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@
The ink isn’t dry on this year’s Tony Awards yet Broadway, ever eager to close the books and blinders on this most dreadful of seasons, the worst in decades (14 theaters stand dark and everything was down, down, down except ticket prices), is already handicapping next season’s entries. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is already being spoken of in many corners as the musical to beat next season. Certainly the critics will fall all over it. However, many feel it may be just a little too sophisticated for wide Broadway appeal. Do you remember when you last saw a sophisticated Broadway audience? There is little doubt, too, about the early front runner for Best Actor in a Musical — even before he tries on his heels, everyone’s darling, Neil Patrick Harris, is the buzz of the second floor of Sardi’s now that he’s announced for Hedwig, of Angry Inch fame. The summer musicals First Date and the inane Soul Doctor have already been written off as unlikely to even see the leaves turn let alone last on the board all the way to next spring’s Tony race. And Bullets Over Broadway? It is still a mere glint in Woody Allen’s eye, though it booked the St. James for spring. A fall workshop will tell the tale.
Woody’s film glints have been known to turn into Oscar-winning classics, but his stagework has been less-than-spotty at best. Speaking of being spotty-ed, soon there will be Sting’s new musical The Last Ship — and hey, if Kathie Lee Gifford can write a musical, then Sting is Lerner, Loewe and Moss Hart in comparision, although that title has got to go. There’s also the upcoming season of “classic plays” you really never needed to see again (the wise will stock up now on No-Doze). Oh, and certainly we’ll have Herr Rocky Das Musical and that other big musical ape, King Kong, to gossip about. Yup, he’s a-comin’ and it’s a-comin’ and don’t you think for one minute that Godzilla and Carol Channing aren’t jealous not to be on “the boards.” (Those reports of Ms. Channing taking on Faye Wray’s old film role? Oh, that’s just Michael Riedel gossip!)
Meantime, Tom Hanks may have lost the Tony for Best Actor in a Play this year, but already there’s talk of him getting another Oscar nomination as Walt Disney for the new film Saving Mr. Banks — all about the making of Mary Poppins. Yes, from old Walt’s studio itself as their major Christmas release. Helmed by The Blind Side director John Lee Hancock, Banks is being touted by those who have seen the “sneaks” to be “sensational” — or maybe that other phrase that Poppins uses in the 1964 mega-smash movie. Equally stunning, we hear, is Emma Thompson as Poppins author P.L. Travers; the cast also includes Colin Farrell, Jason Schwartzman and Paul Giamatti. But the singular sensation is said to be Victoria Summer, who is playing Julie Andrews and is already being whispered about as the victor victorious in the supporting actress category for next year’s Oscar race. Can you imagine Summer winning an Oscar for playing Julie Andrews playing Mary Poppins — for which Andrews won an Oscar? (Whew!). Disney Theatricals already has an eye out to turn the whole thing into a big Broadway musical for 2016 at the New Amsterdam following next spring’s Aladdin.
Saving Mr. Banks opens nationally on Dec. 20, but Disney is already planning a reserved-seat run — at the New Amsterdam on Broadway, in fact, and at El Capitan in Hollywood. The ticket prices will resemble Broadway, too: you can expect $25 to $50 movie ticket prices and it doesn’t include popcorn. Presumably Disney will market it to the same folks who paid $477 to see Hanks on Broadway in Lucky Guy. The age of the hot movie hard ticket — not seen since The Sound of Music played for nearly two solid years at “advanced prices” 40 years ago — will be the Hollywood “comeback” buzz story of the year.
And now, before I bid you a summer adieu to hit the straw-hat trail (Everett Quinton in a new comedy is a must at Rockland County’s Penguin Rep this midsummer), here’s lots of year-end dirt that will flake like mud in the summer sun.
What hunk of stage and screen had the Broadway elite of both sexes parading back and forth and up and down the aisles of Radio City Music Hall during the Tony telecast like Ziegfeld Girls, all in an attempt to catch his eye? Alas, all for naught: said hunk only had eyes for his male friend sitting next to him — with whom he shares a Catskills weekend retreat outside of New Paltz. Trust me, the Music Hall men’s room was more alive than those hills with the sound of whispers when it was learned that said hunk is a “non- exclusive.” That’s the new term for not being solely gay or straight, by the way. After all, dear reader, metrosexual is so last century and “bi” went out with those musicals about dear Tallulah Bankhead. And when you look like said hunk and have everyone but the brats from Matilda throwing themselves at you, why not have “friends — and not in the usual sense of word,” as Norma Desmond once quipped about both sexes? The sexual energy around the hunk-and-friend was enough to revive poor old Arthur Laurents from his grave. And he knew sexual energy.
Remember that Tony upset in the acting category I told you about in my last column? It was none other than Tracy Letts as Best Actor in a Play over the aforementioned Hanks and Nathan Lane.
Now, three guesses which show the President, Mrs. Obama and daughters are seeing on Broadway in the next few weeks. No Daryl Roth, not Kinky Boots. No, Berry Gordy, not Motown. And no, no Diane Paulus, not Pippin (so do kindly throw that greeting speech you’ve already prepared away). Let’s just hope Pippin producers Barry and Fran Weissler don’t start some international crisis in some corner of the sky to prevent POTUS from attending a rival show. Never underestimate the power of the Weisslers. They defy not only the aging process but Act 2 of Pippin as well.
And Mayor Bloomberg? Take a hint, ok? That “special” Tony Award they gave you? It means you are supposed to go see a Broadway show on a regular basis, not just make Times Square safe for Tickle Me Elmo to hassle tourists. You don’t want Elizabeth Ashley trashing your next opening night — or do you?