The Siegel Column – The Theatrical Elite
By Barbara & Scott Siegel
Theatrical Elite: Patti LuPone, Christine Ebersole, John Leguizamo, Harvey Fierstein, Kevin Kline…They’re Back!
As we head toward the end of the 2016-17 theater season, never quite knowing if the waterfall of openings both on and Off Broadway will pool into a reservoir of long-running quality productions or a flash flood that leaves a trail of wreckage behind, there is one thing that all of us can cling to in the fast-rushing theatrical waters: the reliable brilliance of our greatest stars.
Consider the fact that theater-goers form a bond with their stars over the decades; we’ve seen them on stage (and often on TV and in the movies) and develop a genuine affection for certain actors based, in large part, on their consistent ability to entertain us.
For quite some time now, producers (Disney and others) have been creating shows without “name” leads so that the shows, themselves, are the stars. In that way, when the original leads leave they are easily replaced without losing box office. The long-term effect of this kind of approach, however, is that fewer stars are being created/groomed/developed to carry future productions.
Right now on New York’s great stages, though, we can still see the bountiful fruit of an earlier Broadway that gave us our stars.
Let’s start with Patti LuPone & Christine Ebersole in War Paint, a brilliantly conceived vehicle, if only a moderately conceived book, that pits these two giants of the musical theater against one another in a splendid display of star power. Unlike Sunset Blvd., in which Glenn Close returns to her Tony Award Winning role, Patti & Christine can still sing without any apparent diminishment of their powers – but with age, they add the iconic dimension of their accumulated accomplishments. It is simply thrilling to hear them sing both individually, and especially when they sing together.
This is one new musical, like The Boy From Oz, that will not brook any substitutions. They will surely close up shop if either or both of these two stars do not renew their contracts; there are no two stars that come to mind who could possibly replace them. If that’s a long-term downside for the show’s producers, it is also the ultimate upside because no self-respecting lover of musical theater would ever want to miss this.
Downtown you can see Harvey Fierstein in what may very well be the greatest performance of his career in Gently Down the Stream. Also at the Public, John Leguizamo – the one truly magnificent and long-time purveyer of the one-person show – is back on the boards with his powerful Latin History For Morons. And back uptown, how wonderful that Kevin Kline, long absent from the stage, has returned to The Great White Way in the Broadway revival of Present Laughter.
What all of these great stars of the theater have in common is that they are, in fact, great stars of the theater. Welcome home!