CHAPLIN is a new musical about the exciting but not always happy life of the world’s most famous silent movie star. Rob McClure does a fantastic job in the title role, probably the first must-see performance of the new musical season.
An even darker new work is the Paul Rudd- Michael Shannon starrer GRACE, about a Minnesota couple who move south to Florida to open a chain of gospel-themed hotels. “Six Fee Under” scribe Craig Wright wrote GRACE, the season’s first new play, which also features Ed Asner, making two Cowtowners in the cast.
But save the best for last– though it came first (50 years ago). The new revival of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, courtesy of Chicago’s celebrated Steppenwolf Theatre Company, is a thing of beauty– if you can call married couple George and Martha trying to take each other apart beautiful. Tony Award winner Amy Morton, who was so amazing in AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY, is a measured, blistering, brilliant Martha. But the raw nerves Tracy Letts‘ exposes in George are the rich linch pins of this VIRGINIA WOOLF. Amazing that this gifted actor also wrote the aforementioned AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY, which is being made into a movie right now in Oklahoma, with Julia Roberts playing Ms Morton’s part.
We went to opening night, guests of VIRGINIA WOOLF producer and Rockhurst High and KU grad Steve Traxler. Among the admirers of the Edward Albee opus, Angela Lansbury was in the row in front of us; James Earl Jones was two rows down. “Saturday Night Live” star Rachel Dratch (she does wacky characters for her friend Tina Fey on “30 Rock”) was right behind us, next to Broadway star Kerry Butler. Saw Judd Hirsch at the after party. Even “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David showed up to applaud the eighty-five year old Albee, who took a curtain call with the cast, probably like he did half a century ago.
And if you’re a musical theater fan headed to NYC, check out the new Broadway night club 54 Below. It’s next to the old Studio 54, which was converted long ago from decadent dive to Broadway theater (THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD opens soon). The room looks and sounds great. We went to the Tuesday night open mic, which starts around 10:30. Pretty impressive group of performers show up, including a lot of Broadway chorus kids and Stars To Be (that night, we ran into Richard Kind from “Mad About You” and “Spin City”). There’s no cover or minimum at that late show, and the food was pretty good. They offer a pre-theater dinner, and a list of Broadway stars work the room nightly at 8:30; prices run around $60 plus $30 minimum for the headliners.