"THE EAGLE has no fear of adversity. We need to be like the eagle and have a fearless spirit of a conqueror," wrote Joyce Meyer.
LET'S reminisce back to last Sunday before the big snowstorm when everybody seemed to be out, down and around Union Square. I was just strolling near my favorite bookstore, the incomparable Strand, and congratulating myself for living in such a divine place as Manhattan. (I know, I know, everybody now wants to live in Brooklyn or someplace else just out of NYC proper. Or far up in the air in super-expensive skyscrapers that they look down on the rest of the skyline. And a lot of them want to be sure and live far below 14th Street, down all the way to New York Harbor. But 14th Street and environs is still daring enough for me.)
But I didn't know I was going to be talked into going to a movie at 13th and Broadway and it was a film I didn't particularly want to see -- "Wild" starring Reese Witherspoon. I finally gave in, and I am so glad I did. Nobody I can recall made it possible for me to see "Wild" early on. If they did I am sure that it was my personal prejudice against hiking deserts and climbing mountains and fording streams that made me ignore early screenings.
I knew just enough of the true story about the woman Reese was portraying to lessen my interest. I knew this was a brave -- or foolish -- female who had committed herself to a daunting physical endeavor in an effort to finally get over her mother's death -- and other issues. After seeing it, however, I knew my assumptions were wrong. It is a formidable story, with acting and directing that is mighty impressive. (Jean Marc-Vallee is the director.) Reese richly deserves her Oscar nomination. She has already won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line," which I felt was the complete melding of her previous strong-minded onscreen females. She does not play victims or women in jeopardy.
My one interview with Reese left me impressed. She projects a great deal of self-possession, a sense of knowing who and what she is, and what she wants. She was promoting the movie "Vanity Fair" and when I said that I found her interpretation of heartless Becky Sharpe somewhat sympathetic, she wasn't flattered. So in "Wild," she was in her element, as a woman battling the elements -- and her own personal weaknesses.
This is more than the escapist or supernatural foolishness of so many movies. Don't miss "Wild" -- like I almost did.
MY LONGTIME friend Judith Ann Abrams is a good example of why some people go into the theater business and will never give it up, though the drama-comedy stuff usually gives them up!
Judy used to direct and produce for something her family dreamed up, "Pixie Judy Troupe," a repertory company offering theater for children and families.
Now, she's still working with "children" -- the adult kind who invest and meddle with Broadway. But she is a real grown-up person who is actually making a living from this mysterious, appealing and horrible business. The other day, after she checked to be sure I had gotten Elaine Stritch's farewell gift of Bay's English Muffins -- they went to all her friends -- Judy came by to check on whether or not I was snowbound. I knew Judy had worked with a lot of shows that had failed and, recently, many that had succeeded. So I asked her, "Are you making a living from the theater?"
"Well," says Judy reflectively, "When in comes a nice hunk of change from something like the Broadway hit 'Kinky Boots,' then the next thing you know the many producers are saying that they need more money for another production aborning, or a new venue for maybe 'Kinky.' Or something else entirely. So one never knows if shows really turn a profit, or if it's all just a money pit! But I love working with my favorite producer, Daryl Roth, and I trust her with my whole heart!" (Ms. Roth is the blonde bombshell who backed Nora and Delia Ephron's little play about fashion and what we all wore, along with many other hits.)
Judy went on to praise the legendary Chita Rivera, who is opening in the long-awaited musical version of "The Visit," with music by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb. "The Visit" opens April 23 at the Lyceum Theatre, with a book by the busy playwright Terrence McNally.
Friend Judy also has a hand in the incomparable Tyne Daly's opening at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on April 14. Again, Judy is working with Daryl and this musical has the whimsical title of "It Shoulda Been You." The star, Tyne, can do no wrong in my book.
In the 1976 film "The Enforcer," one of his early "Make my day!" movies, she was Eastwood's young partner, killed off in the end. In 1981, she hit the big time in TV's "Cagney and Lacey" (with Sharon Gless) and then went on to distinguish herself on Broadway in an acclaimed revival of "Gypsy," where she sang the heck out of "Rose's Turn." She was also a surprisingly effective Maria Callas in "Master Class." Critics and the public have loved Tyne ever since she embraced the theater and came back "home." (She began her career acting in stock in New York, making her Broadway debut in 1967. Tyne was born in Wisconsin, but New York claims her!)
Judy then handed me a bottle of champagne. (Now that's the kind of drop-in I like.) Oh, yes, and I almost forgot that Judy has associations with "Matilda the Musical" and "It's Only a Play," now offering Broadway the talents of Martin Short, knocking them dead as usual.
Here's a nice P.S. Judy will be going to London for the openings of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and "Made in Dagenham." She tried to give me the names of all her other producers and show backers, but this column has to stop somewhere.
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)
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