Sunday, February 8, 2009

Reverend’s Previews: The Night They Opened Minsky's

Friday night's opening in LA of the new, Broadway-bound musical Minsky's (based on the film The Night They Raided Minsky's) was the most star-studded affair I've yet attended. The show itself is superior, even at this work-in-progress stage, and highly enjoyable. I'll get a full review up in the next day or two, but wanted to share my celebrity encounters with y'all.

At various points, I was within earshot of Mr. Sulu himself, George Takei, as well as David Hyde Pierce and Doris Roberts. Standing at the urinal next to mine (classy!) during intermission was John Glover, his Lionel Luthor mane of hair out of control (John, buy some conditioner!). John played "Man in Chair" in the Broadway production of The Drowsy Chaperone, which was created by the Minsky's team, so his inclusion in this opening was natural.

While I haven't called her yet, my mother will scream when I tell her who exited the theater with my partner and I at show's end: Barry Manilow! I had noticed him a few rows ahead of me in the theatre. He is rail-thin and looked tired but seemed to be enjoying himself.

But the unexpected delight of the evening, apart from the show itself, was my being seated next to choreographer-director Jerry Mitchell of The Full Monty, Hairspray, La Cage aux Folles, Legally Blonde and Broadway Bares fame! I'd noticed him entering the theatre a few minutes before the performance, gradually making his way toward the center. I had a single seat next to me, but didn't even think it could be his until he got to the end of our row. It would be an understatement to say I was thrilled.

I introduced myself and he was as nice as could be. He excitedly spoke about how "all his friends" are in Minsky's. Indeed, half the show's featured male cast members seem to have been former Ednas in Hairspray on Broadway: George Wendt, Paul Vogt and Blake Hammond.

As the lights went down and the orchestra started to play, Mitchell whispered "It certainly sounds like burlesque," to which I responded "Just try to keep your clothes on; I've seen a couple of your Broadway Bares!" He laughed. We made a few other side comments to each other during the performance but generally behaved like the professionals we are.

During intermission, he filled me in on his current project: a new burlesque project for Las Vegas entitled Peep Show. He is staging it with assistance from Minsky's co-choreographer Lee Wilkins. The score is being written by the acclaimed Michael John LaChiusa (The Wild Party). It sounds like a trip to Vegas later this year is in order!

Of course, seated on the other side of me during Minsky's was my favorite "featured performer", my partner James Jaeger. He is himself busily prepping the west coast premiere of Charles Busch's Our Leading Lady, in which he plays "Ferguson." It opens February 20 at the Neighborhood Playhouse in Palos Verdes Estates, just south of LA. The stars certainly were out Friday night!

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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