Saturday, April 13, 2024

“Glee” Star Lea Michele At “Hair” Premiere After Pink Slip


Poor little Lea Michele. Imagine getting fired from your wildly popular TV show and the news breaks while you’re sitting in a Broadway premiere. A premiere, by the way, filled with press people. And so, as the revival of “Hair” went into intermission, many of us got messages on our electronic devices that Michele, Cory Montieth and Chris Colfer were not going to make it into the fourth season of “Glee.” Ryan Murphy, the show’s creator, told the Hollywood Reporter this, and the news spread like wildfire. You look down at the Blackberry and then behind me four rows is the very same Lea Michele, squirreled into her seat and buried beneath large hat, hidden by boyfriend Theo Stockman, a former member of the “Hair” cast (and son of novelist Jayne Anne Phillips).

Timing is everything. Lea — who will likely headlining a revival of “Funny Girl” headed to Broadway– was not so pleased to be recognized, but polite nonetheless. This reporter tried to make it seem like an opportunity–“You could star in a Broadway show,” I said to her with hopefulness. “I’ve never been in a Broadway show,” she replied. I’m sure she was thinking that she’d signed a five or six year contract with “Glee,” so what gives? Good question. Even the kids from “Beverly Hills 90210” were allowed to age into college.

Meanwhile, “Hair” — now in its third or fourth version since its 2008 smash in Central Park–is better than ever. Who’da thunk it? This cast has been on the national tour, and will play the St. James Theater–once home to “Hello, Dolly!” and “The Producers” — for ten weeks. It’s joyous, ebullient, raucous and satisfying. The songs remain timeless and perfect. The staging is tighter than ever. Creator James Rado, who sat in front of me, confided, “They’ve been doing a lot of work on it.” You can see director Diane Paulus is still fine tuning. Like “A Chorus Line,” “Hair” started at the Public Theater. That group’s leader, Oskar Eustis, was sitting right up front. “Hair” makes the money so that Eustis can stage things like his very fine “Measure for Measure” in Central Park this summer. It’s the one place where art and commerce meet nicely.

Also at “Hair”: former cast member Will Swenson, now star of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” He brought superstar girlfriend Audra McDonald, who won a Tony for the original version of “Master Class”–which just got revived on Broadway, too. “I went last night with Zoe Caldwell,” Audra said of her co-star in that show. “I’d never seen it before”– because of course she was on stage. Audra has left TV’s “Private Practice” to return to Broadway in “Porgy and Bess” later this year. It’s about time. If she’s not singing, it’s a waste of super powers.

PS Kudo’s to the “Hair” cast, but I especially liked Caren Lynn Tackett, who gets to sing the show’s big numbers “Easy to Be Hard” and “Good Morning Starshine.” Her four year old daughter Raven, full of blonde curls, sat in the first row like a lady, drawing pictures and occasionally looking up to mouth the words to the songs. Raven has done the whole national tour and knows the show by heart. When a member of the “Hair” tribe comes and sits with her during the show, Raven barely registers surprise. It’s her life.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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