Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray" is the famous story of an unconscionable Victorian rake who never lost youth's glow while sticking it to everyone around him. In the meantime, his portrait, hidden away, became increasingly encrusted with the goopy excrescences of his evil.
Today, punker kids whose young souls haven't had the time to become terminally befouled play at the appearance of decadence. What's the attraction? Is there something between evil and appearance?
A new musical, of all things, deals in part with the theme when "Dorian" opens at the Estelle Harmon Thursday. Scott Hardy directs, Dan Alvy wrote the music and lyrics, Stan Livingston did the book. Livingston for years played Chip on TV's "My Three Sons." "Dorian" is a show-biz fictional bio, though Livingston knows the pressures from way back.
" 'Dorian' is about a female rock performer, and about the pressures of trying to succeed," Livingston said. "It's very difficult in Hollywood to maintain an image--which one must do, even if inside you're feeling a total wreck. As an actor, I know what it's like to have to put yourself on the line time after time. It takes a lot out of you. Some people hold up, like Ron Howard; other's don't, like Tommy Rettig of 'Lassie.' Rock music can't be all that different, as we've seen with Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. There's a terrible temptation to be led astray and to forget what's important in life."
"Dorian" is a Broadway-style musical masquerading as an Equity Waiver production. There are 17 characters and a small orchestra. Wayne Moore is musical director, John Henry choreographs.
Who's "On the Disorient Express"? TV evangelist Jimmy Jim, Uncle Vernon (a Southerner), a druggie named Gary Michael and Bob Hope doing his first Christmas tour for the troops in 1776 (with Dolly Madison in the troupe) are among the passengers as the train gathers steam through the decades, arriving in the '80s, where Madonna waits at the station.
"On the Disorient Express" has but one engineer and conductor, however, in Daniel Harris (a.k.a. Hubert Bates, "nerd and misfit"), who conceived of the piece (with help from Brooke Breslow and Sherry Nehmer) and unveils it for the first time in finished form Monday night at Theatre 40 (pieces of it have been done in New York and Palm Springs).
"The first act is a play, the second is a musical, and the whole thing is a comedy," said Harris. "The whole audience comes along on the trip, and Hubert gets to realize his dream of what he wants to be in life in terms of finding himself. The second act is quite campy."
And why not? If the business of America is business, and there's no business like show business, maybe the twain at last have twined. Even the Senate is getting into the act.
Other openings for the week include: Today: "Suggs," at the Cast-at-the-Circle; "Yankee Dawg, You Die!" at the East West Players; Tuesday: "Faces" at the New Mayfair; "Goodbye, Charlie" at the Gene Dynarski. On Wednesday, "Richard II," with Brian Bedford, moves into the Old Globe repertory in San Diego ("Pump Boys & Dinettes" reopens Friday) and the Royal Shakespeare Company's "Nicholas Nickleby" takes over the Ahmanson in previews (see Dan Sullivan article on Page 1); Thursday: "On Stilts" opens at the Off Ramp. Friday: "Outcasts" opens at the Boyd St. Theatre, and "Taking Off--An Evening Away From the City" opens at Odyssey II. The "Duck's Breath Mystery Theater" returns At My Place Saturday, and "They're Playing Our Song" opens at PCPA Solvang.
LATE CUES: "On Stilts," Bruce Reisman's play about a Hollywood menage a trois that lasts longer than a lot of Hollywood marriages, moves to the Off Ramp theater Thursday after a 13-week run at the Richmond Shephard Theater. . . . Ray Stricklyn takes his "Confessions of a Nightingale--A Visit With Tennessee Williams" to Santa Barbara for three performances beginning June 20, to initiate the Santa Barbara Theatre Group's inaugural Equity season.
"Asinamali!," a new play from South Africa by Mbongeni Ngema (who was a co-creator of the much heralded "Woza Albert!"), will play 14 performances at the Mark Taper Forum beginning July 29. . . . George Sibbald's "The Brothers," which premiered at the South Coast Repertory in 1982 and played New York's Off-Broadway, opens June 30 at the GNU Theatre. Jeff Seymour directs. . . . A docudrama on refugee children's experiences called "My Name Could Be Anne" will be presented Sunday, June 29, 7 p.m. at Hollywood School. The program is co-produced by the Ensemble Studio Theatre and Martyrs Memorial and Museum of the Holocaust, and is part of the "Anne Frank and the World" exhibit (next Sunday-July 13 at 9331 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills).
"Infamy," a play by Wayne Lindberg, is the premiere work of Beyond Baroque's theater division, which is held in Venice's former City Hall. "Infamy" was due to open last Friday. . . . Maurizio Scaparro, the director of the Teatro di Roma, will present a selection of monologues from the plays of Luigi Pirandello June 16 at the Doolittle Theater as a benefit for the UCLA Center for Advanced Research in the Performing Arts, and the Italian Heritage Culture Foundation. The program is billed "Hollywood's Salute to Pirandello," and Anthiony Franciosa, Julie Harris, John Houseman, Amy Irving, Mariangela Melato and Pino Micol will perform. Information: (213) 826-5998. . . . "First Stage," the Sundance-affiliated workshop for new play and film script development, has moved into a new theater space at the First United Methodist Church in Hollywood. New members are welcome. Information: (213) 850-6271.