Lancelot is exercising a strange kind of escape clause when he says that he wouldn't leave Guenevere "no, not in springtime, summer winter or fall"? After all, Arthur's already established that in Camelot, "winter exits March the second on the dot." Does that give Lancelot a 19-day window of opportunity in which he can dump Guenevere?

* If you that's stretching it, how will you feel about this real stretch? But here goes: With Footloose and On the Town opening soon, can we say that Broadway will soon be footloose and fancy free?

* Did you know that Dorothy and Jack Fields wrote South Pacific? No, you say, Dorothy wrote with Herbert, and of course it was Hammerstein and Logan who wrote the book to South Pacific. But back in 1972, Dorothy and Jack Fields indeed saw their South Pacific published. It was a travel book.

* Would you have ever imagined that one of our most distinguished playwrights would be a punch line for a Henny Youngman joke? But the Take-My-Wife-Please comedian liked to say, in the late '50s, "My wife looks this close to Marilyn Monroe. She looks like Arthur Miller."

* Do you realize that if you'd bought tickets for Milk and Honey, Hello Dolly, Mame, Dear World, and Mack & Mabel -- in other words, Jerry Herman's first five Broadway musicals -- you wouldn't have spent as much as you would have for a ticket to the three-person (with one bassist), sparse-set, little-costumed An Evening with Jerry Herman?

* And finally, have you seen Victoria Jackson and Mike Harris' new book, Dates from Hell? The two have collected 151 stories of horrible first dates -- one woman was picked up in a two-ton truck, which she had to drive when her date became inebriated; one man had his date leave him with her two young children, and not come back for hours. But here's the thing: Not one of the 151 stories involved a couple's going to the theater. Well, no wonder they were all doomed to failure! (And oh, one other thing: The book is subtitled "And a Few Moments Made in Heaven," because it lists four success stories in which first dates led to happy marriages. And guess where one of these couples went on their first date? Why, to the theater, of course.

-- Peter Filichia is the New Jersey theater critic for the Star-Ledger.
You can e-mail him at

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