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  • The dog days of summer are really beating down on us! Just a couple more days. Here are suggestions for beating the summertime blahs. What could be better than the new edition of Forbidden Broadway? Or lip-syncing from a genius of the art? Or a high priestess of theater in a big screen chiller thriller and news of her upcoming return to the stage? Hummmm. Not enough? How about the find of a "lost" demo of a failed Broadway musical and a hard to find soundtrack coming to CD?

    Gerard Alessandrini doesn't mind turning up the heat even in a hot, humid summer. His new edition of Forbidden Broadway, Summer Shock! is in a shake-down cruise to ready for a gala Fall opening. The Douglas Fairbanks Theatre [432 West 42nd Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues] may be air-conditioned, but Alessandrini will have stars and producers sweating with his spoofs of Wicked, Assassins, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Avenue Q, and Hairspray. No one is spared, not even Aussies Hugh and Nicole or sweet Tony-winning Idina - not even the Tonys! Is there no end to his cruelty? Let's hope not.

    David Benoit, Valerie Fagan, Jennifer Simard and Michael West with David Caldwell commanding a full orchestra on his piano. Forbidden Broadway, Summer Shock! will segue into a long run in mid-September. Alessandrini's unstoppable parody revue of Broadways's best and worst has been on the boards since 1982, and won numerous awards including the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Obie.

    For tickets and information: TeleCharge, (212) 239-6200. Visit www.forbiddenbroadway.com.

    Lypsinka has returned, paying ab fab tribute to La Crawford in, get this, The Passion Of the Crawford. It runs three nights only, August 4, 5 and 6 [7:30pm; Show, 135 West 41 Street, between Broadway and Avenue of the Americas]. Subtitled A Tribute to Joan Crawford [let's hope it has a lot less brutality -- no floggings with wire coat hangers!], it's inspired by an actual early 70s event at Town Hall where, with turn away mobs banging at the doors, the late publicist John Springer interviewed the legendary screen goddess.

    It was one of her last public appearances. [She did occasionally pop into Gough's, the hangout of NYTimes staffers on 43rd Street, for a Pepsi to reminisce about her hoofer days on The Old 42nd Street.] The interview got quite intimate when Joanie discussed her love life - and made a graphic reference to former co-star Clark Gable, who had evidently come over for more than a soft drink.

    Lypsinka is known to pull out all the stops. So except her to go full throttle performing the entire interview with Tony and Drama Desk-winning Scott Wittman [lyricist, Hairspray] in Springer's seat.

    The tall, slinky, internationally renowned drag superstar is in real life tall, slinky John Epperson, originally from sleepy southwest Mississippi. He came to the big city to make his mark and quickly graduated from rehearsal pianist to lip-syncing a couple of songs. His repertory expanded to entire albums of countless divas. Last month, he expanded his horizons in D.C. with an autobiographical revue [yes, he sings, too!]. He says his Crawford tribute is his gift to her on what would be her 100th birthday.

    Comic actor Steve Hayes will open, performing famous lines from Crawford films. Presented by TWEED TheaterWorks. For tickets and information, call SmartTix, (212) 868-4444. Visit www.lypsinka.com and www. tweedtheater.org.

    She's back and Night's got her! The she is Cherry Jones, who's featured in M. Night Shyamalan's much-anticipated The Village, which opens tomorrow [July 30]. The diabolical thriller stars Joaquin Phoenix, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Academy Award-winner Adrien Brody and Bryce Dallas Howard [daughter of Ron Howard] with respected theater actress Jayne Atkinson [Enchanted April, the Our Town revival, Roundabout's 1999 The Rainmaker, NYSF's 1997 Henry VIII] featured.

    [Fans of Grammy-winning, renowned classical violinst Hillary Hahn will be pleased to know she's prominently featured on the film's atmospheric James Newton Howard score, his fourth for Shyamalan and available on Hollywood Records. Her eagerly awaited Elgar Violin Concerto is due in September from Deutsche Grammophon.]

    The good news is, come November, Jones, so respected by the time of her Tony for The Heiress that she was dubbed "the high priestess of New York theater," returns to the boards at Manhattan Theatre Company's Off Broadway Stage II [City Center] in John Patrick Shanley's Doubts, as mid-60s nun and junior high principal who suspects a well-like priest of funny business. It happens that Sister Aloysius, before running her fiefdom like a prison, was married and widowed. Doug Hughes is directing. The play had a reading last weekend as part of New York Stage and Film's season at Vassar.

    Shanley, in addition to his theater work, wrote the screenplay for Moonstruck, now being developed into a Broadway musical.

    Sister Aloysius is not the only nun in Jones' life. During the last six months, while Hollywooding it [guesting on The West Wing], she's cast in a recurring role in Clubhouse, the CBS/Mel Gibson coming-of-age Fall drama about a teen working in pro baseball. Mare Winningham and Jeremy Sumpter star.

    Later this year, Jones is back on the big screen, featured in Julia Tyler's Swimmers, staring TV actress Sarah Paulson.

    Obie Award-winning Kathleen Chalfant of Wit and Angels in America fame repeats her role and will be joined by two-time Tony nominee Penny Fuller [Applause!, The Dinner Party] at MTC's Stage II [City Center] beginning October 19th [for two months] in Four By Tenn, the discovered one-act plays by Tennessee Williams that premiered in the Spring at the Kennedy Center. Michael Kahn, artistic director of D.C.'s Shakespeare Theatre, is onboard again as director. Two of the plays, And Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens and Escape, will have their New York premiere. Purchase tickets at the box office, via CityTix, (212) 581-1212 or at www.citycenter.org.

    It was news, indeed, to learn that two-time Tony-winner James Earl Jones returns to the stage in between his long-running stint as Verizon commercial spokesman. September 28th - 0ctober 17th, after much too long an absence [but no doubt a triple millionaire from all those residuals] stars with another welcome returnee to the stage, Tony-winning Diahann Carroll in the Kennedy Center revival of Ernest Thompson's On Golden Pond. Tickets go on sale August 11th and can be purchased by calling (800) 444-1324 or (202) 467-4600 or at www.kennedy-center.org. Hopefully, it will make the transfer to Broadway.

    By the late 60s, one Fellini film, Nights of Cabiria, had made it from screen to stage musical, as Sweet Charity. No less than Lionel Bart of Oliver! fame thoght he could do the same. He wrote the score for the 1969 adaptation of Fellini's brutal, neo-realistic La Strada [The Road], about an impoverished waif sold by her family into the carnival life where she takes up with a wrestler. If only there'd been a fly on the wall during the tryouts. Bart was at the top of his form, having had five West End hits in a row and with the film adaption of Oliver! taking home six Oscars, including Best Picture. Then, in 1965, he had a huge flop, began drinking heavily and became a manic depressive. Recriminations flowed like the waters of the Gyndes after Cyrus had his revenge. Alan Schneider, the respected director of Beckett, Pinter and Albee plays,including Who's Afraid Of Virgina Wolf was the director. Some thought it a brilliant choice; others found it a very strange one since he had never guided a musical.

    It was the tryout from hell. Stars were fired, parts were eliminated and, by the time the show limped from the road onto Broadway, only two of Bart's songs survived the show's opening/closing [additional credit was given to Martin Charnin and Elliot Lawrence]. It was One Night Only for [the late] Larry Kert and, fresh from George M., Bernadette Peters. I recall Kert so upset, he was sitting on the 46th Street curb outside the Lunt-Fontanne weeping.

    On the heels of the release of the recently discovered score to Sherry! -- a long run champ at two months compared to La Strada, Bayview Records is releasing the world premiere of Bart's entire score, produced by the composer in a lavish 1967 session that included a 25-piece orchestra and chorus. Label prez Peter Pinne said, "Even Lionel Bart's estate didn't know the of the existence of a demo. Imagine my excitement when a New York friend called last year to say he'd found a very battered copy. All I ever had was a tape one of the songs, ëMy Turn To Fall.' A lot of work has been done to ëclean it up' and bring it to acceptable sound levels for release on CD."

    Having reissued three of Bart's shows on CD, including last year's remastered Maggie May, Bayview, which releases the Scott Siegel Broadway By the Year concerts, was in good stead with the estate. The session stars are New Jersey gospel singer and later cabaret singer and Columbia Records artist Madeline Bell [24 at the time; she had made a big impact in Langston Hughes' Off-Broadway hit Black Nativity] as Gelsomina and the Michael Sammes Singers. There's the overture, 11 tracks and a finale reprise.

    "It's quite an ambitious score," says Pinne. "It captures much of the characters' private fears and anxieties in soliloquies and duets. There are several showstopping moments and the recording is filled with Bart's trademark lyric wordsmithery."

    For more information, visit www.bayviewrecords.com.

    The original movie soundtrack of 1974's musical adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's fantasy The Little Prince, one of the most beloved classic tales of all time, with a score by Lerner and Loewe [their final collaboration] is finally making its CD debut on Decca Broadway. It's been unavailable for 25 years. The movie was a huge box office failure, but what a cast: Richard Kiley [Man of La Mancha] as the pilot, Bob Fosse as the Snake, ACL Tony winner Donna McKechnie as the Rose and Gene Wilder as the Fox. Also featured are Clive Revill and Joss Ackland. Stanley Donen, whose Golden Age movie musicals include Singin' In The Rain, On The Town and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, directed. The recording has the overture, nine songs and one reprise.
    That can easily be found. Just get thee to Wonderful Town and watch two-time Tony winner and 2004 Drama Desk winner Donna Murphy climb a fence, do the conga, do knock-about like a Bulgarian in the circus and a couple of hundred other showstopping bits. Is there anything more exhilarating than watching the amazing Tony-nominee John Selya, Nancy Lemenager and Tony nominee Ashley Tuttle execute Twyla Tharp's choreography to music by Billy Joel sung by Michael Cavanaugh and the hot, hot Movin' Out band? And, catch him while you can: that's Tony and Drama Desk Award winner and Mr. Entertainer of the 2003-2004 Season Hugh Jackman, absolutely in top form in The Boy from Oz.


    Ellis Nassour is an international media journalist, and author of Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline, which he has adapted into a musical for the stage. Visit www.patsyclinehta.com.

    He can be reached at [email protected]

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