Pair of Broadway newbies and a salute to the 90s
NEW YORK -- Only one Broadway opening this week: George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion," with Claire Danes as a nonsinging Eliza Doolittle, Jefferson Mays as her Professor Higgins and Boyd Gaines as Col. Pickering. It officially debuts Thursday for a nine-week run at the American Airlines Theatre on West 42nd. ... On Friday, prevues begin at the Jacobs on Tom Stoppard's "Rock 'n' Roll," a hit last year during its world premiere at London's Royal Court Theatre, which was followed by a transfer to the West End for a longer run. Directed by Trevor Nunn, it stars Brian Cox, Sinead Cusack and Rufus Sewell -- and, in case you hadn't heard, it's not about Elvis or Bill Haley and his Comets. The play involves a rock band but is much more about Czechoslovakia, England, communism, Marxism and changing political views within one family, from the 1960s to 1990. ... Meanwhile, let's hear it for the nonagenarians of the world. Two-time Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland is 91 and thriving in Paris. There's no stopping Kirk Douglas, who turned 90 in December. Ernest Borgnine, who recently finished two TV movies and one feature, turned 90 in January. At the time of her death in April at 96, New York's favorite heroine, Kitty Carlisle Hart, was still doing singing gigs, cabaret turns and theater runs. (I caught her at the 14th Street Theatre in Atlanta in 2006, and she did a terrifically entertaining solo show.) Which brings us to Tony Martin, who's 95. Starting on Sunday, the indefatigable Tony will be making his debut at Feinstein's at the Regency, a two-night singing and reminiscing engagement that at one point was canceled for unrelated reasons but has since been rescheduled. How's that for durability? (Tony has been in the public eye since he played a sailor, unbilled, in 1936's "Follow the Fleet" with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.) ... Nor is there any stopping a lady who celebrates her 90th birthday Thursday: the beautiful Marsha Hunt, one of MGM's prime assets of that studio's golden years, though I'm not sure MGM ever really appreciated that fact. Offscreen, her life often was as dramatic as the plots of her movies, including a stretch in the 1950s when those damnable House Un-American Activities Committee hearings ended with her name on a blacklist and a halted career. However, it barely deterred her, and today she remains full of enthusiasm, social consciousness and a zest for living. At 89, she even began an entirely new career, producing her first album, "Songs From the Heart," with Tony London and the Page Cavanaugh Trio. Obviously, this lady will not be spending her natal day in a prone position, wearing a shawl and needing help cutting a cake. Delighted to hit the big 9-oh, she'll instead be celebrating with friends, then two days later will be at the Fine Arts Theatre in Los Angeles for a Saturday matinee screening of a movie gem she made in 1945 titled "A Letter for Evie," as well as participating in a postfilm discussion. It's all part of a salute to Marsha by the Hollywood Heritage organization. There's more: In November, she'll be off to Pittsburgh for, among other things, a 60th anniversary screening of her film noir classic "Raw Deal," directed by Anthony Mann, where there also will be the first public showing of a portrait doll that's been created in her likeness by talented sculptor Mel Odom. She has no plans to slow down a whit. She is, after all, only 90.