Last Wednesday afternoon, a group of theater bloggers gathered at the Red Eye Grill on 7th Avenue across from Carnegie Hall for the first ever press event specifically for bloggers, made possible through Broadway’s Best Shows. The blogosphere was out in full force to sit around and chat with the cast and creatives behind Superior Donuts, the latest Steppenwolf to Broadway transfer that started previews last evening at the Music Box Theatre. This marks the second consecutive Tracy Letts play to be performed in the venue, following the hit run of his Tony and Pulitzer winning August: Osage County which closed in June.
There were several tables set up on the upper floor of the restaurant. Irene Gandy, one hell of a good press agent as well as one of the great fashionistas of the NY theatre community, told us that the afternoon was to be a bit like speed dating. (I’ve seen Irene at various openings, closings and other events over the past couple of years and she is always decked out in the most fabulous hats you’ve ever seen). Anyway, we’d all gather around the round tables and every five minutes, the actors as well as Tracy Letts and director Tina Landau would get up and switch tables.
Much to the delight of SarahB and myself, we found the delightful Kate Buddeke seated to our right. Kate tore up the Shubert Theatre as the brassy Miss Mazeppa (with her revolution in dance) in the excellent 2003 revival of Gypsy with Bernadette Peters, helping to bring down the house with “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” She is a native of Chicago and has spent the last five years doing a great deal of theatre in her hometown where she was one of the original members of the American Theatre Company. I have to say, having met her briefly at Angus a week earlier and getting to chat with her here, she is a real pleasure to know and it is our great pleasure that she is back on Broadway.
Sarah and I found ourselves with our pal Jimmy as well as a correspondent from the Polish American Journal, who asked incisive questions about the importance of ethnicity portrayed within the play. And though I’ve never speed-dated, I guess it’s the same organized chaos of going from table to table. Everyone was excited for the play, and to be on the verge of starting performances in NY. I didn’t ask too many questions, but the one I did asked, “How has the play evolved since Steppenwolf?” It turns out that Letts has gone back and made some revisions. I never saw it in Chicago, so I would be curious to compare the frozen version that opens in two weeks with the text the actors were using over a year ago.
With the exception of Buddeke and Michael McKean, the actors in the ensemble are making their Broadway debuts; the excitement was palpable as they discussed what it was like to be working on Broadway. Landau and Letts talked about the differences between theatre in NY and Chicago. There is a different lifestyle, more relaxed and with a greater sense of community that both Letts and Landau said is hard to find in NY. The cost to create theatre in Chicago is also less than in NY, and it really seems that all the elements combined have allowed so many prestigious theatre companies to flourish.Michael McKean was at our table chatting with us after doing a quick interview with NBC’s Jeffrey Lyons. All of a sudden a press rep escorts a dapper and unassuming gentleman to our table. Rather stunned, we are all introduced to Michael Feinstein, whose upcoming Broadway venture All About Me, was just announced the day before. He sits down at the table, and the four of us marvel in seeing the two stars meet for the first time. Turns out that McKean and his beautiful wife, Annette O’Toole, had performed at Feinstein’s in Chicago and McKean’s father once worked at Columbia Records for Goddard Lieberson (yes, boys and girls, the Goddard Lieberson!). Feinstein proved a charming raconteur with fun stories about the Gershwins and Lehman Engel. Hell, he even had an anecdote involving my name.
The event was over within an hour, as the actors were making their way to the invited dress rehearsals of either A Steady Rain, another Chicago import, or Bye Bye Birdie. I only wish we had more time with all of them; they were all so eloquent and passionate about their work I could have listened all night. But I did go home with what was quite possibly the best donut I’ve ever tasted in my life. No idea where they came from, but Mr. Richards should consider selling them at the Music Box. I know I’d love another one when I see the show.