Doolittle-'iggins revival is looking bloody likely


NEW YORK -- Suddenly, those two great theatrical icons Eliza Doolittle and Professor 'enry 'iggins are everywhere. Prevues begin Friday in Manhattan on the Roundabout Theatre Company's version of Shaw's "Pygmalion," with Claire Danes making her theatrical debut as a nonsinging Eliza, joined by Jefferson Mays ("I Am My Own Wife") as the rascally elocution master Higgins and Boyd Gaines as Col. Pickering, directed by David Grindley. It's happening at the American Airlines Theatre on 42nd in a nine-week run starting Oct. 18. ... Meanwhile, tonight in Pittsburgh, Cameron Mackintosh's ambitious National Theatre import of the musicalized version of "Pygmalion," known far and wide as "My Fair Lady," opens at the Benedum Center, beginning what will be a year's tour of the U.S. Few tours these days come with better credentials: Mackintosh producing, direction by Trevor Nunn, choreography by Matthew Bourne. The cast is headed by Lisa O'Hare, who drew raves as London's Mary Poppins, with Higgins played by Christopher Cazenove. But the piece de resistance of this version is Sally Ann Howes playing Mrs. Higgins, a role that always has been played by actresses of note (Cathleen Nesbitt on Broadway, Gladys Cooper in the 1964 film version, Anna Neagle in a London revival). Howes' connection to this particular property is unique: Already a star in her native England at 27, she became instantly famous here in the States when she took over for Julie Andrews during "Lady's" original Broadway run, causing such furor that it landed Howes on the cover of Life magazine as "Broadway's New 'Fair Lady.' " ("She acts a more fiery Eliza, full of verve and vinegar," Life commented.) After that, she went on to play the musicalized Eliza hundreds of times throughout the country before moving on to create roles of her own (including 1968's film version of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," Broadway's "What Makes Sammy Run," "The Dead," etc.). This "Lady" tour will make numerous stops, including four weeks at the Kennedy Center in Washington from Dec. 27-Jan. 20 and three weeks at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles (April 9-27). Howes will not, however, be appearing in the L.A. run; she has signed on for only the first six months of the tour, with Marni Nixon to take over beginning with the musical's two-week run at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre from Jan. 22-Feb. 3. And Nixon, of course, has her own unique "Lady" connection, having supplied the singing voice for Audrey Hepburn in that Oscar-winning 1964 film adaptation. ... Out California way this month, the Algonquin West Hollywood Literary Award Soiree will be honoring writer Mark Salzman as part of a Sept. 29 benefit for "PEN in the Classroom" at the Pacific Design Center's Silver Screen Theatre. The evening will feature a special tribute to New York's legendary Algonquin Round Table gatherings and their brilliant, if often off-kilter but always witty participants. Titled "Celebrating Dorothy and Her Friends," the event will focus on Algonquin regular Dorothy Parker and such "friends" as George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly and Edna Ferber, with the likes of Martin Landau, Bruce Davison, John Glover, Mary Jo Catlett, Tonya Pinkins and Gordon Thomson reading from their works. It's being staged by Michael Kearns and is open to the public.