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Copyright: September 7, 1998
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By: Laura Deni
HELPED HIM KICK COCAINE
The world has been besotted and saturated with Princess Diana. Just when you think nothing
more could possible be said, writer/director Stephen Stahl has come up with a different approach
for the most personal of reasons. She helped him kick cocaine. To say "thank you" Stahl wrote
Queen of Hearts, in previews at The Grove Street Playhouse.
He first put pen to paper on this project when Diana was still alive. Stahl was living in London
where his play Lady Day, about Billie Holliday, was a West End hit, running for over a
at the Piccadilly Theatre and earning Stahl an Olivier award nomination.
"While I was in London I began to listen to Diana politically," said the articulate and intelligent
Stahl. "I listened to her views on a lot of subjects that people weren't talking about. She began to
make a hell of a lot of sense to me. She began to win my heart. Her thinking was very much like
mine. At that time I had no intentions of writing anything at all about her."
"Then I went back to London about four months before she passed on. I began to write a straight
show on her. It was basically a very political concept."
"When the accident came, I decided it was really the wrong approach and that it wasn't a political
drama at all. It should be a celebration of who she was. That is when I decided I needed music,
because music touches the heart in ways that words cannot. So, I pared up with a
composer/lyricist who I know well," said Stahl referred to Claudia Perry."
"Diana did a lot for me. Diana allowed me to look at a lot of things in my life. One of them was
cocaine addiction," he confessed. "For the last ten years, thank God, I have been clean and
"Without Diana being able to look at her addictions, to tell you the truth, I don't think I would
have been able to look at time," he candidly admitted, referring to an ability some people possess
to use another's outward confession of problems as the catalyst to find their own inner strength.
For people who can gain courage from others, the results can be profound and permanent.
"I looked at this very, very brave woman, able to tell the world about her bulimia, and how she
would often cut herself, and all of the horrible things that most people would leave in the closet -
which allowed me to be brave about my problem."
"I was able and I never thought that I could do this - I was able to put down cocaine and walk
away ... cold turkey."
"This is why I wrote the show."
"It was Diana that gave me the courage to say there is a problem here, put it (cocaine) down.
What the hell are you doing? What do you need this for?" related Stahl.
"A lot of people see her and see her addictions as weaknesses," continued the author. "Or, see her
need for love as weakness. It wasn't weakness," he emphatically stated. "It's a great strength to
be able to risk love that much. She wanted love. She kept risking it. And, I believe that Dodi
gave her the love that she needed."
"I believe that to be able to face yourself, face problems, is a strength, not a weakness."
"She had a very privileged life. If she was weak she would have stayed behind those palace
forever, never opened her mouth and the world would have known nothing. That's being weak,"
"But, she did the opposite. That affected me greatly," reiterated Stahl.
"I wrote this show not only from what I studied, which I guess everyone has studied who has had
interest in this, but from what I feel the universal message of Diana was. So, it's a small show.
Her life was huge - huge. The only way I saw this working was bringing the show down to be
personal. It's her personal show."
"The music is - and this the wrong word to use - but this is really what is it - the music is
The music speaks from Diana's soul, from her heart. It's that type of music. It's not legit,
Broadway type music," he explained.
Asked whether he felt there were any stand alone songs, Stahl singled out three.
"I didn't write any of the lyrics or music, so I can speak more objectively," he commented. "There
is a gorgeous love ballad, You're My World which is sung to Diana and Dodi. Another
song is It's My Turn which is sung by Diana (played by Kendra Munger). The other song,
which absolutely moves me to tears every time Kendra does it is, Time To Let Go. I
think these are three of the strongest songs in the show."
"Dodi is portrayed lovingly in the show," continued the author. "In order for me to accept Diana's
death, in my heart, I have to believe she went out happy."
"I have to believe that Dodi did make her happy. I absolutely have to believe that this was the
relationship that made life solid for her. To allow her to get what she searched for her entire life -
acceptance and love. I believe that he gave that to her. I know that his strength made her
Together that had that fairy tale love."
Not everyone was thrilled to learn that a musical about Diana and Dodi was opening
off-Broadway. Stahl and the production received world wide press attention even before
the production staged it's first public reading.
"We were getting calls from everywhere." continued Stahl. A tremendous amount of those calls
were from England. We spoke to the press in London and they were very, very hostile towards
me ...towards us," admitted Stahl. "It reached a point where it was difficult to even talk with
"The BBC was the first interview we gave. After the first reading the BBC called back and said
they had had someone in the audience, which we didn't know. They called at 10:30, after the
show and on the air they apologized to me for the first interview. He said his sources
told him that this is a beautiful show that represents her spirit and soul and he thanked me
"The same thing happened with The London Standard. They had someone in the audience.
The London Standard called. They called all the actors and said the same thing
"I think they perceived this to be a kick line, tap dance show, like Oklahoma or West
Side Story and it isn't. I intentionally stayed away from any kind of chorus numbers."
"The play ends with her son, William, carrying on for Diana. Her death is addressed, but there is
no sensationalism what-so-ever," he stressed. "We do not go into a car accident. We all know
how Diana died. It's more spiritual. It's William carrying on Diana's spirit. Her spirit lives within
"This isn't a huge Broadway show. I don't want that," emphasized Stahl. "I would be more than
happy in a 299-seat theater. I don't want to bastardize her name. I don't want to do that to Dodi. I
don't want to do that to anyone."
The complete performance schedule for Queen of Hearts is: Wednesday through Sundays
at 8:00 p.m. with one additional performance, the Opening Night show on Monday, October
5th at 7:00 p.m. Ticket prizes are $20.00 for Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays; and $25.00
for Fridays and Saturdays. The opening night, October 5th, will have a $35.00 ticket price, which
includes a reception with the cast following the performance. No word as to whether cucumber
sandwiches will be served and if you are expected to curtsy before speaking. The box office
number at The Grove Street Playhouse for reservations and further information is (212)
As we reported earlier (see August 31, 1998 column) Princess Diana's step-mum, Countess Raine
Spencer arrived in Las Vegas to announce she's launching a line of children's clothing and
Countess Raine Spencer with Diana's father in the gift shop they ran
The immaculate, soft spoken, well mannered matron used the occasion to open up about her
relationship with Diana.
Reports always circulated that Diana and Raine didn't get along.
Countess Spencer explained that when she married Diana's father, Diana was a small child. Like
any Daddy's girl, Diana didn't want her father to marry anybody. Countess Spencer
experienced the same stepmother problems that women everywhere must over come when
marrying a man who has children. There was give and take on both sides and Diana needed to
grow up, which she did.
According to Countess Spencer the two had become extremely close and were quite good
friends."She wasn't just my stepdaughter, she was a very great friend," Countess Spencer softly
said. "Grieving is very private. I miss her enormously."
It was Diana who encouraged her step-mum to launch the children's clothing line.
Diana had always wanted a daughter and indicated to her step-mum that she was in love
with Dodi, so she hadn't lost hope that she would one day give birth to a girl. Dodi's father,
Mohamed Al Fayed, insists a marriage would have taken place.
Countess Spencer, who sits on the board of Harrods, announced two new licensing plans for
Harrods will license it's children's department globally as Harrods Children's World. It's
Christmas features, including theatrical productions, ornaments, festivities, holiday cards and
Harrods gift wrapping, will be licensed as Harrods Christmas Grotto Programme.
While Countess Spencer selected Las Vegas to make her announcements, there are no plans to
market any of the items in Las Vegas.
This wasn't the first time Countess Spencer has been in Vegas. She reflected on the first time she
visited the city and found it "all so enchanting with the shops, fantastic lights on the Strip and
the image of the place."
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The day after the Nevada primary elections, actor Charlton Heston, president of the National
Rifle Association, hot footed it to Las Vegas. The charming actor was guest of honor at a fund
raising luncheon for Rep. John Ensign, who is attempting to move to the other side of the
Washington block, as a member of the U.S. Senate.
Instead of Heston being greeted by fans who wanted his picture and autograph, Heston was
greeted by women carrying pickets wanting him to take his guns and go away. Heston did, but
only to other parts of Nevada; Reno, Elko and Winnemucca, still stumping for Ensign.
Former lover and manager of Bette Midler, Aaron Russo, sent a message to elected officials.
Although Russo lost his primary Republican bid to win a spot on the November ticket, he
garnered almost 30% of the vote, sending a message to all candidates that the good citizens
of the state were a bit suspect of big government. Russo railed against taxes and federal invasion
of privacy with radio and television acts featuring Jack Nicholson. The controversial Russo has
vowed to remain in Nevada and again seek political office.
Singer Mel Torme's sister, veteran office holder, Myrna Williams, squeaked to a win in the
County Commission race. The incumbent Williams tallied up 3,944 votes to win an encore
performance while her opponent was given the hook with 3,129 votes.
LIVENT TAPS TODD
In a move that surprised no one, Livent, Inc. announced they have selected Todd Haimes, the
current Artistic Director of Roundabout Theatre Company in New York to become the Artistic
Director of the beleaguered Livent. (See August 17, 1998 column)
TODD HAIMES Photo By: Joan Marcus
Haimes will remain at Roundabout through the opening theatre season, including Roundabout's
transition to the Selwyn Theater.
Roundabout Theatre Company is one of the country's leading nonprofit theatre companies and
the second largest operating theater company in the United States.
Productions under Haimes, in the current season, have included 1776, A View From
The Bridge, and Cabaret.
In the eight seasons Haimes has served as Artistic Director, the Roundabout has received 51 Tony
nominations, 49 Drama Desk nominations, and 51 Outer Critic Circle nominations.
The company also announced that Marty Bell, current Associate Producer of Livent, has been
promoted to Senior Producer. He will assume primary responsibility for the company's
productions of Ragtime, Fosse: A Celebration In Song and Dance, and
Haimes and Bell noted that Livent is excited about the substantial flow of new projects at the
company. These include:
Fosse: A Celebration in Song and Dance which completed a Toronto run and opens this
week in Boston before going to Los Angeles and then to the Broadhurst Theater in New York for
previews beginning December 26. The creative team includes; Director, Richard Maltby, Jr.;
co-director and co-choreographer, Ann Reinking; and artistic advisor, Gwen Verdon.
Parade a new musical
co-produced with Lincoln Center, which begins previews at the
Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York beginning November 12 and which opens on December
17. The creative team includes; Director and co-conceiver, Harold Prince; book-writer, Alfred
Uhry; composer/lyricist, Jason Robert Brown.
Pal Joey a new version of the
classic Rogers & Hart musical. The creative team includes
director Frank Galati and book writer Terence McNally.
The Sweet Smell of Success a
new musical based on the classic movie. The creative team
includes director Nick Hytner, book writer John Guare, composer Marvin Hamlisch and lyricist
The Seussical a musical based
on the stories of Dr. Seuss. The creative team includes
director Frank Galati, composer and lyricist Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens and Monty
Python's Eric Idle as the book writer.
According to our extremely knowledgeable spy, Fosse: A Celebration in Song and Dance
currently on a shakedown tour may be in trouble. Our spy saw the show in Toronto and told us;
"The Toronto reviews which weren't that great - were kind." Our source is interested in seeing
how the production fares in Boston. The way it's going, our spy speculates that this could turn
into the Fosse that flopped.
HITS RIGHT NOTE
Richard Dreyfuss, star of the movie Mr. Holland's Opus, has started a charity to provide
musical instruments to students who can't afford them.
Inspired by the movie, Dreyfuss, composer Michael Kamen, and director, Stephen Herek,
established the nonprofit Mr. Hollands Opus Foundation.
The organization is dedicated to promoting instrumental music by providing new and refurbished
musical instruments to qualified school and individual students.
THE MELODY PROGRAM targets school music programs threatened by budget cuts.
THE SOLO PROGRAM targets
outstanding student musicians who are financially limited.
THE SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAM targets community schools of the arts, hospitals,
nursing homes, music therapy programs and school districts which are in need of assistance.
For more information or to apply, visit The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation Web site at
EILEEN FULTON who has spent
38 years portraying that sometimes evil but always interesting Liza on As The World Turns.
Sunday is Eileen's birthday and next Monday, Sept 14, she'll be inducted into the Soap
Opera Hall of Fame. Festivities take place at Planet Hollywood, New York.
TONY RANDALL and jazz singer
Nuenna Freelon traveled to Durham, North Carolina to promote the
Carolina Theatre's upcoming season, which begins next month.
The season includes
production of The Gin Game, starring Julie Harris and Charles Durning.
There will also be a concert by
NICOLE KIDMAN makes her
London stage debut September 23 in a five week run of The Blue
Room. She'll star opposite Iain Glenn. The two actors will play five couples in complex
romantic entanglements in a production loosely adapted by David Hare from Arthur Schnitzier's
La Ronde. Kidman is being paid the same as the other cast members.That's $417.50 a
CABARET finally reopened after
the surrounding area was declared safe, permitting the
show's emcee Alan Cumming to return to work. The actor no sooner got back on board when
he's slated to begin his vacation. The award winning Cumming takes a scheduled respite September 14
to Nov. 22. He'll be replaced by Robert Sella, currently starring in Side Man.
THIS AND THAT
VIRGIN HEADS ARE
HARD TO FIND
Kendra Munger, who stars as Princess Diana in Queen of Hearts has put her entire head
into the part. The natural beauty made a trip to Vidal Sassoon's 5th Avenue shop where she had
her hair bleached and then colored Diana's shade of blonde.
Since Kendra had never had her hair color tampered with, she was understandably nervous about
her virgin hair. So were the stylists. It's so unusual to find a virgin head now-a-days.
The Vidal Sassoon folks worked their magic and Kendra became a ravishing blonde.
As for Gail Lee Marshner who portrays Camilla Parker Bowles in the two act musical --- she's
wearing a wig!
Next Column: September 14, 1998
Copyright: September 7, 1998 All Rights Reserved. Reviews, Interviews, Commentary,
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