“HERESY IS usually quite sophisticated, actually has meaning, and is to be taken seriously,” said theology professor Carl Trueman.
Yes, and it can also be very, very funny!
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AS THE week ended last Friday I was writing about my friend Whoopi Goldberg and the upswing in her fortunes. Then I went to the opening night of Whoopi’s own produced musical, “Sister Act,” and, of course, she was helped along by Stage Entertainment, the Shubert Organization, Disney Theatrical Productions, Joop van den Ende, Bill Taylor and Rebecca Quigley. This musical has already been produced and seen on the London stage to great acclaim.)
I just want to brag on the moment at the opening night curtain call when Whoopi herself modestly appeared onstage to congratulate the cast. It was thrilling. (As you know Whoopi starred in the movie version, which takes its tone from events in the 70’s.)
The Times critic, Charles Isherwood, must have a grudge against popular entertainment. So I am going to ignore his largely negative review and hope you will as well. I don’t want to burble on about this; I’m just telling you that “Sister Act” is a splendid production with fast moving scenery, imaginative costumes (ponder how you make a nun’s habit “different”), swift pacing from director Jerry Zaks, wonderful hot, and sweet and soft music from Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. The book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner with additions from Douglas Carter Beane seems to me an improvement on the movie story.
Let’s add of “Sister Act,” fabulous actors you probably never heard of before. How about a realistic “chorus line” of Mafia-type hit men, some fat, some unintelligible, some as fey as Michael Jackson. The “nuns” of all stripes are wonderful and the Mother Superior, award-winning Victoria Clark, completes the rosary. Then there is leading lady Patina Miller; she is to die for and even thanks her mom and grandmother in her credits. Heaven can’t wait and this show is heaven.
The musical skirts the lines of heresy and tastelessness when it comes to religion, but always neatly dances back across the horizon to heartfelt sentiments and rousing church music enlivened by rock ’n ’roll. The theme seems to be “Jesus is love,” punctuated with harmless vulgarity and profanity. (Probably Jesus would approve of modernization of a faith that sometimes seems stultifying.)
If you want to have a rousing good time at the theater and get your money’s worth, I’d say stop looking for Ibsen in modern dress or Brecht as the new god or any of that stuff. Go to see “Sister Act.” Then go to see something really silly like “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.” Let yourself relax and have a little fun.
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SPEAKING OF going to the theater, here’s a tip: When entering, pause at the theater bar. And pay, in advance, for specific drinks for yourself and companion. That way, at the crowded and hysterical intermission, you can go to the bar and your drinks will be ready and waiting.
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NOW the memoirs and titillating tales have begun to trickle out in the wake of Elizabeth Taylor’s death.
The Burtons’ London chauffeur for two years kept a diary, his family says. (The man himself died a few years back.) Britain’s Daily Mail got the first peek.
The driver chronicled all the excesses, battles and insecurities that beset the famous couple even before they wed, during the filming of “The V.I.P.s” — and later when Elizabeth went with Richard to Mexico while he and Ava Gardner were filming “The Night of the Iguana.” The most poignant tidbit is Elizabeth’s confession to her staffer: “It’s ironic. I had two children with a man I didn’t love nearly as much as Richard [presumably Michael Wilding] but here I am now, and I can’t give him a child.” After the difficult birth of Elizabeth’s third child, Liza Todd, it was considered too dangerous for ET to become pregnant again — her tubes were tied. Reading the chauffeurs tale one wonders if they really should have wed at all?
A much bawdier, happier anecdote came my way the other day, from somebody who worked with Elizabeth when she was posing for her Blackglama “What Becomes a Legend Most” photo in 1982.
“Of course she promised to be on time, but we all knew that was a joke. She was extremely late, however. And already feeling no pain. She didn’t need the champagne we had on hand. But she drank it anyway. She was in a fabulous mood, very funny. But after a while she began to get impatient. Francesco Scavullo was taking a lot of pictures, and Elizabeth had posed in two different coats already. When he asked her to try a third one, she said ‘Oh, for Christ’s sake!’ She opened the coat. She wasn’t wearing much under it. And then she grabbed her bosoms and shrieked, ‘Fuck the fur, these are the legends!!’
“Unfortunately we didn’t get a picture of that!”
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MISS TAYLOR didn’t really need the fur coat offered by Blackgama. It is said she had at least 385 fur coats in storage.