Believe it or not, Sir Paul McCartney (age 67 but looking ten years younger at least) finally got to perform on Broadway last night after 50 years in showbiz.
The occasion was one of those rare, memorable nights in the theater: an Actors Fund tribute to the late, famed songwriter-composer Frank Loesser, the man behind “Guys and Dolls,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Tying” and countless other songs and shows including the Oscar winner “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”’ Loesser’s life was cut short by lung cancer in 1969 when he was just 59 years old.
McCartney has owned the Loesser catalog for some time as part of his MPL Communications. He and Loesser’s widow, the fabled Jo Sullivan, cooked up the idea of the tribute together. Then they set about organizing an amazing array of Broadway talent to pull it off. Annette Bening” sporting short short hair, and pitching in like a sport ‘ co-hosted the night’ with Jonathan Tisch and Kevin McCollum. Chita Rivera kicked off the night by telling a story of how she got caught wearing no panties on stage one night early in her career.
Among the stars who came to the Minskoff Theater and performed: the simply astounding Audra McDonald (totally wasted in her TV series, if you ask me). She showed her star power singing “Can’t Stop Talking” from the 1950 film “Let’s Dance” and later with’ Marc Kudisch (fresh from “Nine to Five”) in “My Heart Is So Full of You.”
There were plenty of other show stopping performances, including Michele Lee singing “I Believe in You,” from “How to Succeed.” Michele was in the original production of that show; back-to-back appearances by Broadway married couple Stephen Pasquale and Laura Benanti; plus special guest Art Garfunkel (”Two Sleepy People”), Mario Cantone (”Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat”), Brian Stokes Mitchell (”Luck Be a Lady”), Ana Gasteyer (”Adelaide’s Lament”), Patrick Wilson (”Joey, Joey, Joey”), and John Stamos with Gary Vichi and and Ramona Keller (”Brotherhood of Man”).
There were plenty of Broadway stars too: Liz Larsen, Noah Racey, Liz Callaway, Judy Kuhn, Debbie Gravitte.
Sir Paul finally got in the act as the penultimate performer, singing “On a Slow Boat to China.” He held his own with all these Broadway belters, and even declared, “I finally made it to Broadway!”
He sure did, and later he was busy accepting kudos and thanks at Blue Fin in the W Hotel with girlfriend Nancy Shevell Blakeman. (She’s very nice, by the way, with a good sense of humor.) McCartney met everyone who approached him, but the best moment was the appearance of Oscar winner Richard Dreyfus. “I want to meet the Beatle,” he punned. McCartney piped up: “It’s great to meet you.” And Dreyfus, a long time fan, was speechless for the first time in his life. “Oh my god, yes,” he replied, staring at McCartney.
McCartney returns to Britain today, missing this week’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shows. “I have to be in England,” he said, although someone close to him remarked, “What’s the point of those shows?” Good question. McCartney and I also spoke briefly about all the Beatle reissues, the box sets, etc. Was he discovering things he hadn’t heard before, I asked?
“Not really, I lived it. But I’m remembering a lot as I go through it,” he said.’ McCartney’s own new CD/DVD set, “Live from Citi Field,” will be released next month.
By the way, as usual, the whole after party was vegan, as declared by McCartney. All his events are catered this way. If you get to go to four a year, you’ve had a good cleansing. Paul says he’s still working on bringing Linda McCartney’s Homemade vegan food line to the U.S.
And how was McCartney as part of a big ensemble cast? A diva? No, quite the contrary. “His dressing room was next to ours,” said “My Big Greek Wedding” star Nia Vardalos who surprised the crowd with her musical comedy chops. “We had four girls in there ‘ me, Ana Gasteyer, Liz Callaway, and Paul just came in and hung out with us until the show started. He was great.”
...MAGICAL NIGHT: There was a lot of theater in New York last night. Vanessa Redgrave performed Joan Didion’s one woman show, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” at St. John the Divine. The night had been postponed from last spring because of the tragic death of Redgrave’s daughter, Natasha Richardson. In “Magical Thinking,” Didion recalls surviving the death of her husband and the serious illness of her daughter. The daughter subsequently died. In the audience: Redgrave’s actress sister, Lynn; Meryl Streep with daughter Mamie Gummer; “Billy Elliot” and “The Reader” director Stephen Daldry; Wallace Shawn, and Christine Baranski...