UPDATED with more information throughout: The Broadway star who turned Stephen Sondheim’s song of survival “I’m Still Here” into a personal anthem of triumph over booze, diabetes, unfaithful lovers, indifferent producers, demanding directors, fawning fans and long stretches of unemployment before achieving the status of Living Legend in her later decades, died Thursday in Birmingham, MI, the Detroit suburb to which she decamped a year ago after living the fabulous life for years at Madison Avenue’s Hotel Carlyle. She was 89. Broadway dimmed its lights for one minute on Friday at 7:45 PM in tribute.
Stritch may have found the widest audience of her storied career playing Alec Baldwin’s sharp-tongued mother on the NBC comedy 30 Rock. She was also a sometime favorite of Woody Allen, having appeared in the films Small Time Crooks and September.
But Stritch was first and foremost a creature of the stage, playing large roles and small and always, essentially, Elaine Stritch. Slight and charismatic, she proffered a mezzo soprano that, in youth, had a hungering quality one can hear in “I Never Know When,” from 1958′s Goldilocks – an otherwise forgotten musical by Jean and Walter Kerr, with songs by Leroy Anderson, Joan Ford and the Kerrs — in which Stritch starred with Don Ameche and Russell Nype. Later, that voice would become as distinctive as Tom Waits’, invariably described as sandpaper soaked in whisky or some variation of the two. Still, it never lost that sense of urgency, and the two qualities combined to distinguished Stritch from the other Broadway divas of an era long enough to encompass Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Carol Channing, Angela Lansbury and Bernadette Peters. Read More »
Mary Rodgers Guettel, who followed gently in the footsteps of her famous father, Richard Rodgers, when she helped turn the Hans Christian Andersen tale of The Princess And The Pea into the musical that launched Carol Burnett’s career, died Thursday of heart failure in New York. She was 83.
In addition to Once Upon A Mattress, Rodgers also earned fame as the author of Freaky Friday, a young readers’ novel in which a teen switches bodies with her mother. Rodgers adapted the 1972 book for the 1976 film starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster. It was remade for TV in 1995 with Shelley Long and Gaby Hoffman starring and again as a 2003 feature film with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan. Read More »
As reported here two weeks ago, a major revival is in the works for next spring on Broadway: the Stephen Sondheim-Burt Shevelove-Larry Gelbart 1963 romp A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Plans are for the show to star James Corden — who won a 2012 Tony for his indefatigable, hilarious performance in One Man, Two Guvnors – in the role of Pseudolus created by Zero Mostel (who also starred in the 1966 film) and played in subsequent revivals by Phil Silvers and, most recently, Nathan Lane in 1996. Production will be directed by sizzling youngster Alex Timbers (Here Lies Love, Rocky), though deals are incomplete. The veteran producing trio is Emanuel Azenberg, Jill Furman and Roy Furman. Show marked Sondheim’s debut as composer and lyricist, following his work as lyricist on West Side Story (music: Leonard Bernstein) and Gypsy (music: Jule Styne). A Funny Thing Happened is a heady, punny riff on the comedies of Plautus in which the slave Pseudolus yearns for freedom and strikes a deal with his lovestruck master to earn it. The show famously was rescued from early, bewildered audiences who didn’t know what to make of it until Sondheim penned a new opener, “Comedy Tonight,” preparing them for the general lunacy that followed.
Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep filming together and singing. Who can resist? Not Disney any longer. It’s taken 16 months to get off the ground — ever since January 2012, when the studio sent out a press release announcing Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine) would be directing Stephen Sondheim’s iconic 1987 Broadway musical Into The Woods as a feature film for Disney. A table read was held in NYC this past October featuring Donna Murphy, Megan Hilty, Christine Baranski, Allison Janney and quite a few other Broadway stars. Buzz of Streep’s interest first surfaced last summer and this past week Marshall confirmed in an interview to Playbill that she was “in” to the play the witch. Today Variety reported Depp’s interest. Now I’ve confirmed that Johnny and Meryl “almost have their deals wrapped up for the film,” according to sources. Marshall directed 2011’s Pirates Of The Caribbean 4 (which might have been more palatable as a musical because it stunk as the franchise’s fourquel) so he’s already Mouse friendly. The original musical with music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by James Lapine is about a childless baker and his wife who attempt to lift a family curse by journeying into the woods to confront the witch that put the spell on them. Along the way, they encounter classic fairy tale characters. Depp previously starred in the DreamWorks … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald have acquired film rights to Other Desert Cities, the Jon Robin Baitz stage play. Parkes/MacDonald used the development fund it launched with Imagenation Abu Dhabi to make the deal. Baitz will write the script and will co-produce, with Parkes and MacDonald producing. They haven’t yet involved a studio.
The play opened on Broadway at the Booth Theatre this month after a run last season at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre. In the play, Stacy Keach and Stockard Channing play an old Hollywood couple who’d once counted Ronald and Nancy Reagan as close friends. Their retirement to Palm Springs is upended by continuing friction with their kids, a reality TV producer and a novelist daughter who has gotten past her writer’s block by writing a tell-all memoir that bares family secrets.
Parkes and MacDonald produced the screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sweeney Todd, and they adapted Catch Me If You Can, for the stage (they produced the film). They are currently in production on the Robert Zemeckis-directed Flight starring Denzel Washington, and they are in post-production on Men In Black 3D, which Sony releases May 25, 2012.
Arthur Laurents, one of the great Broadway writers and directors and best known for West Side Story, Gypsy and the film The Way We Were, has passed away. He was 93 and died in his sleep. Despite his age, he most recently was involved in making a deal with Universal and producer Joel Silver for a movie adaptation of Gypsy, with Barbra Streisand starring in her dream role. Laurents wrote the book, and Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics. We will provide more information as it comes in.
New York Post’s theater columnist Michael Riedel broke a story this morning about Barbra Streisand’s formative plans to star in and direct a screen adaptation of the musical Gypsy. The New York Times’ rival theater guy Patrick Healy has confirmed his report, and expanded it. He says Streisand won’t direct, only star in the arrangement she has reached with Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents. The rights are with Warner Bros, which made the original film, and NYT asserts Joel Silver will be the producer.