Monster slayer? An 'Affair' to remember at Tony time


On Thursday, "A Catered Affair" officially debuts and begins roosting at the Walter Kerr Theatre, surrounded by the positive buzz from those who have caught the new musical in prevues the past three weeks, not to mention the raves that traveled from San Diego, where the show world-premiered at the Old Globe in September. With its launch, a lot of people in Manhattan will be resting easier. For a time, it looked as though Tony voters, by default, might have to name "Young Frankenstein" the season's best musical. Yikes. But now we have at least seven eligible contenders in that best new musical category: "Catered Affair," "Passing Strange," "In the Heights," "Xanadu," "The Little Mermaid," "Young Frankenstein" and "Cry-Baby," which opens April 24. ... Just to stay clear about these things, Paddy Chayefsky called his original 1955 TV version with Thelma Ritter "The Catered Affair"; MGM also kept it that way with its 1957 movie adaptation starring Bette Davis. But for Broadway, it's "A Catered Affair." Harvey Fierstein, who did the book for the legiter and co-stars in it, says that slight change makes the title more apt. He didn't mention it, but it also puts the show in the No. 1 spot in the New York Times' theater directory listing, ahead of the title that has been ensconced there since October 2006: "A Chorus Line." ... On Sunday, the brand-new Pulitzer Prize winner "August: Osage County" finishes its run at the Imperial but, hallelujah, will reopen nine days later practically next door at the Music Box. I repeat something I've said before: If you're planning a trip to a theater in New York, make this keg of dynamite from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater Company your first stop. ... On Monday at the Algonquin Hotel, Sandy Duncan and Karen Ziemba will be announcing the Outer Critics Circle nominees for the 2007-08 off-Broadway season. Duncan's soon to star in the "Encores!" production of "No, No, Nanette" at the City Center; Ziemba is helping light up "Curtains" at the Al Hirschfeld, where the long-runner will be closing in June. The OCC winners will be announced May 12, and winners will be feted and handed their awards May 22 at Sardi's. ... April 5 marked the 100th birthday of the aforementioned Bette Davis, but it'll be in a couple of weeks that the late Miss D. (she died in 1989) will be given a royal tribute befitting someone who twice played England's Queen Elizabeth and, in the 1930s and 1940s, herself reigned like a queen at the Warner Bros. studio. Hollywood's Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present a full-fledged Davis tribute May 1 at its Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills; it will include a wealth of Davis film clips as well as appearances by her son Michael Merrill, who's now a lawyer in Boston; Davis' longtime girl Friday, Kathy Sermak; co-star Gena Rowlands (Davis and Rowlands played mother-daughter in a superb 1979 telefilm titled "Strangers"); Joan Leslie, with whom Davis appeared in the 1944 "Hollywood Canteen"; and James Woods, a friend and fellow actor. I'm going to have the pleasure of hosting and, altogether, we'll hopefully present a more accurate picture of what the real Davis was like, which was something far more compelling and infinitely deeper than the caricature often painted of her. Meanwhile, the next day, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will begin a 16-film retrospective of Davis films, running May 2-31, as a further reminder of why the lady became one of the screen's true icons.

Robert Osborne is the primetime host and anchor of  the Turner Classic Movies cable network.