It's Danza to the Max with 'Producers' stint

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NEW YORK -- Tuesday night in Manhattan at the St. James Theatre, the courageous Tony Danza steps into some big boots: playing Max Bialystock, originated by Nathan Lane in the musicalized "The Producers" back in 2001. But, in case you haven't been paying attention, Danza is no novice to singing and hoofing at this point, having proven his mettle with highly regarded cabaret turns at Feinstein's at the Regency. He's also a Broadway vet with credits including the much-lauded 1999 revival of "The Iceman Cometh," with Kevin Spacey, Paul Giamatti and Robert Sean Leonard, and 1997's "A View From the Bridge." I ran into Tony the other day as he was rushing in to a rehearsal studio for some more Bialystock polishing and, understandably, he says he's nervous but also exhilarated. He's in for three months (until March 11) with Roger Bart as his Leo Bloom. ... As Danza arrives on Broadway, Donny Osmond departs. This marks Osmond's last week as Gaston in the long-running "Beauty and the Beast" at the Lunt-Fontanne after a 14-week run. On Dec. 26, Stephen R. Buntrock takes over. ... On Thursday, "The Coast of Utopia -- Part Two: Shipwreck" officially unveils at the Vivian Beaumont. ... On Jan. 26, "The Phantom of the Opera," Broadway's longest runner of all time, will begin its 19th year in town, still a few years short of London's all-time topper, the indefatigable "The Mousetrap," which on Nov. 25 began its 54th (!) year on the West End boards, having debuted back when Winston Churchill was still prime minister and preparations were under way for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, long before there was a Prince Charles or, of course, a Princess Diana. But, it seems, there was always a "Mousetrap." ... Minuscule by comparison but a landmark for "The Lion King" nonetheless: It will hit its 10-year mark in November. ... The ads for Martin Short's "Fame Becomes Me" say it's closing Jan. 7 because "I don't do winter," but whatever the reason, it's a Broadway loss I'm particularly sorry to see go. It's the funniest, most nonsensical 90 minutes I've witnessed on Broadway, buoyed not only by the daffy Short but his superb supporting cast of fellow lunatics, namely Brooks Ashmanskas, Mary Birdsong, Capathia Jenkins, Donna Vivino and onstage musical director Marc Shaiman. One of the particular treats is when Short does his Jiminy Glick homage to nightmarish local-cable-type interviewers, pulling one celeb per show from the audience for an impromptu onstage interview. (Glick always is best in short doses; the amount of time Short extends to him in "Fame" is short, swift and ideal.) Among those who've been captured by Glick at the Jacobs Theatre so far include Steve Martin, Jon Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld, Bette Midler, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Conan O'Brien, Paul Shaffer, Kathleen Turner, Sean Hayes, Neil Simon, Nathan Lane, Brian Williams, David Hasselhoff, Jimmy Fallon, Regis Philbin, Susan Lucci, Jim Belushi, Jimmy Fallon, Bernadette Peters, Rosie O'Donnell, Roseanne Barr, Tracey Ullman, Martha Stewart and Larry King. Another high point: a devastatingly funny impression of Renee Zellweger attempting to travel the red carpet at the Academy Awards in a dress designed to defy walking. New York will be much less festive when "Fame" departs, but it'll be a bonus for other towns; a 35-city tour is being planned for next year.
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