CAMP Show Queen
|by Kenn Harris|
Here are some tales of some seriously antisocial behavior in the theatre. Can you identify those responsible?
By the way, it has been brought to my attention that I committed two goofs in a Tony answers (from issue 8). Of course, Tyne Daly won a Tony for her performance of Rose in Gypsy, and this year, Patty Lupone won for her Rose. So, I'm at your mercy. I stand before you warbling "The Gentleman is a Dope!"
On to the Scandals...
1. There was a revival of a favorite musical with a world class leading man and a not very accomplished leading lady. Days before the opening, the young lady gave a newspaper interview excoriating her well-liked leading man. Needless to say, all chemistry between the two actors evaporated. Their romantic scenes were deadly, and even the curtain call was funereal. The lady was replaced. Name the show and the warring pair.
2. When his leading lady was hospitalized, a producer was forced to let an unknown understudy take over the lead, temporarily. Not wanting to lose a single ticket sale, the producer announced that the standby was better than the original star. The theatrical world clucked and hooted. But all performances with the understudy sold out.
The understudy, against all odds, really was good and carved out a long career for herself. The star, who returned to the show, has done nothing much of significance since except for some salad dressing commercials.
What was the show, who was the star, who was the understudy, and who was the Barnum-like producer?
3. A kind and generous woman, sympathetic to gay causes, this lady has had a substance abuse problem for years. While still quite young, she starred in a Broadway show built entirely around her talents. She apparently took so many drugs before performances that she frequently couldn't leave her dressing room or collapsed onstage. Many performances were cancelled but she limped through the production. Talented as she is, it's a wonder that she ever worked again. Several years later, our star appeared in a major musical but missed so many performances, allegedly for the same reasons, that the producers were forced to let her go. The show was forced to close prematurely.
Name the first musical. A scandal of sorts ensued because the lady was lip-synching one strenuous dance number. Name the song.
4. It was bad enough that the greatest musical star of all was trapped in a drippy musical that no one liked, but her leading man behaved like a swine toward her. They didn't ever look directly at one another during the show, but worse, a great big kiss on the lips had to be planted by the leading lady on her jerky costar at the climax of the show. He used to wipe his mouth off ostentatiously. Not exactly a mutual admiration society. The show actually ran a year and made money. Identify the show, its leading lady, and her boorish costar.
5. In the summer of 1988, an extremely highly regarded Broadway character men (A Man for All Seasons, My Fair Lady, and many more great shows on his resume) took his yearly vacation in the Dominican Republic where he owned a villa and had an "adopted son." The lad and the star began to quarrel. The youth was jealous of a 14 year old boy also living at the villa. One night, the "son," his natural father and two other men dragged the actor out to a field where they beat him to death with clubs.
Who was the doomed star? Can you name three Broadway musicals he was involved in, besides playing Doolittle in My Fair Lady to great acclaim?
6. Mouths wagged at Sardi's when rumors became endemic that the star of a new musical, beloved for his charm, was forsaking his wife of many years, preferring to be in the arms of his onstage vis-a-vis known as the queen of the Stockholm musical stage. At each performance, the couple got to take a synthesized hot air balloon ride, while singing the show's one semi-hit song.
The play ran through the season, and by closing night, the grand passion had cooled, and the ants-in-pants star went home to his wife, living happily after.
Name the actor, the mistress, the show, and the stars' big duet. Who actually wrote that song, uncredited?
7. One of the most glamorous and difficult stars of Broadway and Hollywood, not to mention the West End, agreed to do a Broadway musical in which she would play a Russian migr countess pretending to be a maid in Paris. Her leading man was a dreamboat. She sang in a deep bass voice and even danced the Charleston (Find on You Tube). For six months, all was well. Then, unhappily, the lady's notorious bipolar condition reappeared and she began to behave bizarrely during performances.
At a matinee, the lady became hysterical and began to kick her handsome, charming leading man in his "beef stroganoff." Through his pain, the fellow tried to be brave saying "Oh, my dear, I know you are sorry about our losing the Revolution, but please. Someone had to pull Madame off Monsieur! Later, she hid out in the theatre and started breaking all the glasses in her co-stars dressing room. The producers made the necessary arrangements to have their once-great star sedated into a coma and flown home to England in great secrecy.
The show limped along. At first the star was replaced by her understudy who received less attention for her acting ability than for being the sister of a great, but at the time, politically suspect playwright. Soon a blonde glamour girl from Holllywood by way of Budapest joined the show, but business dropped off painfully and the show, for which I have great affection, closed.
OK. Name the show, the star, the leading man, the hapless understudy who had a nice career later on), the star replacement and...the name of the Charleston the star performed.
The show was Camelot, Richard Harris' Arthur was wounded yet another time by his Guinivere, Mary D'Arcy. What ever happened to her?
Carnival! was the show; Anna Maria Alberghetti was doomed to commercials and Anita Gillette became a star...and (surprise, surprise) Mrs. Merrick's little boy David was the producer.
Alas, it was our own Liza Minelli, the show was The Act, and the song she lip-synched was "Arthur In the Afternoon."
Happy Hunting starred Ethel Merman and Fernando Lamas (aka Mr. Arlene Dahl). The Merm was coaxed back to Broadway a few years later for Gypsy but, to my knowledge Lamas never worked the legitimate theatre in New York again.
Poor George Rose. He starred in Peter Pan, The Pirates Of Penzance, and The Mystery Of Edwin Drood.
Robert Preston (The Music Man) was the cad, Ulla Sallert, the leading lady and Ben Franklin In Paris, the show. They sang "To Be Alone with You" by Jerry Herman. Preston also had an unforgettable number called "God Bless the Human Elbow." God bless the human gag reflex!
Tovarich, Vivien Leigh, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Joan Copeland, sister of Arthur Miller, Eva Gabor, the song was "Wilkes-Barre, PA" (Don't ask!)
Kenn Harris is a NYC theatre and music critic, and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 10 July 25, 2008