Enchanted evenings ahead for those Broadway-bound
This week's primary Broadway activity includes Thursday's opening of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific" at the Vivian Beaumont in Lincoln Center, making it (difficult to believe) the first Broadway revival of this venerable show since it closed Jan. 16, 1954, at the Broadway theater after a nearly five-year, 1,925-performance run that began at the Majestic nine blocks south exactly 59 years ago this month (on April 7, 1949). It was directed by Joshua Logan, with Mary Martin and opera star Ezio Pinza in the leads and no less than the future Academy Award winner (and the future Frau Blucher of the movies' "Young Frankenstein") Cloris Leachman in the wings as Martin's understudy. This time, Bartlett Sher directs, with Paulo Szot singing about "Some Enchanted Evening," and Kelli O'Hara retorting about washing that man "right outta my hair." There also was a Broadway "South Pacific" in 1943, no relation; that one was a drama directed by Lee Strasberg that played all of five performances and folded. It's one claim to fame is that it marked the Broadway debut of Ruby Dee. … Also on Thursday, prevues begin on the revival of Clifford Odet's 1950 drama "The Country Girl" at the Jacobs with Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Frances McDormand. It is directed by another Academy Award winner, Mike Nichols, with a cast that also includes Peter Gallagher. It officially opens April 27. The original debuted at the Lyceum with Uta Hagen, Paul Kelly and Steven Hills, followed by a brief 1966 revival starring Jennifer Jones and Franchot Tone, which played a limited three-week run at the City Center. The last "Country" on Broadway until now was in 1972 with Jason Robards, Maureen Stapleton and George Grizzard. … On April 12, the Lake Arrowhead Film Festival will have a 40th-anniversary screening of Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby," and on May 22, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills will screen a beautiful new print of that 1968 film as part of a celebration honoring Robert Evans, Paramount's head honcho when the Mia Farrow-John Cassavetes starrer was made, all of which is certain to please Polanski — even far away in Europe. Something he might be less gleeful about also is on the immediate horizon: Damian Chapa's new film, "Polanski Unauthorized," a dramatized account of R.P.'s personal problems, circa 1977, which gets a premiere screening April 23 at Westwood's Majestic Theatre. It was brought to my attention by Edmund Druilhet, who co-produced the feature with Chapa, who also stars in and directed it. (Sara Sanchez is the executive producer.) Judging by the few scenes I saw, it's a movie likely to raise many an eyebrow, rattle a few cages and have more than a few Hollywood insiders blowing their stacks. Meanwhile, less inflammatory but no less interesting are some other works Druilhet has in the works via his own Dragon Lion Media company, including a documentary feature about the history of women and the reality TV series "Repo Team Network." He also was the co-founder of the "Freeing the Goddess Foundation" with Lisa Grant. Hey, it's what showbiz is all about, isn't it? Showmanship, variety, causing talk, attracting audiences and in the process getting a foot in the door and hopefully pleasing a few million people.