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Arthur Laurents Launches ’West Side Story’ Revival; Valentino Documentary Hits The Screen

Originally Posted: March 24, 2009

Jennifer Tuesday

Arthur Laurents launches revival of

New York City - East Enders turned out in droves for the much anticipated revival of the quintessential Broadway musical, "West Side Story," directed by its original author Quogue's Arthur Laurents. The master writer, director and two time Tony Award winner stunned theater critics and audiences with his brilliant revival of "Gypsy" last year and now at the age of 91 was back on the boards to introduce the classic story of ill fated love to a new generation.

First nighters had quibbles with the casting, claiming lead Matt Cavenaugh, last seen in the award winning "Grey Gardens" was "too New England" to play the Polish-American hero "Tony," but anyone seeing the chemistry between him and newcomer Argentinean Josefina Scaglione as Maria would be hard-pressed to agree. Laurents also added a new element to the love story set against the backdrop of a turf war between the Puerto Rican Sharks and the American Jets.

Several of the most famous tunes are sung in Spanish including the sweet "I Feel Pretty" which added a new authenticity to the tried and true "Romeo and Juliet" theme. Laurents credits his lover of 56 years, Tom Hatcher, with the idea. Tom saw a version of the musical in Bogota, Colombia and was charmed with it and suggested Arthur get out his pen and re-write sections in Spanish. Sadly, Tom never got to see his partner's new work. He passed away in 2006.

"West Side Story" producer Roy Furman, is a resident
of East Hampton.

Bottom line, it is still all about the marvelous songs and the stunning Jerome Robbins choreography which Joey McKneeley, a protégé of Robbins has masterfully replicated.

Producer Roy Furman was seen grinning ear to ear at the audience response. Furman, who is a trustee of Guild Hall and president of its Academy of Arts, and Vice Chair at Lincoln Center, has clearly got a winner on his hands. Furman seems to have the golden touch and a good nose for sniffing out what will please audiences. His recent Broadway outings have included "Spamalot," "The Color Purple," "The History Boys" and "Legally Blond." Furman's East End neighbors and sometime producing partners Stewart Lane and Bonnie Comley were equally excited that they will have a long time tenant in their theater as Lane owns The Palace.

Fellow producers including Hampton favorites Terry Allen Kramer, Jimmy and Margo Nederlander and Harvey Weinstein with wife Georgina Chapman by his side, accepted congratulations from a host of the East End's glitterati including Lauren Bacall, Phyllis Newman, Kathleen Turner, Rory Tahari, Marty Richards and Michael Kors.

Christine Brinkley looked ravishing on the arm of her handsome young escort, her son Jack Paris Brinkley Cook. Adding more high voltage to the opening night were Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer, Vanessa Williams and her "Ugly Betty" co-star Mark Indelicato, Rachel Dratch, Lily Taylor, Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas, Mo Rocca, hunky Cheyenne Jackson, Robin Cofer and jazz great Peter Cincotti.

You would think that having written over 24 musicals and plays and numerous film scripts including the Robert Redford-Barbra Streisand tear jerker "The Way We Were" and mounting two amazing musicals in one year would be more than enough to wear out a person half his age, but not Arthur. As soon as he can, he'll be on a book tour to promote the recently completed follow-up to his 2000 memoir, "Original Story By," entitled "Mainly On Directing" - a pull no punches tale of his life from the stages of Broadway to the studios of Hollywood.

Actress Angela Lansbury. Photo courtesy of Patrick McMullan.com

One very dear friend and long-time collaborator not able to attend was the luminous Angela Lansbury. Arthur forgave her as she had the best excuse in the theater world -- Lansbury had just opened days before in the critically acclaimed revival of "Blithe Spirit" just streets away and was weaving her magical spells as Madame Arcati in the delightful Noel Coward romp while the Sharks and the Jets were rumbling at The Palace. Angela and her formidable co-star Christine Ebersole as the spirit returning to haunt her soon to be wed former husband have brought back the old style elegant comedy with of course the witty language of Coward intact. The show even has its own resident psychic selected from a competition in England to serve as production psychic consultant.

Angela as the loopy Madame Arcati is a total hoot especially when she gets ready to go into a trance and does her little summoning the spirits dance. The audience howled with delight.

Opening night for this lovely show was steeped in tradition and had all the trappings of an old-fashioned Broadway first night, right down to the requisite after party at Sardi's under the portraits of decades' worth of Broadway stars.
There was much hugging and little air kissing as old friends reunited. Angela entered the historic eatery on the arm of her brother producer Edgar Lansbury to thunderous applause and was immediately swarmed by well wishers such as Tammy Grimes who played the ghost in Coward's "High Spirits" four decades ago and Penny Fuller who had played Vera Charles in the smash hit "Mame."

The crowd was an eclectic mix of Broadway vets, TV and turf stars and Hollywood denizens: Arizona Cardinal's Super Bowl winning quarterback Kurt Warner (an unabashed Noel Coward fan), the luminescent Marian Seldes, jazz artist Jessica Molaskey and husband John Pizzarelli Hamptons' fave husband and wife musical duo, Tamara Tunie, Fraser's David Hyde Pierce wearing a NYPD cap, choreographer Mark Morris swathed in a blue shawl, radiant Polly Bergen, funny lady Rachel Dratch, "Fiddler on the Roof" author Joe Stein and his wife Elisa of East Hampton, gossip queen Liz Smith, Richard Thomas, Tony winner Donna Murphy and even Donatella Versace's daughter Allegra Beck on the arm of her devastatingly handsome father, former model Paul Beck.

Giancarlo Giammetti with Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna and guests. Photo courtesy of Patrick McMullan.com

Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) Executive Director Karen Arikian and her cohort Director of Programming David Nugent can take a bow for having backed a winner. Sensing the mood of audiences at the beginning of the financial downturn, the very savvy Karen opted to pass on the weighty political dramas and open last fall's fest with the U.S. premiere of the touching documentary "Valentino: The Last Emperor" directed by Vanity Fair writer Matt Tyrnauer chronicling the life, love and success that are the hallmark's of the great designer's career.

Last week, the film was rolled out nationally with an over-the-top launch screening at the Museum of Modern Art introduced by a face familiar to Hamptons audiences MOMA Director of Films Raj Roy who for many years served in a similar position at HIFF. The brilliant film was followed by an elegant dinner at The Plaza's Oak Room.

With an invitation that came from Marisa Bereson, Tory Burch, Helena Christensen, Claire Danes, Aerin Lauder, Princess Firyal of Jordan, Annette de la Renta, Rachel Feinstein, Cornelia Guest, Gwyneth Paltrow, Stephanie Seymour, Georgina Chapman, Lynn Wyatt, Pamela Fiori, Carolina Herrera, Karolina Kurkova, Doutzen Kroes, Diane Von Furstenberg, Natalia Vodianova, Daphne Guinness, Valentino Garavani, and Giancarlo Giammetti, it was not surprise that the party drew a triple A-list of international names and scores of our fellow Hamptonites, including von Furstenberg and Barry Diller, Martha Stewart, Tinsley and Topper Mortimer, Dennis Brasso and Michael Cominotto, Timothy Fok, Hilary and Wilbur Ross, Dixon Boardman, Blythe Danner, Meredith Melling Burke, Jacob Berstein, Scott Currie, Eli Tahari, and some time Gwyneth Paltrow houseguest in Amagansett, Madonna. Valentino and Giancarlo were surrounded by the pair's muses - Paltrow, Clare Danes and Anne Hathaway - all of course looking ultra glam in Valentino courtre.

Peter Brant, owner of Interview Magazine

The film was shot over two years in Paris, Rome, London, New York, Gstaad, and aboard Valentino's yacht - during a period when rumors of the designer's retirement were swirling about him and partner in life and business Giancarlo Giammetti. It is filled with lovely moments as when Giancarlo chides his partner in life and business for being too tanned. A moment that was also picked up by interviewers to which Valentino replied, "I've been skiing" - and yes he had as I know from pictures sent by Southampton's Caroline Lieberman, who showed us photos of herself with Valentino on the slopes of Gstaad a little while back.

Speaking of style, I have just learned that Southampton's Eric Villency of the fashionable Maurice Villency furniture empire has become the new lifestyle editor for Details magazine. Eric who has scores of commercial and residential design credits is still very much connected to the fashion community as well. Villency, a former model, has pioneered the Villency Emerging Fashion program, which strives to foster emerging talent in the design world. Past participants in the program include Proenza Schouler, Derek Lam, "Imitation of Christ," Thakoon, Ruffian and Erin Featherston.

Peter Brant, most often seen on the fields of Bridgehampton with his top ranked polo team, is focusing on his growing publishing empire and polishing up one of his most well-known holdings. The billionaire owner of Brant Publications continues to reinvent Interview, the magazine founded by Andy Warhol. The magazine will debut a new look with its April issue, designed by M/M Paris. New fashion director Joe McKenna will also play a large role in shaping the book. This news comes after co-editorial director Fabien Baron and creative director Karl Templer left in late January over disputes with the owner, reportedly about money.

Chronicler of the haute lifestyle, Michael Gross wrote on his fashion/style blog that Courtney Sale Ross has once again put her mammoth 32-room duplex at ultra exclusive 740 Park Avenue on the market with society realtor Edward Lee Cave to shop quietly. Michael should know, he wrote the best selling tome on the fabled Rosario Candela designed building home to some of America's wealthiest, "740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building." If Madame Ross does sell she will still be able to see plenty of her 740 neighbors who all have manses on the East End like 740 board president Charles Stevenson and his wife author Alex Kuczynski, Danielle (another best selling author) and David Ganek, Heather and Steven Mmuchin, and Steve and Christine Schwarzman. Courtney's pricey pad may not be the only apartment available in what is called New York's most desirable address as several owners have been caught in the downward spiral, including former Merrill Lynch head John Thain and J. Ezra Merkin who reportedly lost $1.8 billion through his Ascot Partners involvement with Bernie Madoff. Yikes!

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