Theater Notes: CLO lands Callaway; City actor makes mean cocktail


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Liz Callaway will return to sing the work of Andrew Lloyd Webber for Pittsburgh CLO, this time as the lead in the musical "Sunset Boulevard" in July.

Ms. Callaway was here last summer for "Love Changes Everything," a revue of Sir Andrew's considerable catalog, including a few songs from "Sunset Boulevard." The stage musical, which starred Patti LuPone in London and Glenn Close on Broadway, is based on the Billy Wilder film about the ill-fated partnership between faded movie star Norma Desmond and struggling writer Joe Gillis.

A Tony nominee for "Baby," Ms. Callaway also appeared on Broadway for five years as Grizabella in "Cats." She also was in the original casts of "Miss Saigon," "The Three Musketeers" and "The Look of Love," and received a Drama Desk nomination for her performance in off-Broadway's "The Spitfire Grill." She has performed cabaret shows with her sister, Ann Hampton Callaway, and in concerts worldwide and sang the Academy Award-nominated song "Journey to the Past" in the animated feature "Anastasia." This summer, "Boom! Live at Birdland" (with her sister) was released on PS Classics.

"Sunset Boulevard," with book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton and a Webber score, will play the Benedum July 24-29, 2012. More info at pittsburghclo.org.

No holds barred

During each performance of "Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir," Luke Macfarlane sings, plays cello, puts himself through an emotional ringer and shows his skills as a bartender as part of the City Theatre premiere.

One of his most impressive moments is creating drinks as he explains how he knows just the right ones to serve. Those include a perfectly layered Pousse-Cafe, which is made by building layers of colored liqueurs with the most dense at the bottom and finishing with the lightest at the top.

There's a bright red and green layer -- grenadine, which can be nonalcoholic, and green chartreuse, which can be 40 to 55 proof? That's almost beside the point. On opening night, Mr. Macfarlane poured four perfect layers, large enough to distinguish from the back of the Lester Hamburg Studio Theater, while continuing his dialogue.

Then he drank it all in one big gulp, as he must do at each performance, and got right on with his storytelling and singing. Here's hoping the coffee brought to him later in the show is just as real as that perfect Pousse-Cafe.

The big reveal

The first of three surprise performances for members of The 486 Club is Monday at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

Mark Southers, artistic director of theater initiatives at the center, created the club -- named for the number of seats in the auditorium -- to spotlight talent such as he had seen in festivals during his travels nationally and abroad.

"More times than not, they are virtually unknown to our area, and the first thing that comes to mind is, 'Wow, I really wish the folks back home could see this!' " he said. "The season's three performances will take place on Monday evenings to allow access to these artists and to ensure a warm, receptive, full house for them. As a member of The 486 Club, your spirit of adventure will come into play; there will be no advance publicity, nor will the performers be announced beforehand. You will have no idea what exciting experiences you are in for until the curtain opens."

It's $125 per person to join the club, a fee that includes a one-year basic membership to the August Wilson Center and performances Monday and Feb. 27 and May 21, 2012. Call 412-338-8727 to join or for more information.

TV timeout

Christian Borle of Fox Chapel and Carnegie Mellon was nominated for a Drama Desk Award last year for his off-Broadway role as The Black Stache -- the man who would become Captain Hook -- in the musical "Peter and the Starcatcher," a Peter Pan prequel. Now the show is headed to Broadway in the spring, but Mr. Borle's plate is full with "Smash," an NBC show from Steven Spielberg about the making of a musical. The pilot is due to air Feb. 6 and will likely keep Mr. Borle, a Tony nominee for "Legally Blonde," from returning to Broadway.

"Right now as it stands I'm heartbroken that it's not going to work out because that was one of the most special things I've ever done in my life," he said in a recent phone interview. "But there's a very specific window to bring it to Broadway in the spring before an avalanche of new shows open, so the timing ... but anything can happen. I don't know. I'm very happy for all of them, though. It's a lot of fun."

Here and there ...

Paul McGill of Bellevue left the Broadway cast of "Memphis" after winning a spot in the revival of "Funny Girl," but was left briefly unemployed when "Funny Girl" was canceled. Within days, he was on a plane back to New York for a job as a vacation swing in "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," cable work included. ... Patti LuPone stepped off the Heinz Hall stage last week and into Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theater for "An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin." USA Today gave the show an A- and Charles Isherwood of The New York Times wrote "Both are generously gifted singers who invest themselves in music with a commitment that never flags and an emotional intensity that can scorch." ... Andy Mientus of Ross is among the just-announced cast for the musical "Carrie," based on the Stephen King book, which hits the off-Broadway Lucille Lortel Theatre Jan. 31. ... According to the Daily Mail, busy director Rob Ashford has moved the workshops of "Finding Neverland," based on the 2004 Johnny Depp film, to London next month in preparation for a late 2012 or early 2013 West End opening. It was to debut in La Jolla Playhouse earlier this year.


Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960.


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