Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wild-cat watch

Poor Sheila: She's been hit by a nasty lung infection and this weekend had to miss a pair of shows starring some favorite stage dames—Shrek the Musical with Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona and Pal Joey with Stockard Channing as Vera Simpson.

I won't give my take on them until the Time Out New York reviews hit the stand, but here's one thing: How many critics will use the word "cougar" in their review of Pal Joey? Stockard is 64 and her love interest in the show is played by Matthew Risch, 27. (Risch replaced Christian Hoff, 40, in previews.) One of the reasons I love the theater is that it's a lot more hospitable to women, particularly older women, than film or television, and you frequently see couples in which the woman is older than the man even if it's not in the script; in the case of Pal Joey, however, the age difference is an integral part of the story.

I was lucky to catch the Encores! production of the show in 1995. Vera Simpson was played by Patti LuPone (then 46) and Joey Evans was played by Peter Gallagher (then 39). Clearly the dynamic between Joey and Mrs. Simpson was very different from the one in the current revival—partly because the age gap was lesser, but because of specific acting choices as well. For now I'll just say that the new take on the relationship feels less daring than the 1995 one to me.

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