Bebe Neuwirth In Noel Coward Play Last Night

Categories: Theater

Things were quite airy last night thanks to director Keith Merrill's staged reading of Star Quality, using the original script of Noel Coward's very last play, at Lincoln Center's Bruno Walter Auditorium.

My dazzling schedule permitted me to see the first half, which was wispy and rather talky--not one of Noel's finest--but was filled with his wonderfully satirical bitchery, the cast bringing fun to the story of a primadonna actress (Bebe Neuwirth) who tortures her director (Brian Murray), her assistant (Alison Fraser), and just about everyone else in sight.

Neuwirth shimmered as Lorraine Barrie, the grand diva who vetoes costars, shows up late for rehearsal, wheezes and gasps in lieu of acting, demands that her leading man watch his elbow, and screams about the dress designer, even though it's the very one she handpicked.

And she does all of this while desperately wanting to be loved by everyone--especially the young male playwright, for whom she does her finest acting of all as she descends to embarrassing levels of heavy flirtation.

How Noel Coward knew about Sharon Stone I can't figure!

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SouthernDave 1 Like

"Star Quality" was a Noel Coward short story that has been dramatized several times for the stage and for TV, with Susannah York.


As for the trouble he had with Beatrice Lillie in the musical "High Spirits," based on his "Blithe Spirit, Coward wrote a friend:


"Beatrice Lillie is a cunt, no matter what you've heard.

Beatrice Lillie is a cunt who doesn't know one word."


 @SouthernDave Coward adapted it into a play  in 1967. It was his last play, as stated above.


Noel had plenty of experience with difficult leading ladies and didn't hesitate to get specific in his diaries and letters. He had major problems with Mary Martin, Bea Lillie, and Elaine Stritch (who was already having trouble remembering her lines 50 years ago). Among many others.

musto moderator editor

There was a big crush of people to get in, and not all of them made it. Among the included: Broadway's Tovah Feldshuh and cabaret singer/actress K.T. Sullivan.