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  • Tim Rice reacted with his trademark candor to news items that were reporting that he would be once again collaborating with his former composing partner Andrew Lloyd Webber on the sequel to Phantom of the Opera.

    The report that the duo responsible for The Likes of Us, Joseph and the Amazing Colored Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita were back together, as has often been rumored as a possibility one day, was news not only to Lloyd Webber but also Rice.

    Playbill.com picked up on reports from industry trade Variety and columnist Liz Smith in the New York Post that noted that Lloyd Webber "has already written the music for the sequel and waits impatiently for Tim Rice to do the lyrics."


    Said Sir Tim, "These stories in the U.S. about my being slow with the lyrics of Phantom 2 are ludicrous and hilarious." As far as there being early discussions with Rice about working on the sequel, "I have never been asked by Andrew Lloyd Webber to get involved. It's definitely not my type of show."

    After a Lloyd Webber spokesperson contacted Playbill.com, the story was quickly pulled and a new one written reporting that lyricist Glenn Slater is the lyricist for the sequel to the worldwide blockbuster musical.
    With composer Alan Menken, Slater wrote the film score of Newsies and additional songs for Disney's newest Broadway outing, The Little Mermaid. The pair are also working on stage musical adaptations of Leap of Faith, expected next Spring, Sister Act and Newsies.

    Menken spoke of a period of frustration and difficulty when his long-time collaborator Howard Ashman died in 1991. Their major stage success up to that time was Little Shop of Horrors.

    "The loss of Howard was a devastating blow," says Menken. "He wanted to do the film score to Newsies, but was too ill. He would have liked to finish Aladdin. There wasn't a long transition period. Because of projects on the table, there was very little time to find another collaborator. Tim Rice came in. Thankfully, he's a quick writer."

    The duo won the Best Song Oscar for Aladdin's "A Whole New World."

    On Broadway, they collaborated on the concert production of King David, which Menken would like to develop into a full-fledged musical, and Beauty and the Beast. For Aida,, Rice and Elton John won the Tony for Outstanding Score. Rice and John won a Best Song Oscar and Golden Globe for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from Disney's animated Lion King; and were nominated in the category for "Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata." For their contributions to Julie Taymore's stage adaptation, they were Tony-nominated.

    Rice has been busy recently with the marriage of his daughter Eva, a best-selling novelist, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Joseph... with Lloyd Webber and involved in a revised U.K. concert production of his, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus' musical Chess scheduled for May and starring Josh Groban [Anatoly], Idina Menzel and Adam Pascal.

    Lloyd Webber, who just turned 60 and has been making TV appearances on such TV reality shows as his U.K. TV search for Maria for his production of The Sound of Music and, here, Celebrity Apprentice, is rumored to be setting the Phantom sequel in New York, where the title character and Christine will meet again. It's been announced that Jack O'Brien will direct and Bob Crowley will design the show, which is expected sometime next year.

    Rice and ALW came together twice more: in 1986 at the urging of Prince Edward to pen Cricket, a comedy about players of Rice's favorite sport, for Queen Elizabeth II's 60th birthday, which was performed at Windsor Castle; and in 2005 for a one-time-only festive premiere performance at ALW's Sydmonton Festival on his estate of their 1956 The Likes of Us, which was recorded for Decca Broadway.

    Catch Encores! This Week

    Tony and Drama Desk Award-winner Victoria Clark is essaying the role briefly portrayed by Shirley Booth on Broadway in 1959 in Marc Blitzstein's Juno, the second Encores! production of City Center's 2008 season, which plays five performances tonight through Sunday. The book is by Tony-winner Joseph Stein of Fiddler fame. Screen legend Melvyn Douglas costarred with Miss Booth.

    This is a rare opt to experience the short-lived [16 performances] musical, based on O'Casey's 1924 play Juno and The Paycock .


    For Encores!, Michael Arden, Dermot Crowley, Tyler Hanes, DD-winner and Tony-nominee Celia Keenan-Bolger [...Spelling Bee] and Conrad John Schuck [Annie Get Your Gun revival, Annie] co-star in the 30 plus cast under the direction of Tony-winner and DD-nominee Garry Hynes [Beauty Queen of Leenane]. Featured is Tony and DD-nominee John Seyla [Movin' Out]. Guest music director is Eric Stern [Xanadu, '01 Follies revival], with choreography by Warren Carlyle.

    Songs include "I Wish It So," "We're Alive," "What Is the Stars?", "Music in the House" and "One Kind Word."

    Clark is Juno Boyle, a hardworking matriarch who struggles to hold family together in the face of the 20s confrontation between the Irish Republican Army and the U.K. Schuck plays her hard-drinking husband.

    Jack Viertel is Encores! A.D. with Rob Berman as M.D. Season sponsor is the Newman's Own Foundation

    Next in the series is No, No, Nanette, May 8 -12.

    Tickets are $25-$95 and available at the City Center box office, through CityTix at (212) 581-1212 or online at www.nycitycenter.org.

    One Night Only: A Timely Host

    One of the year's always-eagerly anticipated dance events is the dance star-studded Career Transitions for Dancers October gala and this year there's another reason to eagerly anticipate: Four-time Tony and two-time DD-winner Angela Lansbury will be the hostess with the mostest.


    Rolex is returning as lead sponsor of On Broadway! A Glittering Salute to the American Musical, CTFD's 23rd Anniversary Jubilee on Monday, October 27 at 7pm at New York City Center. The evening of dance, dance, dance [and lots of it] from renowned choreographers will be followed by a supper dance at the New York Hilton.

    Gala honorees, luminaries or benefactors of the dance world, as well as the recipient of the Rolex Award are yet to be announced. Among the honorary chairs are dance legend Cynthia Gregory, screen legend Jane Powell and theater legend Chita Rivera. Conde Nast Publications and the Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation are event underwriters.

    On Broadway!, produced and directed by Ann Marie DeAngelo, is billed as "a glorious historical journey inside the Broadway musical seen through the eyes of legendary choreographers whose work transformed Broadway shows into some of the greatest musicals of all time."

    Multiple Emmy-nominee and Golden Globe-winner Miss Lansbury has been named a Commander of the British Empire, is a Kennedy Center Honors recipient, a Theatre and Television Hall of Fame inductee and recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Screen Actors Guild and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

    Career Transition For Dancers assists thousands of professional dancers identify their unique talents in preparation for establishing new careers when dance is no longer an option. For more information, visit www.careertransition.org.

    Gala tickets are $600, $750 and $1,200 and include the performance and supper dance. To book, contact Marjorie Horne, McEvoy & Associates, at (212) 228-7446 X. 33; for group sales, (718) 499-9691. Show-only tickets at $45-$130 will be available at a later date at the City Center box office.

    Remembering Gower Champion

    Dancers Over 40 members will remember award-winning director/choreographer Gower Champion on Monday at 7:30 P.M. at St. Luke's Theater [308 West 46th Street, off Eighth Avenue]. Participating will be dancers and creative talents associated with Champion from 1951's Make a Wish to his last Broadway show, 42nd Street. Also marking an appearance will be his former wife and dancer/director/choreographer Marge Champion.


    Two panels will be presented. The first, on dancers, will include Bob Fitch [Mack and Mabel, 42nd Street], Lee Roy Reams [Hello, Dolly!, 42nd Street] and Iva Withers [Make a Wish, Happy Time]. The second panel will include Miss Champion and choreographers Karin Baker [42nd Street ] and Tony Stevens [Irene, Rockabye, Hamlet].

    David Hartman, host of Thirteen/WNET's Walking Tours series who was featured in the original Hello, Dolly! as Rudolph the waiter, will moderate.

    Numbers will be performed from Birdie, Carnival and 42nd Street. In support of the not-for-profit Dancers Over 40, there will be a raffle. The org provides support for the fiscal and physical needs of mature dancers, choreographers and related artists.

    The event will be taped and donated to the Jerome Robbins Dance Collection at the Lincoln Center Library. Tickets are $5 for DO40 members; $15, non-members; and available at www.dancersover40.org/events or by calling (212) 330-7016. Seating is general admission.

    New York, New York's Jerome Robbins

    Jerome Robbins, one of America's most celebrated choreographers time, was uniquely New York born and raised. Many of his dances for Broadway and ballet recounted NYC lore and the joys and travails of its ordinary folk.

    New York Story: Jerome Robbins and His World, an exhibit curated by Lynn Garafola, professor of dance at Barnard College and commemorating the tenth anniversary of Robbins' death, is on view through June 28 in the Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center.

    In addition to personal papers, drawings, set and costume designs, letters, notes on characters and costumes, and photographs from the Library's Jerome Robbins Dance Division, there are loans from the Museum of the City of New York, the Paley Center for Media, the Jerome Robbins Trust and Foundation and private sources.

    New York Story joins another exhibition at the Lincoln Center Library and Cullman Center: Writing to Character: Songwriters & the Tony Awards, running through June 14, is a multi-media tribute to the songwriters of the 70 Broadway musicals that have won Broadway's highest honors. It ranges from Kurt Weill for 1947's Street Scene, Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls, Bock and Harnick's Fiddler on the Roof, through Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, Sondheim's Company and Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's 2007 Spring Awakening.

    Displayed are manuscripts, posters, photographs, cast recordings,videos and other memorabilia.

    A Harvey Affair

    On April 1, The New York Times TimesTalk series will celebrate the career of four-time Tony and three-time DD-winner Harvey Fierstein event with Harvey & Family at 6 P.M. at the TimesCenter [242 West 41st Street at Eighth Avenue].


    Honoring Fierstein will be his Catered Affair co-stars, Tony and DD-winner Faith Prince and Matt Cavenaugh; his Hairspray co-star Tony and DD-winner Dick Latessa; ACF composer John Bucchino; Tony-nominee Brooks Ashmanskas; and three-time Emmy-winner Edie Falco.

    The tribute, produced in celebration of the 25th anniversary of New York's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, will feature a conversation between Fierstein and Times culture new reporter and author Jesse Green; readings and performances from Fierstein's plays and musicals, including A Catered Affair, directed by Tony and DD-winner John Doyle and now in previews for an April 17 opening at the Walter Kerr.

    Falco and Ashmanskas will read scenes from Fierstein plays Safe Sex and Torch Song Trilogy [celebrating the 25th Anniversary of its premiere]. Latessa and Cavenaugh will perform a scene from Fierstein and Jerry Herman's La Cage Aux Folles.

    Tickets are $27 and available at TimesTalks.com or by calling (888) NYT-1870. For more on ACF, visit www.ACateredAffairOnBroadway.com.

    Tell Them On a Sunday

    Christine Ebersole and Billy Stritch are bringing their acclaimed live performance to CD. Sunday in New York is set for a May 13th release on Ghostlight Records, produced by Grammy-winner Russ Titelman . It features 13 tracks culled from the pair's recent sold out run at the Metropolitan Room. They range from Berlin, Rodgers & Hammerstein to Korie and Frankel [Grey Gardens] and Sondheim.

    In a recent review, NYTimes' Stephen Holden wrote: "Ms. Ebersole, a bright, zany soprano and ebullient clown, can whirl on a dime and ... evoke an inexpressible sorrow under a facade of garrulous pluck. When she adds a spinning vibrato to her lemony voice, she can turn into a playful latter-day Kathryn Grayson or Jeanette MacDonald."

    Also due in May from Ghostlight is South Pacific star Kelli O'Hara's much-anticipated CD, Wonder in the World, with 14 tracks orchestrated and arranged by Harry Connick Jr.

    Lily's Back, as Producer

    Tony Award winner Lily Tomlin and partner Jane Wagner have joined the producing team of Off-Broadway's Beebo Brinker Chronicles, Kate Moira Ryan [25 Questions for a Jewish Mother]'s stage adaptation of Ann Bannon's award-winning pulp novels of the 50s, now at 37Arts [450 West 37th Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues].

    Directing is the very busy Leigh Silverman (From Up Here at MTC, Yellow Face, Well). Jenn Colella [High Fidelity] is Beebo. Among the seven cast members are Tony and DD-nominee Xanthe Elbrick [Coram Boy] and Obie-winning David Greenspan [Some Men, Faust].

    BBC follows the lives and loves of four friends in pre-Stonewall Greenwich Village as they reunite in love and lust, finding themselves entangled in Beebo's web.

    Beebo Brinker Chronicles' limited engagement is through April 27. Tickets are $46.25
    - $56.25 and available at the box office, through www.TicketMaster.com. or by calling (212) 307-4100.

    Paul Simon and Company

    Legendary recording legend Paul Simon will be joined for his April Love in Hard Times concerts at BAM in April by recording artist and emerging actor Josh Groban and Broadway bombshell belter Luba Mason.


    Songs from the Capeman, April 1-6, will feature co-stars Mason, Claudette Sierra and Ray De La Paz from the composer's short-lived 1998 musical; the show's arranger/conductor Oscar Hernández; Little Anthony and the Imperials; New York Dolls guitarist Steve Conte, jazz vocalist Nicole Lequerica and, among others, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra.

    Simon's BAM "residency" will also include Under African Skies from April 9-13, showcasing African and Brazilian influences he explored in the albums Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints. Guests will include David Byrne, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Milton Nascimento.

    Best-selling classical crossover artist and Grammy-nominee Josh Groban will join Simon for American Tunes, April 23-27, as "they explore urban rhythms and immigrant dreams." Among the guests will be the Roches.

    Performances will be in the Gilman Opera House and Harvey Theatre. Some shows are sold-out. Remaining tickets, $20-$65, are available by calling (718) 636-4100 or visiting www.BAM.org, where you will find complete information regarding schedules and venues.

    A Cirque of Another Kind, Well Almost


    We'll have to wait until maybe next year for the next edition of Cirque du Soleil but in the meantime a cirque show that's certainly in the same realm, Cirque Dreams, will make its Broadway debut in mid-June for 10 weeks with Jungle Fantasy, an incredibly-colorful family-friendly production [150 spectacular costumes and striking sets and visual effects], at the Broadway Theatre.

    Florida-based CD was started in 1993 by creator and director Neil Goldberg. The show, presented in a proscenium setting, has a cast of 25 acrobats, contortionists, jugglers and musicians.

    You'll be excused if you think you're seeing a Cirque du Soleil show. But while CD isn't quite the size of CduS, it delivers a rousing and quite dazzling entertainment.

    Tickets prices won't be confused with CduS, but not all will be as close to the action. They're $25 [last row of the balcony?] - $85 and now available at www.telecharge.com or by calling (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250. For more information, visit: www.cirquedreamsbroadway.com

    All-Star CD Debuts to Benefit Actors Fund

    After two years in the making, Brian Gari is debuting a unique edition CD of his score from his and Alan Knee's short-lived 1987 musical Late Nite Comic. The release coincides with Gari's book We Bombed In New London - the Inside Story of the Broadway Musical Late Nite Comic [Bear Manor Media, SRP $20].

    The 23-track CD [Original Cast Records, SRP $15] includes the score as heard opening night and deleted songs. A Who's Who of Broadway and show business perform, including Liz Callaway, Mario Cantone, Jason Graae, Rupert Holmes, Brian D'Arcy James, Howard McGillin, Daniel Reichard, Tony Roberts, Seth Rudetsky, Mary Testa, Martin Vidnovic, Karen Ziemba and Chip Zien.


    That's quite a lineup. How did he pull that off? "I didn't have to sleep with them, although it might have been fun," said Gari, grandson of legendary entertainer Eddie Cantor. "However, I did plead a lot. Many of them know our show got a bad rap from the critics and they liked the idea of proving them wrong. With all proceeds going to the Actors Fund, that helped. I also had the ringing endorsement of the great Rupert Holmes, so many of his friends came aboard and encouraged others. Paul Shaffer is a long-time fan, all the way back to when he saw Late Nite Comic on Broadway."


    The sessions were also a reunion for some, such as composer Holmes and POTO star McGillin, who co-starred in Holmes Tony and DD-winning Mystery of Edwin Drood.

    Gari was constantly amazed at the multi talents of the stars. "There was Seth Rudetsky and Karen Ziemba doing their harmony vocals themselves," he notes. "I can't say enough about Seth. He's underated as a singer. He's also hysterical."

    Rudetsky had lots of competition from Mario Cantone and Shaffer. "Then there was Jason [Graae]. He's ever the cut-up, but he really got me by coming in and sing totally off-key. That scared the hell out of me, but it was a total put on! Sweet Liz Larsen came in with candy for everyone."

    All in all, says Gari, "these wonderful stars made my music shine and for a good cause." The CD and book will be shortly joined by the LNC song folio and libretto from Samuel French.

    Welcome Back, Lillias, But It's One Night Only

    The DD-winning York Theatre Company will present Tony-winner Lillias White in a one-night-only concert staging of a new "musical mystery screwball comedy" by Patricia Miller and Jim Wann, The People vs. Mona this Sunday at 7:30. White joins a cast that includes Marc Kudisch, Christiane Noll and Ron Raines.

    The People vs. Mona tells of a Georgia woman on trial for the murder of her husband who is pitted against a local prosecutor who wants to tear her property down for a casino. Making matters interesting is the fact that Mona's defense attorney happens to be the prosecutor's fiance. Making matters much worse, he's also attracted to Mona.

    York A.D. Jim Morgan says the score combines folk, blues, gospel, jazz, rock, bossa nova - in addition to marching band music "to create a theatrical sensibility." The concert will be recorded for release on Jay Records.

    Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door and are available online at www.yorktheatre.org or by calling (212) 935-5820. of a small town hangs on the verdict. Seven actor/singers play all the roles in a multicultural cast, accompanied by three onstage musicians.

    A Rare Revival

    Musicals Tonight will present David Heneker's West End and Broadway musical Half A Sixpense with book by Beverly Cross for 10 performances from April 1-12 at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre [Broadway and 76th Street].

    The rousing musical played Broadway in 1965 starring the English lead, U.K. matinee idol and best-selling recording artist Tommy Steele. It is based on H.G. Wells novel Kipps about a shop assistant who wins a fortune only to find that money can't buy love or happiness. Featured were John Cleese, Gover Dale, Polly James, Carrie Nye and Will McKenzie.

    Songs include "All in the Cause of Economy," "She's Too Far Above Me," "If the Rain's Got to Fall," "Money to Burn" and "Flash, Bang."

    Tickets are $20 and available at www.musicalstonight.org or by calling SmartTix at (212) 868-4444 or online at www.smartix.com.

    Arlen and Harburg Revived

    Through April 6, Medicine Show Theatre Ensemble [549 West 52nd Street, Third floor, between Tenths and Eleventh Avenues] is reviving their revival of Harold Arlen and E. Y. "Yip" Harburg's Horray for What! , the 1937 Broadway anti-war musical comedy. The book is by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse [Sound Of Music] and concerns a scientist who gets mixed up with spies and war profiteers when he accidentally invents a weapon capable of conquering the world. Directing the 15-member cast is Obie-winner Barbara Vann, with musical direction by Jake Lloyd and choreography by Dieter Riesle.

    Tickets are $18 and available from Smarttix at (212) 868-4444 or online at www.Smarttix.com.

    They Said, Like MacArthur, They'd Return - and Weren't Kidding:

    Rita's Back and Feinstein's Got Her

    Grandslam winner Rita Moreno, who holds the distinction of being an Oscar [for her spirited Anita in the film adaptation of WSS], Emmy, Grammy, Tony, Golden Globe, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Sarah Siddons Award winner and DD-nominee, returns to Feinstein's at Loews Regency [540 Park Avenue at 61st Street] April 1 - 5.


    The new show will feature songs by Arlen, Kander & Ebb, Lloyd Webber and Strouse. Moreno's wins gained her status in the Guinness Book of World Records, but up close and personal, as she'll be at Feinstein's, she reveals her gusty and sophisticated singing styles.

    Considering her amazing performance record [going all the way back to her youth and her fiery featured role in the classic Hollywood musical, Singin' in the Rain], it appears she's also found the fountain of youth.

    Admission for the early shows is $60 [$75, premium seating] with a $40 food/beverage minimum; $40 [$60, premium] with a $25 food/beverage minimum for late shows. Jackets suggested, but not required. Reservations recommended. Book online at feinsteinsatloewsregency.com or TicketWeb.com or call (212) 339-4095.

    Rivers Is Back and Hitting Chelsea

    After hitting herself all these months on that TV commercial and regailing us with star fashion dos and don't at the Oscars, Joan Rivers returns to live stand-up at the Cutting Room [19 West 24th Street, off Fifth Avenue] on Wednesdays at 8 from April 9 - June 4 [no shows April 23 or May 14]. With all that work, you might wonder if she can laugh at her own jokes.

    Tickets are $30 with a portion of the proceeds going to God's Love We Deliver and Guide Dogs for the Blind. For reservations, call (212) 352-3101 or visit www.SpinCycle.com.

    And They're Back, Too

    The Metropolitan Room has an exciting April line-up. Jamie deRoy and special guests headline Jamie deRoy & Friends April 1. Broadway, cabaret and TV star Karen Mason plays eight shows over April 2-5 and 10-13. Metro Room chief Lennie Watts will again channel Manilow on the 5th.

    Marcus Simeone debuts an all-new show, The Heart , beginning April 6 and once a month on Sundays through November [no shows in September].

    Wait! There's more: sensational Marilyn Maye makes her much-anticipated return April 8 and 9, 11 and 13-16 with a new show, It's My Party... and I'll Sing if I Want To after receiving her Bistro Lifetime Achievement Award [on April 7] and celebrating her 80th birthday.

    Later in April, two big returning stars: country legend and MR fav Larry Gatlin makes a rare appearance with the Gatlin Brothers; and that hot mama Sharon McKnight, who's been away much too long, will have the joint jumpin' and sizzlin'.

    Covers and showtimes vary, so check out www.metropolitanroom.com, where you can also reserve. All covers have an additional two beverage minimum.

    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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