PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: The Mystery of Edwin Drood; Holmes' Sweet Home

By Harry Haun
14 Nov 2012

Chita Rivera and Robert Creighton
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The deeply Dickensian Nick Corley — he's been Bob Cratchit in many a Madison Square Garden Christmas Carol — wears a perpetually harried expression, stage-managing the vainglorious loonies on stage and later tallying the audiences' votes. "Of course, I had fun," he readily confessed. "It's a stage full of crazy people."

He was sporting two "mutton chops" on his face as well. "Because I'm a stage manager and not an actor in the show, they wanted me to look a little more real."

The last bow of the night went to the show's truest star in the smallish, but colorful, role of an opium den-mother, The Princess Puffer, originated by Cleo Laine. "Well, now I've done Cockney," sighed Chita Rivera, that one-woman U.N. who in shows past has played French, Greek, Puerto Rican, Italian, et al. How does she do it? "Ask Meryl Streep," she shrugged, professing no magic potion of her own.

In addition to crime-solving every night, the audience is asked to vote on a happy ending that will send one couple off into sunset, and on opening night Rivera drew the squat and scruffy Robert Creighton, who plays the hapless derelict, Durdles.

"We've been paired off before," she said, "but I tell you who I get a lot, who I adore — his son, the cutest thing you've ever seen." (This would be Nicholas Barasch, a 14-year-old redhead, previously seen on Broadway in a part Arthur Laurents created for the last West Side Story — "Kiddo," the boy soprano who sings "Somewhere.")

Next for Rivera? "Dunno yet, but let's keep our fingers always crossed for The Visit."

Creighton, who covered for Joel Grey in Anything Goes recently, did what he called "a little homage to Joel — his makeup style. I'm wanted to look as drunk and decrepit as possible, hence the bad teeth and the whole thing." That look actually got him pulled out of the lineup. "I actually got picked as the murderer once. Rupert told me my confession was that song's debut on Broadway. But getting to be the lover who goes off with Chita was the real thing for me. Now, I can die and go to heaven."

Betsy Wolfe and Jessie Mueller
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Sherie Rene Scott, sitting in the second row with Ghostlight Records exec-hubby Kurt Deutsch, beamed contentedly over Betsy Wolfe's work as the busty, fair-haired heroine, Rosa Bud. The invisible cartoon balloon over Scott's head read: "Oops! There goes another backup singer!" She lost the other backup singer she had for Everyday RaptureLindsay Mendez — to the big time (Second Stage's Dogfight) in July. "I feel like a mom," she clucked. "It's exciting. It's like having a kid graduating from school."

Significant Others of cast members — Debra Messing of "Smash," Marc Kudisch, Orfeh and Sebastian Arcelus — formed the family cheering section. Making it a double-dip Debra night: Debra Monk, in support of her fave director, Ellis. She is about to land big on Broadway as Big Mama in the new Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and she couldn't be happier that the show that brought her to New York, Pump Boys and Dinettes, is likewise Broadway-bound, conducted or directed by John Doyle.

Neil Simon (the playwright) arrived with his Sugar, Elaine Joyce, and both lit up at the slight of Linda Lavin and her hubby, Steve Bakunas. Lavin can't jump into the Hal Prince musical Prince of Broadway quick enough. Also in attendance: The Lunts of late (Byron Jennings and Carolyn McCormick from Ten Chimneys), Stephen Schwartz, Tony winner Julie White, Birdland emcee Jim Caruso and John Weidman.

Jamie deRoy, the comedienne-producer fated to be feted Nov. 14 along with Tyne Daly and Ted Snowden at Primary Stages' Edison Ballroom gala, arrived on the arm of cabaret kingpin Barry Kleinbort, who has two one-person shows about to lift off: Call Me Papo with Man of La Mancha's Hechter Ubarry Nov. 17 and Nov. 30 at the Laurie Beechman, and Jeffrey Hatcher's Thirteen Things About Ed Carpolotti with Penny Fuller and Paul Greenwood at the piano Dec. 4-30 at Primary Stages.

Polly Bergen was looking forward to The Paley Center showing of her Emmy-winning Helen Morgan on Nov 17. Rex Reed, her long-time friend and Connecticut neighbor, will quiz her about that classic 1957 "Playhouse 90" production.