I’ll Have What She’s Having
The Clyde Fitch Report welcomes noted raconteur and dry wit Addison DeWitt to our ranks of contributors. One of the great theatre critics of this or any age, DeWitt was once lovingly called a “venomous fishwife” by the director Lloyd Richards. He is credited with catapulting Miss Eve Harrington to fame and fortune on stage and film, and for venerating Miss Margo Channing as the greatest star since Thespis stepped out of the chorus line.
Mr. DeWitt has graciously agreed to offer the Clyde Fitch Report his scribblings, anecdotes and blind items twice monthly. If you have any dish, dirt, schmutz or gossip, please email him at backstagewhispers@
“I’ll have what she’s having.”
That classic line from When Harry Met Sally is more often heard these days whispered over lunch at Orso’s and Michael’s between agents and director clients than at Katz’s Deli.
But it’s not what Meg Ryan had for lunch in the film they want — fake orgasms on Broadway happen every time you see someone’s new show. It is what Diane Paulus has: a big fat Broadway musical hit — Pippin — that will spew dollars into Paulus’ pocketbook, many feel, long after Kinky Boots and Matilda are sent packing to the warehouse. With a lower overhead than those two new, very expensive tuners, the relatively modest budget of the Pippin revival ensures that it will be a long-running cash-cow of gigantic proportions for all concerned, especially Paulus. And it doesn’t hurt that the critics have been falling all over her, heaping high praise.
Pippin looks almost certain to bring Paulus a Best Director Tony Award next week. The certain subsequent road companies and London production will further add a nice jingle to all her Broadway cash. The Tony win, which seemed wishful thinking among Paulus devotees only three or four months ago, will position her as a serious rival to Broadway’s Queen Bee, Susan Stroman, as the Numero Uno Director of Choice on every producer’s short list for their future musicals. The Paulus ascendancy to the Numero Dos spot behind Stroman will, in fact, mark the first time in the history of the American musical theatre that women drectors have ever held such lofty positions over their male peers. It has always been a male-dominated field since Thespis first stepped out of the chorus. “It’s like the Chelsea Gym letting in women, the end of an era,” lamented a Jersey-based male director at the bar at Joe Allen’s.
Perhaps. But the more interesting point isn’t the possible end of the boy “formerly of the chorus” director or his Brit-boy-wonder counterpoint. No, they’ll always be there — the wake of the wild success of Pippin is that it has spawned a mad copycat rush by every director, regardless of sex or musical theatre experience, to snap up their Pippin. The annals of Samuel French and Tams Witmark are being poured over like never before for the next potential “Director Concept-Driven Musical Revival”.
And we should be scared. The first of these has just been announced for next season. That doyenne of the once avant-garde theatre, Martha Clarke, will direct her “new” production of the Kurt Weill-Bertolt Brecht classic The Threepenny Opera at the Atlantic Theatre with a sure, obvious eye on Broadway. Can Richard Foreman’s concept of Hello Dolly! at the Public be far behind?
TONY UPSET: Yes, there will be one. In an acting category. And you can expect a rash of Smash jokes. After all, how can CBS not have some fun at NBC’s huge expense and the fact that half the audience at Radio City Music Hall was on the series. That should ensure some chuckles. And the broadcast should come in on time — Diane Paulus has had (you were tipped, dear reader, in my first January column) her speech ready since October. The ratings of Mad Men will not suffer.