Tony Talk

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Marlon memories; Barfee blabs; Freni frenzy and a Tebaldiani orgy

This theatrical award season is particularly off the hook, with some of the most fiercely contested Tony competitions in recent seasons.

However, I was frankly underwhelmed by Amy Ryan’s nominated performance as Stella in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which was not a patch on Frances McDormand’s attempt at the role in1988 with Blythe Danner’s Blanche, and Aidan Quinn, as Stanley. I sat in front of a yummy-looking couple—Sam Mendes and Kate Winslet—and next to Rita Moreno, whom I couldn’t resist querying about Brando. She had a lengthy, off-and-on relationship with him, and attempted suicide with pills after their breakup in 1961.

After watching John C. Reilly, a born Mitch, flounder and bellow as Stanley, I asked Moreno, “Is there any other way to play this other than Brando’s?” She told me, “I saw Anthony Quinn, who replaced him in the role, do it with Uta Hagen. And they were both so different and just as great as Marlon and Jessica Tandy. Uta was a tower of strength, while he was like an ape, very brutish. Marlon was more charming with that irresistible childlike quality.”

In the one film she made with Brando, “Night of the Following Day” (1968), she played a junkie kidnapper. “Wasn’t that a strange little film?” she said, adding, “And that was the last time he looked good,” before puffing out her cheeks to convey his later obesity.

A June 30 auction of Brando’s estate at Christie’s will include a photo of Moreno, naked and shot from behind, with Brando from this very film. According to the auction house’s Helen Bailey, this was the only reminder of his film career that the late film giant displayed in his home.

The Tony’s Best Musical category is gratifyingly strong this year, although I didn’t care for “Light in the Piazza”—pretentious bollocks, with no real music, even less lyrics, and so many anti-Italian ethnic stereotypes. I can heartily recommend the “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” CD for the deeply satisfying cleverness of David Yazbeck’s music, as well as a host of extras, like a funny PSA from John Lithgow and alternate renditions of songs by Sherie Renee Scott and that new phenomenon, Norbert Leo Butz.

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