Lea Michelle and Bernadette Peters
Lea Michele (photo by Matthew Murphy), left, and Bernadette Peters as a mystery replacement.

Lea Michele has hinted about her next Broadway outing after the current Funny Girl revival, for which she’s gotten bouquets across the boards. The Glee-ful alumna said that the show will be something people know.

Well, insiders are speculating that her assignment will be the part of Florence in a retread of Chess, the 1988 Cold War-set romantic triangle with music by the ABBA guys. After all, her Funny Girl director Michael Mayer (who also directed her in Spring Awakening), did a 2018 semi-staged concert production of Chess in D.C. in 2018. Perhaps he’s now, finally grabbing that rook and making his move. Casting Lea could turn the flop (the original production ran for 85 performances) into a whole new board game.

Let the river run

Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper
Harvey Fierstein & Cyndi Lauper at their star ceremony on Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 11, 2016.

More definitely: Cyndi Lauper — who went from pop stardom to scoring the Tony-winning Kinky Boots — is still working on the score for the Broadway musical version of Working Girl and told me she’s collaborating with Rob Hyman, with whom she wrote “Time After Time,” plus Sandra Denton (Pepa) from Salt-N-Pepa.

“There’s an important friendship in the film, and we’re working on highlighting that,” Cyndi told me. “I want the score to be pop!” she added, twinkling. Maybe there can be a song called “Working Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

Some like it sizzling

J. Harrison Ghee, left, and Kevin Cahoon (center)
(l-r) J. Harrison Ghee in ‘Some Like it Hot’ and Caroline Innerbichler, Kevin Cahoon, and Andrew Duran in ‘Shucked.’ Photos by Marc J. Franklin, Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

I had fun and a half at the Marriott Marquis for the New Dramatists luncheon, this time honoring Top Dog/Underdog playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. Before we sat down for the luncheon, I caught up with two queer Broadway veterans, both nominated for Tony Awards.

Some Like It Hot’s J. Harrison Ghee is the extraordinary nonbinary actor who plays a character for whom drag leads to personal evolution. Ghee told me, “So many queer people have said they’re grateful for the representation in the show, and I’m humbled by it. And it’s a nice way to free myself every day. Jerry/Daphne’s journey inspires me to do the work I do on myself.”

Enjoying his own journey, Shucked’s hilarious Kevin Cahoon — who plays a sort of barnyard philosopher named Peanut — laughed to me, “This is no overnight success!” (His Broadway debut was in The Who’s Tommy, back in the ‘90s.) What’s his approach to delivering so many of the show’s funny lines (like “If I had a crystal ball, I’d probably walk real different”)?

“Listening to the audience and figuring how much they want to play,” Cahoon replied. “Sometimes you can get two or three laughs out of one because [author] Robert Horn is such a master. And consonants are key!” So true. Let’s put the T back in Tonys!

A dame like that

Chita Rivera
Chita Rivera

Moving on to a multiple Tony winner, I saw Chita Rivera — not surprisingly at the Chita Rivera Awards nominees reception — and told her I liked the fact that she told the truth in her recent memoir while not going for blood in the process. “Exactly!” she said. “You don’t want to knock anything, but you need to be honest—without hurting anyone’s feelings.” She said about the book, “It’s for the dancer! The human being! It could be called If I Can Do It, So Can You.” “But we don’t have your talent,” I squawked. The legendary performer also informed me that she’s looking forward to coming back to Fire Island to perform this summer because “They know.”

And here’s what I know

Jackie Hoffman
Jackie Hoffman at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards on September 17, 2017 in Los Angeles.

Broadway regular Jackie Hoffman (Xanadu, Hairspray) did a show called It’s Over, Who Has Weed? at Joe’s Pub, and it was a sidesplittingly funny take on the apocalyptic world we live in, performed to a T by the world’s most delightful curmudgeon. (“Curmudgeon is Jane Austen for c*nt,” as Jackie noted). While wittily bemoaning the horrors of our society via banter and song, Jackie paused to reference some TV work she’s done:

*She was filming the 2017 season of Feud when she wondered why they were shooting back at the house. “We’re not back at the house,” snapped star Jessica Lange, “we’re at the studio. You really should read the script!”

*Jackie was about to shoot a part in Zooey’s Extraordinary Playlist in Vancouver but had to run home because her mother was sick. Bernadette Peters replaced her and got Emmy nominated for the part. “If she won, she could have thanked MY mother,” deadpanned Jackie.

*Jackie was in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, “but not until season four because they finally ran out of Christians pretending to be Jews.”

*As a cast member of Only Murders in the Building, Jackie went to the SAG Awards and noticed that her limo’s windows had dark shades on them. “Are they for big celebrities?” Jackie asked the chauffeur about the shades. “Yes,” he replied dryly. “You can take those down.”

Most recently, Jackie popped up in the prequel Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, and she has no bad stories to tell about it at all. Yay! If anyone deserves a break, it’s this little curmudgeon.

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