Good Molly, Miss Golly!

My dream of the dance hall girl with the heart of gold crumbled last night.

I went San Jose to see the touring production of Sweet Charity based on last year’s Broadway revival. I was excited to see star Molly Ringwald (“Oh, look, Fred! She’s got her boobies!” — Sixteen Candles), but what really excited me was seeing the musical live on stage for the first time.

Before last night I had only ever seen the mostly terrible Bob Fosse-directed movie version starring Shirley MacLaine (love you, Shirley, but the movie’s a clunker). I know the original cast album with Gwen Verdon well enough to know that the Cy Coleman-Carolyn Leigh score has some real treasures, “Big Spender,” “If My Friends Could See Me Now,” “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” and “Baby, Dream Your Dream” among them.

But what I didn’t know is that Sweet Charity is just not a very good show. The source material, Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria starring the incomparable Giulietta Masina, is so good that even a wan copy could still pack some punch. Well, not in Neil Simon’s surprisingly weak and unfunny adaptation.

And the score has some real duds. I mean, come on people, “You Should See Yourself,” “Charity’s Soliloquy,” “Too Many Tomorrows,” “I’m the Bravest Individual,” “Sweet Charity” (much better in another form as “You Wanna Bet”), “I’m a Brass Band” and “I Love to Cry at Weddings” are lame. I didn’t mention “The Rhythm of Life” because that deserves special condemnation all its own. That is a TERRIBLE song and a terrible scene. I vote to strike it from the record.

As for Miss Molly, she’s adorable and a real trouper, but she doesn’t have that special Broadway something. The role of Charity requires some real dazzle, and Molly’s sweet, but in a girl-next-door kind of way, which may be more effective on screen than on stage.

Fun, laughs, good times? Well, almost.

P.S. Anybody up for Breakfast Club: The Musical?

That Girl!

Get out your kites, kids. Marlo Thomas is coming to San Francisco.

Yes, erstwhile Ann Marie, TV’s first (semi) liberated lady with the keenest fashion sense in all Manhattan is coming to the Magic Theatre.

What’s even better is that Thomas headlines an already exciting show: Moving Right Along is a collection of three short plays by Elaine May and Jan Mirochek and directed by May and her daughter, Jeannie Berlin.

Even though May’s brilliant partnership with Mike Nichols on their Nichols and May comedy team ended decades ago, their work together remains some of the freshest and funniest comedy ever recorded. If you don’t know their routines, go out and and find anything you can get your hands on (you can start here). Of May’s bumpy movie career, we’ll commend her writer/director efforts on The Heartbreak Kid and A New Leaf and not even mention Ishtar. May was also fantastic as an actor in Woody Allen’s Small Time Crooks.

May’s distinctive voice should be a good match for Thomas (Mrs. Phil Donahue, in case you forgot), who was terrific in the national tour of Six Degrees of Separation. The two are old friends, and if audiences are really good, maybe Thomas will perform something from Free to Be…You and Me after the curtain call.

Moving Right Along opens in October. Visit the Magic’s Web site here.

Oh, Marty!

I wasn’t sure I was going to write about this. I thought perhaps it was too self-aggrandizing.
But this is the blogosphere, right? Anything goes.

So let me tell you about the best thing that happened to me this summer: getting my name dropped by Matt Lauer and Martin Short on the Today show at the end of July.

Short was on plugging his new Broadway show, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, which, as you all know, had its world premiere in San Francisco.

You can watch the clip here. My part comes in at around 1:50 in case you want to fast forward (you folks on Apples probably won’t be able to view the clip – sorry).

In case you don’t want to (or can’t) watch the clip, here’s a transcript:

Matt Lauer: Can I brag on you a little bit? You’ve been doing the show in other cities, and the reviews have been fantastic. Of course these are the reviews that you’ve handed me…

Martin Short: …And changed.

Matt Lauer: Yeah, exactly. [reading] “Martin Short’s new Broadway-bound show is goofy, silly, crass and crude. In other words, it is comedy heaven.” We just want to give a shout out to the writer, Chad Jones of the Oakland Tribune for that one.

Martin Short: I love Chad!

The bit goes on, but after that, who needs to hear the rest of it?

One of the great things to come out of the experience was that a nice man from Holland-America cruises saw the show and contacted me about lecturing on cruise ships. So if any of your are cruising to Hawaii in February, guess who will be on board talking about the current Broadway season, movie musicals since 1980 (viva Grease 2!) and other theatrical topics?

Ahoy and aloha.

Everything’s Coming up Rosie!

Watched Rosie O’Donnell’s first week on The View (thank you TiVo, you’re the best spouse anyone could ask for), and I have to say this: I missed her a lot.

I missed the brashness. I missed the in-your-face jokes. I even missed the discussion of her kids. I adore Ellen DeGeneres, but these days I’m enjoying Rosie and company (Barbara Walters, Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck are fine, but it’s really Rosie’s show now — in this photo it looks like Walters is pulling out one of O’Donnell’s infamous chin hairs).

Rosie on

At the end of the week, Rosie wished to express some disappointment that four whole shows had gone by and they hadn’t done anything Broadway. Then she proceeded to give the audience tickets to The Wedding Singer. OK, so it’s not exactly a great give-away, but it’s a national plug for a Broadway musical. Go, Rosie!

And I’m sure we can count on Ms. O’Donnell to liven up The View with more Broadway stars and performances.

You’ve probably heard of Rosie’s blog (Walters was supposedly miffed by it, but they squashed those rumors last week). If you haven’t read it, you should check it out. It’s a stream-of-consciousness flow of thoughts that reads sort of like poetry. Sample it here.

Loving Lily

Today (Sept. 1) is Lily Tomlin’s 67th birthday, so let’s all take a moment to appreciate her genius.

Most recently, Tomlin was a marvel in A Prairie Home Companion, my favorite movie of the summer. Watching Tomlin and Meryl Streep play
singing sisters is such an enormous pleasure. Their first number, “My Mississippi Home,” is so fun you don’t want it to end (and Tomlin’s bass harmonies are not too shabby). But their second duet, “Goodbye to My Mama,” will cleft your heart in twain.

Five years ago, Tomlin was in San Francisco with her extraordinary one-woman show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. The opening came very shortly after the events of Sept. 11, and The Search was like a spiritual balm. Connecting to Tomlin’s universe (and to that of her partner/writer/director, the elusive, equally brilliant Jane Wagner), was exactly what we needed.

Shortly after my review of the show ran, I heard from some friends that Tomlin had been on a morning radio show (I think it was KFOG – at least I hope it was KFOG, the only morning radio crew I can stomach) and she had read pretty much my entire review on the air. I was kind of knocked out by that because Tomlin has been a hero of mine for as long as I can remember (I may be the only fan of The Incredible Shrinking Woman)

Long story short: I did the very un-professional thing and went back to see the show, hung around afterward and met Tomlin. I introduced myself, and her first words to me were astonishing: “Oh, I’m so glad I didn’t know you were in the audience. I’d have been so nervous!” Maybe she says that to everyone, but it sure made me feel important.

Then, when she signed my program (yes, I’m a complete fan/nerd – I even had a picture taken), she wrote, “Thanks for being such a good writer.”

For me, that was better than winning the Pulitzer.

One more thing about that meeting: when she hugged me, I couldn’t help noticing that she smelled extraordinarily good.

So Lily, if you’re reading (and of course she’s reading — isn’t everyone?), happy birthday. Thanks for all the work through all the years. There’s still a whole lot more to come. And please, PLEASE come back to the Bay Area soon.

Rated P.G.

Last week, the theater Web sites ran the announcement that one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Patty Griffin,

Patty Griffin
will premeire a musical next spring at the Atlantic Theater Company. The musical, still untitled, is about a couple named Duane and Molly, who are taking a roadtrip from Florida to New York in a beat-up old Chevy truck.

Griffin, whose songs have been recorded by the Dixie Chicks, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Bette Midler among others, is an incredible storyteller. My guess is that her musical won’t be of the traditional Broadway variety, but it will be deeply felt and rooted in folk rock.

If you haven’t been properly introduced to Griffin, I recommend you listen to the following masterful examples of storytelling in song:

    “Let Him Fly” from “Living with Ghosts”
    “Mary” and “Tony” from “Flaming Red”
    “Making Pies” and “Chief” from “1000 Kisses”
    “Mother of God” and “When It Don’t Come Easy” from “Impossible Dream”

Griffin’s official Web site just got a spiffy make-over. Check it out, and keep your eye on Broadway.