A Night With Dame Helen Mirren in <em>The Audience</em> Is Everything That Every Theatergoer Needs

They need it to get away from blockbuster musicals and to see a few really big stars who have momentarily escaped from Hollywood.
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"I'm old-fashioned, I love the moonlight,
I love the old-fashioned things.
The sound of rain upon a windowpane,
The starry song that April sings.
This year's fancies, are passing fancies
But sighing sighs, holding hands,
These my heart understands.
I know I'm old-fashioned
But I don't mind it.
That's how I want to be
As long as you agree
To stay old-fashioned with me."

These words were written by Johnny Mercer and the music by Jerome Kern for a film titled You Were Never Lovelier, penned in 1942. It was introduced by Nan Wynn who dubbed it for Rita Hayworth in a dance routine with Fred Astaire.

It has been sung by Judy Garland, Dinah Shore, Julie Andrews, Andy Williams, Blossom Dearie, the King Sisters -- and since the 1980's by Cassandra Wilson, Maria Joao, Stacey Kent and Victoria Williams. It was part of an early "try" by classical soprano Eileen Farrell in 1960. Jessye Norman followed her example in 1984. The song is a perennial!

•SPEAKING of "old-fashioned," I hope you took a look at the male fashion magazines offered last weekend. Both of them -- the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal -- were miracles of mostly attractive guys and the latest and the most outré and the oldest and classiest looks for men.

And my favorite among all of these was the portrait of the Ralph Lauren offspring -- Ralph and Ricky's eldest son Andrew.

He is offered looking handsome and turned out in a suit and smart tie. Andrew is a producer of This Is Not a Robbery, which bowed at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2008 and was a documentary about J. L. "Red" Rountree, who became a serial bank robber at the age of 86. He died in prison in 2004.

Andrew aspires to direct and rightfully admires Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen and Orson Welles. He has had several other hits to his credit.

•I WONDER if Andrew Lauren can get a reservation to visit his famous father's new cafe on East 55th Street, which is all the rage and has to keep a couple of girls standing out on the sidewalk with clipboards to say who is admitted and who isn't, to The Polo Bar.

I was sitting in Orso's famed theater restaurant the other night when a friend, Bette-Ann Gwathmey, Ralph Lauren's longtime aide, came over and gave me a big hug. "Liz, Congratulations for being the only person in New York who hasn't asked me to intercede for them at The Polo Bar." (This site used to be the famous Le Cote Basque for those of us with long memories.)

Do people cramming into The Polo Bar, where the food is said to be "fabulous," find themselves eating in a basement?

• A night at the Schoenfeld Theatre with Dame Helen Mirren in her tour de force The Audience is everything that every true theater-loving theatergoer needs. They need it to get away from blockbuster musicals and to see a few really big stars who have momentarily escaped from Hollywood. The play's title refers to the history of Queen Elizabeth II, meeting with her various Prime Ministers over the course of her long, long reign.

But everyone who wants to have the Mirren experience can't and won't be included and there is nothing Helen and her producers can do about it. They are a sell-out through June 28th. For instance, the night I was taken as a guest in a party of four, I got a glimpse at the cost of my ticket, far back in Row M. I believe it was for about $139.00 so this cost the host four times that and didn't include the cost of having a car hired for arrival and departure because the weather was frankly -- dim.

We had a reasonable dinner before the show. And though someone else grabbed the dinner check, the host still spent plenty of money -- the usual sum that the theater costs these days.

When I say the evening was worth it, it was, for me at least. Peter Morgan's script calls for no real scenery. There are exposures of the people who served the Queen of England in their exact historic costumes. The Queen's dresses also appear through the years, even her informal country outfit for her castle in Scotland. These are divine.

If you happen to luck into seeing this in spite of my warnings that it all costs an arm and a leg, don't miss the gaudy guards in their costumes, swords drawn onstage, standing stock still or moving in exact tandem through the diverting entre-act. They are gloriously coordinated. And it is the best intermission I have ever seen in the theatre.

Mr. Morgan's play itself is an absorbing matter of English history for over 60 years since Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952 when her father, George VI died. And none of this history happens in the play consecutively.

We see the Queen dressed to receive Winston Churchill at one point and follow-up meetings with Anthony Eden or other more recent Prime Ministers. The Queen also spars with her little girl self.

Dame Mirren's Queen confers in a warm, friendly but regal manner with one Prime Minister after another. She is a bit frigid with some, one being Margaret Thatcher, but always proper. Helen changes hair and clothes in fractions of a second onstage and keeps the audience hanging, alert with curious expectation. The "dressers" out-do themselves for speed.

If you wonder how Helen Mirren appears and acts so flawlessly like the Queen, well, she won the Oscar for Peter Morgan's film about the Queen's experience in the aftermath of Princess Diana's death. I think Helen is the greatest stage actress I have ever seen. Maybe it's just because I love her as a friend and spent the night before 9/11 having dinner with her. Tragic events produce deep feelings.

Helen is trying to save her voice so I didn't go back to see her after The Audience. She knows how loved she is.

Try to find some rich friends to take you to see Mr. Morgan's play.

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