A Catered Affair

Based on the 1956 Bette Davis film The Catered Affair, A Catered Affair is a 2008 Broadway musical collaboration between book writer Harvey Fierstein and composer/lyricist John Bucchino and director John Doyle.

The story follows a young couple, Jane and Ralph, who are planning to be married in less than a week.  The couple want a quick and small ceremony, but Jane’s mother, Aggie, has different plans, wanting to give Jane a large “catered affair” after a dinner with the groom’s parents.  To complicate matters more the bride’s father, Tom, needs money in order to buy out a share of his taxi company from a partner.  That, mixed with the story of Winston, the “bachelor uncle” who is in a snit for not being originally invited to the wedding, and Aggie and Tom’s son who has just died in the Korean War, serve as the basis for the musical.

The show opened on Broadway on April 17, 2008 and closed on July 27, 2008 after only 116 performances.  An unfortunate flop, and one that I really don’t understand.  The show is more of an intimate piece, not exactly a big Broadway show.  It has a lot of heart, though, that shows not only in the music, lyrics, and book but also within the look of the entire Broadway show.

It also helped that the Broadway production hired a cast of more than competent actors.  Faith Prince as Aggie is beyond words playing the wife that has watched life pass her by, and Tom Wopat is equally good playing husband Tom opposite her.  Then, of course, there’s Harvey Fierstein as Winston, and you can’t get much better than Harvey Fierstein in a show.  Leslie Kritzer and Matt Cavenaugh round out the main cast as the two love birds and they each offer their own charming touches to the roles.  With that cast alone, it’s a shame that the original production didn’t stay longer.

Fortunately for everyone,  a cast recording was released, and although I’m a fan that wishes the entire production was recorded, filmed live, made into a big-budget movie (so that I could then scathe that they hired Hollywood actors instead of Broadway), and become the biggest thing to hit the scene since pudding, the cast recording preserves the show nicely.  Highlights include the opening number, “Partners”, Harvey Fierstein’s fiery  “Immediate Family”, Leslie Kritzer’s delightful “One White Dress”, and two passionate numbers for Faith Prince: “Our Only Daughter” and “Vision”.

So that’s that.  Seriously, if you’re a Broadway lover and don’t own this cast recording, go out and get it now.  Yeah, that’s an order.  Do it.

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As For Tomorrow, Well, Who knows?

Girdles, dancing girls, mascara, and a Jerry Herman score all combine to form the basis for the gay romp known as La Cage aux Folles.  Even with Harvey Fierstein currently leading the production as Albin, the current Broadway production is a little less gay than usual.  Jeffrey Tambor, who entered the production opposite Harvey Fierstein on February 15, has been released of his contract (playing Fierstein’s husband, Georges) with the show since February 24.

The producers of the show issues a statement that referenced the fact that Jeffrey Tambor had recently had a hip replacement, and that the strains of doing a show eight times a week was too much for him.  Now, as with any good press release, not everyone believed this.  A certain “reporter”/”critic”/thing for the New York Post reported that Tambor had been struggling with the score and was visibly uneasy when in front of a live audience.  He even gave this little gem of a quote about the struggling actor:

He’s hitting notes in some of Jerry Herman’s lovely ballads that aren’t found anywhere on the traditional Western scale.”

Nothing like kicking an actor when he’s down.

This brings up a point about the role of Georges, though.  In the 2005 Broadway Revival of La Cage aux Folles, there were severe rumors about severe tensions running in the cast.  Actor Daniel Davis (Of The Nanny fame) was in the role of Georges, while Gary Beach was playing Albin.  Supposedly there was a constant feud between the two, which eventually led to the dismissal of Mr. Davis.  He was later replaced by Robert Goulet (Of Goulet fame).

Goulet!

Not saying that the role is cursed, but even the original Georges on Broadway (Gene Barry) only had minimal television, movie, and theatre offers after his time in the show.  And he had an extensive career before going into it!

If this is any sign for the good things that happen for those that play Georges on Broadway, then Kelsey Grammer, who originated the role in the current production, should be keeping an eye out.  He married his newest wife on the stage of the Longacre Theatre, where La Cage aux Folles is currently playing, on February 25.

Goulet!