Musto Interviews Joan Collins: 'Gays Love Me Because I’m Glamorous!'
By Michael Musto
A FISH CALLED WONDER
As I just mentioned, this year’s big Oscar movies are mostly about the stirring fight for survival (12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, Gravity), but since I also love musicals, let me report that on Broadway, it’s all about getting by via imagination, pretense, and some production numbers. Big Fish is based on the novel and film about the tall-tale-spinning man who’s allegedly friends with a mermaid, a giant, and a witch, but who can’t seem to get close to his very real son. At times, the result seems like a throwback to all those ‘80s and ‘90s musicals that flattened out quirky movies via Broadway-ization (Smile, Big), though this one has smart staging by Susan Stroman and a winning performance by two-time Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz, whose talent for “quirking” could outdo Miley Cyrus’s twerking skills. The visual effects—from three elephants’ backsides to the title creature’s triumphant leap—are well pulled off and there’s slick professionalism at work here. But by Act Two, the merely serviceable score becomes a bit wearying and one wonders if this fish was better off left uncooked.
Coming up is another ode to ingenuity and wild storytelling, A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder, based on the book that led to the classic film Kind Hearts and Coronets. The plot has a British guy who’s ninth in line for a vast family fortune deciding to knock off the eight relatives standing in his way so he can grab the loot. All of those relations are played by Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife), who’s clearly angling for eight more Tonys. At a meet-and-greet, two clever numbers were performed, one of them a male duet called “It’s Better With a Man,” suggestively enough. Afterwards, the director, Darko Tresnjak, told me I was right to catch whatever meanings were implied in that number. “Especially since the song ends with, ‘Bottoms up!’ ” I cracked.
Tresnjak told me that Mays plays two women (out of the eight characters), one an actress doing Hedda Gabler and the other a lady with a superficial compulsion for social causes. “The show’s too witty to make it,” I cracked. (A joke; I think it’ll be big.) “I was wondering the same thing,” he smiled. “I’ve been compiling a list of people this will offend: Priests, clergymen…” “After the success of Book of Mormon, no need to worry,” I assured. For Broadway, thankfully, “offensive” has become a really good word.
“Bottoms up!” is definitely the rallying cry at the Atlas Social Club—a new gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen, which these days is equivalent to a new dumpling restaurant in Chinatown. But what makes it different is that Anderson Cooper’s entrepreneurial man, Ben Maisani, is a co-owner, and also that the place is done in a brown décor dotted with pictures of boxers, old physique magazine covers, and hanging gloves. It’s all very macho kitsch—or as another owner told me, “It’s like you’ve been bad and been called into the dean’s office.” Ooh—punish me, Ben. I’m picturing a four-way with you, Anderson, me, and Shirley Jones.