Seat Filler: NYC Theater Guide for November 2009
BY Brandon Voss
November 16 2009 2:55 PM ET
First staged in Los Angeles in 2006, Carrie Fisher’s candid one-woman show Wishful Drinking brings its star back to Broadway’s Studio 54 through January 17. But this time she’s not doing drugs in the former disco’s basement; now barefoot and wearing pajamas, she’s spilling the tea on her bipolar disorder and family drama (her folks are Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher) that requires a photo-illustrated chart titled “Hollywood Inbreeding 101.” As warm as a wacky, wisecracking aunt, Fisher also pays homage to her Pez dispenser-friendly Princess Leia past and addresses ex-hubby Bryan Lourd’s accusation she turned him gay. And after tossing confetti onto the audience like Rip Taylor and doling out drink tickets, she even answered our questions about R. Gregory Stevens, the gay Republican who died of an overdose in her bed in 2005.
John Stamos came clean about his 2007 drunken Australian TV appearance in a recent Advocate.com interview to promote Bye Bye Birdie, so at least something good has come out of the show that calls Henry Miller’s Theatre home through April 25. Stamos and gay icon Gina Gershon aren’t great singers, but I hoped their comic charms would make BBB soar; too bad their low energy and lack of chemistry as Albert and Rosie turn Broadway’s first revival of the 1960 musical into a candy-colored dud. Out director Robert Longbottom’s vision favors realism over camp, but Bill Irwin’s freakishly mugging Mr. MacAfee probably has Paul Lynde twirling in his grave. I did like Nolan Gerard Funk’s Birdie (particularly his scene wearing beer-soaked briefs) and Spring Awakening alum Matt Doyle, who plays Eric’s boyfriend on Gossip Girl, as Hugo.
Rich in one-liners, The Royal Family ends its reign at Broadway’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre December 13, but you should get there soon, before the scenery’s been completely chewed and digested by the delicious cast. George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber’s farcical comedy, which was inspired by the Barrymore dynasty and debuted in 1927, spotlights the fictional Cavendish acting clan in their ornate Manhattan home. As the grande dame matriarch and a daughter prone to throwing herself on the ground in animated despair, Rosemary Harris and Jan Maxwell will surely be toasted by Tony nods. Solid support comes courtesy of celebrated out actors like Love! Valour! Compassion!’s John Glover and gender-bending downtown denizen David Greenspan, but SNL alum Ana Gasteyer seems out of her league as a brassy rival actress.
The first Broadway revival of Brighton Beach Memoirs, Neil Simon’s autobiographical 1983 Jewish family comedy, opened October 25 at the Nederlander Theatre to fine reviews. Then it closed November 1 after only nine performances, which also squelched upcoming plans to run Simon’s Broadway Bound in repertory. Chicago-based director David Cromer staged the jokey Depression-era coming-of-age tale with unexpected subtlety and pathos, but maybe paying audiences wanted more stars and spectacle. Though the production did lack a “wow” factor, the performances were remarkably poignant, particularly those of Roseanne’s Laurie Metcalf and Jessica Hecht, best known as Ross’s ex-wife’s lesbian lover on Friends. Here’s hoping Simon saves face with next spring’s Promises, Promises revival starring Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth.
A brisk original musical with an ass-busting cast, Memphis deserves a long, soulful life at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre. Charismatic Chad Kimball, who played gay in the L.A. production of Little Fish, makes a splash here as colorblind Huey, a fictional white DJ in the ’50s pushing to get “race records” on the radio. Later, Huey hosts a corny TV dance show and argues with the talented black singer he can’t love publicly. Uh, so if you liked Hairspray, Dreamgirls, and the landmark civil rights case of Loving v. Virginia, you won’t mind Memphis — how’s that for a marquee quote? At least the songs by Bon Jovi’s David Bryan are rousing, and the racial struggles are easily connected to today’s marriage equality movement thanks to out book writer Joe DiPietro, who does his best to sober up his style following fluff like Fucking Men.