The award season is all about superlatives and thank you speeches but for East Hampton's Guild Hall Lifetime Achievement Awards, it is about community and family. Marshall Brickman, Master of Ceremonies at a most packed ballroom at the Plaza for the annual Lifetime Achievement Awards on Monday night, paid homage to Peter Stone, who held this honor for years. Of course, in theater Brickman is known for Jersey Boys and The Addams Family, and so, when he introduced Nathan Lane, winner for Performing Arts, he knew from what he spoke as Lane had originated the role of Gomez Addams: for rehearsal, he was off book, that is, knew his lines by heart, and knew everybody else's lines too. Director Jack O'Brien screamed a cathartic scream realizing that their new play, The Nance, starring Lane, was only three weeks away from opening. That work, which he will direct from a script by Douglas Carter Beane, should be wonderful, if his work on the new book of Cinderella, which opened on Sunday night at the Broadway Theater is any indication, but more on that later. Ever charming, ever quipping, Nathan Lane took the stage retooling the award season bromide: "I didn't prepare a speech. I didn't think I would win."
He then lauded the audience who paid good money to be here, eating the filet and what not in the elegant room, but hey, that's the equivalent of a down payment on a pound of lobster salad at Loaves & Fishes. Painter John Alexander was honored for Visual Arts. Painting is lonely, he said and recounted a story about Springs resident Willem deKooning who kept the television on while he worked to have someone there. Lorne Michaels and Dan Ackroyd introduced Alexander who seemed proudest of his time -- where he is not lonely -- volunteering at the Amagansett Fire Department. Writer Ken Auletta, indeed movie star handsome, introduced the Literary Arts award to Walter Isaacson, the author most recently of the Steve Jobs biography that sold more books last year than the Bible. "Enthralling and weird" -- deemed Auletta -- that goes for both subject and biographer.
But the loudest applause went to philanthropist Mickey Straus who had also served as chair of Guild Hall's board for 18 years. His neighbor Alec Baldwin -- with pregnant wife Hilaria -- was all praise. Others on hand for a standing ovation were April Gornik, Eric Fishl, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick and his on-stage mom Blythe Danner, who took over that role in Nice Work If You Can Get It.
Of course, Nathan Lane was one of many at the revelatory opening of Cinderella the night before: among Bernadette Peters, Anjelica Huston, Laurie Metcalf, Linda Lavin, Kyra Sedgwick, Tommy Tune, and other theater royalty. Rodgers & Hammerstein had written the musical for television in the 1950's, so, as producer Jill Furman pointed out, they weren't even sure what category it would make for Tony consideration. Douglas Carter Beane tweaked the script in such a clever way the story you know and love contains many surprises, including a social consciousness, and oh, that bling slipper. The acting is first-rate, with an adorable if naïve prince played by Santino Fontana, and Harriet Harris as the forgivable stepmother; Peter Bartlett is hilarious as scheming adviser to the prince, and Victoria Clark as the mad hag cum fairy godmother soars (literally). A special mention should go to William Ivey Long for his gowns: the women at the ball hoisted and twirled are visually thrilling; especially memorable are three gowns for Laura Osnes' Cinderella, a delicate voiced beauty who seems born for this role. In particular, Long devised a magical transformation of scullery maid to mysterious belle right before your eyes. Yes, the forest is enchanting, but pay very close attention to the trees.
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