In Legally Blonde, Opposites Attract: Orfeh and Andy Karl Are a Real Life Duo; Celeste Holm Milestone; Cryer and Ford Return Big; Naked Angels One Act Fest; Rockin' Arias; Movies from Tribecca to Boxed Errol Flynn
by Ellis Nassour

    In Legally Blonde, Orfeh, who's stunningly, legally blonde, and the tall, handsome Andy Karl play the irresistible "trailer trash," hopelessly-in-love manicurist, Paulette Bonafonte, and the object of her manicured, pedicured lust, Kyle, the UPS guy. Their onstage chemistry is as strong as their offstage chemistry.

    They've worked onstage together five times, but Legally Blonde is the first time they worked as a marrieds on Broadway. They are that Broadway rarity: a married couple working together. [The show's composers Nell Benjamin and Laurence O'Keefe are also married.]

    They met during the last six months of Saturday Night Fever. Orfeh had been playing Annette and bringing the house down with her rendition of "If I Can't Have Him," when Karl joined the show. He hardly set foot inside the stage door before they started dating and segued into a mad courtship. In 2001, a week after SNF closed, they eloped.

    Legally Blonde, based on the 2001 megahit that starred Reese Weatherspoon, is the story of Delta Nu beauty Elle Woods, played by Drama Desk-nominee Laura Bell Bundy [Ruthless; also Wicked, Hairspray], who gets dumped by her boyfriend for someone "more serious." Elle, not exactly magna cum laude, follows him to Harvard Law School, where she proves that being true to yourself never goes out of style.

    DD-nominee Christian Borle [Spamalot, Thoroughly Modern Millie] co-stars as Emmett Richmond. The show also marks the return to the stage of Tony and DD-winner Michael Rupert as Professor Callahan.

    Legally Blonde, with music and lyrics by Nell Benjamin and Laurence O'Keefe and book by Heather Hach, opens at the Palace on April 29th.

    During the pre-Broadway San Francisco run, the reviews for Orfeh and Karl were exemplary and only drowned out by screaming girls hunting down Karl. Of her salon super-diva Paulette, stuffed into hot pants and heels, one reviewer reported she was capable of setting the scenery on fire. Another loved her Fran Drescher-style comedics. Karl, it was noted, nearly steals the show and is akin to "walking porn." One went so far as to write that "Kyle, the UPS guy, has a nice butt!" [Okay, she was the teen critic for the Oakland Tribune, but now we know what attracts young girls to theater.]

    Orfeh came into the business as a pop/rock singer with a power voice. She can belt "and if called upon, even do opera. It might make people insane. I've broken a glass or two, not even trying!" Adds Karl, "And a few bones!"

    She admits she wasn't the producers or director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell's first choice. "Because of my past [recording star with an international hit, songwriter], it's been difficult getting roles. When I played Janis Joplin [Love, Janis], people in the business thought ëThat's what she does.' Casting people think I'm someone who'll blaze you out of the room, not someone subtle and heartwarming. They're reluctant to allow someone to step outside the box they feel that person should be in."

    Thinking "bend and snap" Paulette, played so indelibly on film by Jennifer Coolidge, was the perfect role, Orfeh became quite determined, "but they wouldn't see me for a year. I wasn't their idea - physical, age, height - of Paulette. They never see me and say, ëOrfeh. Funny.' They don't know my comic side. Comedy's where I live! Some started to get it when I was in ÖTrailer Park."

    Karl had been involved for two years in LB's road to Broadway. "Paulette seemed to be the hardest role to cast. They saw everyone. Nothing clicked. Every reading, it was somebody new. At some point, I suggested ëHey, how about my wife?'" He stops, glances at Orfeh and smiles. "Or am I just making this part up?" "Probably," she laughs.

    They worked on the parts at home. In the end, however, it was how Orfeh finally nailed her audition. "The seventh time!" she squeals. Says Karl, "They fell in love with her. They opened their eyes and came to the conclusion that we'd make a great team." States Orfeh, "It was was just a matter of convincing them I'm not this hard ass rock chick."

    Orfeh and Karl may be the embodiment of the old axiom that opposites attract. He's 6'2", she's 5'4" [much taller with heels!]. "I never understood why she'd be crazy enough to want to be with me," he states. "Oh, shut up!" she replies. "You're one of the most handsome men on the planet." Later, she adds, "Andy wasn't someone up on a screen that I couldn't get to."

    In explaining what makes their marriage work, Orfeh says, "We're normal. We're not wrapped up in the business of show. When we come home, there's talk, but it's not the all-consuming reason for our existence."

    Karl says, "Our differences compliment each other, and there's no ego, no trying to get each other's jobs. I'd be happy if Orfeh was making millions and I could buy a Mercedes." Orfeh, cracking up, may not think too much of that idea! "Even though I love to work, and I've been lucky to keep working, I'm not one of those persons who says, ëI've got to make the money.' We support each other's career." [He's now pursuing musical theater composing.]

    Orfeh's one word name is not meant as pretension. "It fascinates me that people think I came up with it. Never! That's a name only a mother could come up with. Mom was big fan of the Michael Camus film Black Orpheus [based on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth and set during Rio's Carnaval]. The girl is Orfeo and Mom got it into her head that was what her child was going to be named. Regardless of sex. So it's good I was born female."

    A born and bred New Yorker [Karl's from Baltimore] with a French and Italian heritage, she does say that her name intrigues people. "Someone recently thought I was Asian!" In public school here, she continues, "no one even batted an eye when roll call was called. I was the least unique person. Even when I got into the music business, no one batted an eye."

    All About Celeste Academy Award-winner and Theater Hall of Fame inductee Celeste Holm turns 90 on April 29 and the occasion will be celebrated at a star-studded, invitation-only event in a Times Square eatery.

    Grey Gardens producer Michael Alden [who was a producer on the Drama Desk-nominated Bat Boy] is the host. Among those scheduled to appear are Angela Lansbury, Marian Seldes, Christine Ebersol, Elaine Stritch and Michael Feinstein; and old friends Governor Mario Cuomo and his wife Matilda and Walter Cronkite.

    Ms. Holm made her stage debut at 17, and was on Broadway two years later. She played bit roles, then a featured one in Saroyan's The Time of Your Life before achieving star status in Oklahoma! She went on to another 23 shows, including Bloomer Girl, The King and I, Mame and, most recently, I Hate Hamlet. She not only knew George M. Cohan, but performed onstage with him five times.

    Ms. Holm has never denied the rumor that she ceremoniously turned down producers Zev Buffman and James Nederlander's offer to co-star in the 1979 Broadway revival of Oklahoma! when she realized they wanted her for Aunt Eller and not boy-crazy Ado Annie [who "cain't say no"], the role she originated.

    In her third film, Zanuck's anti-Semitc classic Gentlemen's Agreement, she won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Supporting Actress; and was Oscar-nominated twice again for Come to the Stable and All About Eve. Though she made more films, including The Snake Pit, The Tender Trap and High Society [co-starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly], it was TV that made her a beloved household presence. She appeared on every conceivable type program, from the Golden Age of live TV and 1965's Rodgers and Hammerstein Cinderalla to her series Honestly, Celeste!

    After three divorces, in 1961 Ms. Holm married veteran actor Wesley Addy, who died in 1996. In 2004, on her birthday, she married Frank Basile [not the baritone Saxist, but the tall, handsome opera singer], 45 years her junior. They are a fiercely devoted couple. He helped pull her through the devastating effects of a stroke which affected her speech.

    They're Back and They're Everywhere

    Through Friday, 59E59 Theatres is host to the return engagement of Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford's Getting Their Act Together Again. Cryer, the bookwriter and lyricist, and composer Ford, musical theater's most successful and enduring female writing team, are best known for 1978's I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road, which enjoyed a three-year run at the Public and Circle in the Square [downtown] and became an international hit.

    GTATA is a take on the "hits and misses" of the duo's professional and personal lives. Between the two, they've garnered two Emmy Awards, a Grammy nomination, Drama Desk Award and, among other honors, an Obie.

    Cryer and Ford fans won't want to miss TheatreworksUSA's production of their world premiere musical adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's family classic Anne of Green Gables, presented by through May 5 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre [121 Christopher Street]. Directing is Tyler Marchant.

    Tickets for GTATA are $25 [17.50 for 59E59 members] and $25 for AOGG. They're available at http://www.ticketcentral.com/ or by calling (212) 279-4200. Cryer and Ford are also the authors of Circle of Friends at American Girl Place [609 Fifth Avenue at 49th Street]. Tickets are $34. For reservations, go to http://www.amerciangirlplace.com/ or call (877) 247-5223.

    Naked One Acts

    Playwrights and theater artists have come together at 42nd Street's Duke Theatre to support Naked Angels' presentation of Armed and Naked in America, a program of one-acts with provocative takes on the state of American politics and culture.

    Among the playwights featured this week are Warren Leight and David Rabe. Directing will be, among others, Will Frears, Evan Yionoulis and Marisa Tomei. Videos, music performances and guests from the worlds of politics, media, and entertainment compliment the evenings.

    For a complete list of plays and showtimes, visit www.dukeon42.org. Tickets are $40 and available at http://www.telecharge.com/ or by calling (212) 239-6200.

    Rockin' Arias

    If you like your opera with a little rock twist, you'll love the East Village Opera Company, appearing at Town Hall April 27 at 8 P.M. Co-founders lead singer Tyley Ross and arranger/multi-instrumentalist Peter Kiesewalter's mission was "to embrace what the pomposity of rock and the pomposity of opera without demeaning or satirizing either."

    The musicians front an 11-member powerhouse band, with arias sung by Ross and AnnMarie Milazzo. Their unorthodox musical settings are likely to include bossa nova, disco, Celtic and bluegrass - sometimes in the same aria.

    EVOC's hard-hitting arrangements surprisingly compliment "Nessun dorma" and "Un bel di" from Pucinni's Turandot and Madama Butterfly, "La donna Ë mobile" from Verdi's Rigoletto, "Au fond du temple saint" and the "Habanera" from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers and Carmen, "Ebben? Ne andrÚ lontana" from Catalani's La Wally and other arias performed full-length and in their original languages.

    Tickets for the Town Hall concert are $37.50 and $40.00, and are available from TicketMaster, (212) 307-4100, at http://www.ticketmaster.com/ or the Town Hall box office.

    The East Village Opera Company's self-titled CD [Decca/Universal Classics, SRP $13] just hit stores, with 12 tracks produced by three-time Grammy-winner Neil Dorfsman [Sting, Dire Straits, Paul McCartney, Bjork]. The CD contains impressive string arrangements recorded by the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra featuring lead violinist Pauline Kim.

    Upcoming at Town Hall

    April 30, Broadway By the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1959 with Marc Kudisch directing and no doubt singing "unplugged"; on June 18, the season finale The Broadway Musicals of 1964, Part II. Musical director and arranger is Ross Patterson, playing keyboards with his Little Big Band.

    Tickets are $40 and $45 and available through TicketMaster.com, by calling (212) 307-4100, visiting the Town Hall box office or www.the-townhall-nyc.org.

    If these two concerts sparkle with the still-talked-about surprises and delights of last month's entry, The Broadway Musicals of 1938, audiences are in for a supreme good time. That concert will soon be available on CD from series label Bayview Records.

    At the Movies ~

    Tribeca Film Fest

    The 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, presented by American Express, begins its sixth year on April 25 [through May 6] with 159 features and 85 shorts from 41 countries. Tribeca Film Festival was founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff. Presented by American Express, the selections include 75 world premieres.

    TFF's opening night gala, hosted by former Vice President Al Gore and sponsored by General Motors and National Geographic, will be held at BMCC TriPAC College [Chambers Street and West Side Highway] and include musical performances and the launch of the SOS Short Films Program.

    On April 30th at the UA Kaufman Astoria in Queens, Spider-Man 3 [Columbia Pictures]premieres, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, eight-time Tony nominee and five-time Drama Desk winner and multiple nominee Rosemary Harris, James Franco, Oscar-nominee Thomas Hayden Church, Topher Grace, Tony and DD-nominee Dylan Baker, Theresa Russell and Oscar and Emmy-winner Cliff Robertson. There'll be free simultaneous screenings in the other four boroughs.

    To purchase Festival passes, packages and individual tickets, go to http://www.tribecafilmfestival.org or call (866) 941-3378. Single tickets can be purchased online, by phone or at the Tribeca Film Festival box office, 15 Laight Street, between Varick Street and Sixth Avenue [one block south of Canal Street]. The web site has a complete list of films, other events [such as free screenings], venues and prices.

    How About Something Different?

    After the Wedding [IFC Films], the Danish entry in the Oscar Foreign Film category, is a sweeping drama, taking the viewer from the deepest poverty of an Indian orphanage on the brink of closure to the rarefied world of a billionaire's Copehagen. The director is Susanne Bier, one of Denmark's foremost filmmakers.

    To her and writer Anders Thomas Jensen's credit, what could be a glorified tearjerker with all the makings of a daytime soap plotline, becomes an intimate human drama on the inanity and complexities of life. The film is as sparse as it is stark [following the Danish "dogme" philosophy]. Only toward the finish does Bier disappointingly go Hollywood luxe.

    The story: long-ago lovers, beautifully played by Sidse Babett Knudsen and Mads Mikkelsen [seen recently in Casino Royale] are unexpectedly reunited at the nuptials of the woman's daughter; and a secret she's kept from him is suddenly revealed. What follows is a heart-wrenching dilemma, especially when you wonder if the meeting was coincidence or planned by the woman's husband, played by Rolf Lassg‡rd.

    If you're in the mood for a little color film noir, The Lookout [Miramax] is the ticket. The directorial debut of Oscar-nominated writer Scott Frank [Out of Sight], it dives into the human dilemna of survial when you're in way over your head or what used to be your head.

    In the breakout role of his career, Joseph Gordon-Levitt distances himself far, far away from zany Tommy Solomon of the long-running sitcom Third Rock from the Sun.

    The story: a high school hockey champion's life is forever altered after an auto accident that leaves him as "damaged goods" and two friends dead and a girlfriend disabled. His days and nights are a series of routines to help him relearn lifeskills. He says, "I want to be who I was," but that can never be. The plot thickens a criminal element decides to take advantage of that. Jeff Daniels and Matthew Goode [Match Point] provide strong support.

    In Like Flynn

    Errol Flynn thrilled audiences and stole hearts during a career that encompassed more than 50 films. His stock in trade was hanging from masts, often with a sword in one hand and a maiden in the other, and duels to the death. His natural athleticism and good looks made him one of the most popular stars of the 30s and 40s.

    In classics such as The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood, his exploits were awe-inspiring. Sadly, as he grew older he didn't grow wiser. He lived his onscreen rake's image to a hilt - getting into brawls, scandals and providing screaming tabloid headlines - and dying four months after hitting 50.

    2005 saw the release of Errol Flynn: The Signature Collection, Volume 1 [Warner Home Video], which featured the above titles, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex [co-starring Bette Davis] and the gritty Westerns They Died with Their Boots On and Dodge City.

    Just released is Volume 2 of Errol Flynn: The Signature Collection [WHV, SRP $50], five-discs in the new compact "Skinny" DVD cases [half as wide at one and a half inches] with meticulously remastered editions of Flynn classics The Adventures of Don Juan, The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Dawn Patrol, Dive Bomber and Gentleman Jim.

    Each contain director/historian commentaries and loads of bonus material, such as Oscar-nominated shorts, musical two-reelers, cartoons, even vintage newsreels.

    Two films make the set a must. ...Don Juan [1948], in Technicolor, was Flynn's return to swashbuckling adventure, under the sure hand of director Vincent Sherman, as he rescues the Spanish queen [Viveca Lindfors] from the snares of an evil duke. Amidst Oscar-winning costumes and superb sets, Flynn dalliances with married beauties, narrow escapes from dungeon escapes and that duel.You know the 300, now meet the 600.

    The Charge of the Light Brigade [1936], B&W, is inspired by Tennyson's poem, "Into the valley of Death rode the six hundredÖReel'd from the sabre-stroke, shatter'd and sunder'd. Then they rode back, but not, not the six hundred."

    The charge is a pulse-pounding nine minutes of thundering hoofs and flashing sabers as Flynn abetted by British Lancers challenge 25,000 Russians. Olivia de Havilland, Flynn's ... Robin Hood and Captain Blood throb, co-stars. Max Steiner composed the score.

    The Dawn Patrol [1938], directed by Edmund Goulding, costars David Niven in an aerial action yarn as WWI British flyboys quaff down beers and gun down their German foes. Basil Rathbone is featured.

    Dive Bomber [1941], Technicolor, has Flynn going to war as a flight medical researcher. Fred MacMurray plays his squadron commander. Directed by one of Hollywood's greatest action pros, Michael Curtiz [Casablanca], the flyboys put differences aside and risk all to confront blackout-inducing G-forces and high-altitude sickness. A "co-star" is the USS Enterprise, World War II's most decorated aircraft carrier.

    Flynn was a man's man and Gentleman Jim [1942] is a man's movie. He's Irish American heavyweight champ James J.Corbett, doing rigorous fight choreography and gliding footwork, jabbing not too gently with a strong left-hook. Alexis Smith, at her peak, co-stars. Based on Corbett's autobiography The Roar of the Crowd. Another Hollywood great, Raoul Walsh, who helmed seven Flynn films, directed. Ward Bond plays boxer John L. Sullivan.

    Upper West Fest

    Symphony Space presents the Second Annual Upper West Fest, celebrating the diverse cultural and artistic richness of Manhattan's Upper West Side, from April 28 - May 20 with 20 UWS cultural organizations participating. There'll be more than 50 dance, music, art, film, theater, family programs and special events - some free.

    The Upper West Fest is sponsored by Zabar's and zabars.com. Media sponsors are the West Side Spirit and The New York Times.

    The Fest is offering a $25 pass [allows additional free tkt to same event]. For full programming, event times and venues, visit http://www.upperwestfest.com/.

    Celebrating William Inge

    The 26th Annual William Inge Theater Festival, held April 25 - 28th, will honor Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick for their Distinguished Achievements in the American Theatre. The first Peter Stone Librettist Award will go to Joseph Stein. The Festival, at the William Inge Center for the Arts at Independence [Kansas] Community College, will pay homage to Wendy Wasserstein and August Wilson; and debut Touched, a new play based on Inge's life.

    Tony-nominee Walter Willison will present William Inge: The Musicals, numbers from various musicals [produced, workshopped or announced] adaptated from Inge plays, such as Hot September [from Picnic], Bus Stop and Come Back, Little Sheba.

    For information on workshops, guests and readings, visit http://www.ingefestival.org/.

    East Village Inge

    Inge's semi-autobiographical Tony-nominated The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, his last major play, is revived Off Broadway in the Transport Group's 50th Anniversary production at the Connelly Theatre [220 East 4th Street, between Avenues A and B]. Donna Lynne Champlin, mostly known for musicals and making a huge dramatic leap with this production, Patrick Boll, Colby Minifie [The Pillowman] and Jay Potter head the cast of six, which features Tony Award winner Michele Pawk [Hollywood Arms] in the scene-stealing role of brassy Lottie Lacey. The director is TG's A.D. Jack Cummings III [DD-nominated The Audience].

    Musical Comedy Monday

    Queen Esther, a family musical based on the story of Purim by Ryan Cunningham and Joshua Salzman [I Love You Because], is being presented April 23 at 6 P.M. by Musical Mondays at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre [Broadway at 76th Street]. Musical Mondays produces in concert with the Tony-honored BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop.

    Tickets are $10. To reserve, call (212) 989-6706.

    [Photos: 2 and 3) PAUL KOLNICK; 4) AUBREY RUBEN; 6 and 7) Columbia Pictures; 8) IFC Films; 9) ALLEN FRASER/Miramax Films; 10) Warner Bros.]

    Recent Archive :

    Monday, March 5, 2007
    [ STARS ] A Banner Season for All-But-Forgotten Playwright Harley Granville-Barker; Voysey Inheritance's Designers; Philharmonic's Fair Lady; Metropolitan's Gaud" to Dal"

    Wednesday, March 21, 2007
    [ STARS ] Curtain Up on Kander & Ebb's Curtains; Harvey Fierstein Back to Broadway in New Muscial; Recalling Broadway 1938; A CD of 1929 Broadway Classics; Encores! Restores Berlin and Hart's Face the Music

    Monday, April 2, 2007
    [ STARS ] Kristin Chenoweth to Host Drama Desk Awards; Another Phantom Milestone; A Passion Play; The Balcony Returns; At the Ballet; Choice TV and Film Programs

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007
    [ STARS ] Antoinette Perry's Daughter's Memories of a Theater Legend; Sondheim Remastered; Something New at the Met for Somethings Old; The Grandivas Return; An Off Broadway Milestone

    Monday, April 16, 2007
    [ STARS ] In Legally Blonde, Opposites Attract: Orfeh and Andy Karl Are a Real Life Duo; Celeste Holm Milestone; Cryer and Ford Return Big; Naked Angels One Act Fest; Rockin' Arias; Movies from Tribecca to Boxed Errol Flynn


    Monday, April 16, 2007 at 12:01 AM | Item Link

    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]

    The last five columns written by Ellis Nassour:

    07/02/2010: Summer in the City: Fireworks on the Hudson Launch a Season with Plenty to Do and See

    06/13/2010: The 64th Annual Tony Awards Celebrating Broadway Achievement

    06/10/2010: Tony Honoree Marian Seldes: Grand Duse of the American Theater

    06/08/2010: Starry, Starry Nights [Hopefully] with the Bard; Broadway by the Year Celebrates 10th Anniversary; Old Flames Reignite [Onstage]; Summer in and Out of the City; Stars Rally for Dancers; Cast CDs and Re-releases; New to DVD

    05/21/2010: Patti LuPone Hosts Sunday's Drama Desk Awards; A Starry, Starry Season; Tovah Feldshuh, Sherman Brothers Honored; Broadway By the Year Season Finale

    For a listing of all features written by Ellis, click here.