Back To Broadway, Finally

Carol Burnett may be Hollywood's nicest superstar, so you can imagine how hard it is to get her to dish a little. Not that it should be a tough job. After all, she's survived a drunken mother, two husbands, a 1981 libel suit against the National Enquirer, a drug-addicted daughter and her share of creative disappointments since the divinely silly "The Carol Burnett Show" ended in 1979. But nothing--not a cross word or syllable of regret. She won't even take a shot at the planet's biggest target: Kathie Lee Gifford. Come December, Gifford will fill in for Burnett once a week in "Putting It Together," a new Broadway revue costarring George Hearn. Isn't she worried that the mother of all self-promoters will overshadow her? "Nobody can steal anybody's thunder. I learned that long ago," says Burnett, 66. "You stand back and give everybody a chance. I think having Kathie Lee is genius." Genius. You'll never hear the end of that one, Regis.

The fact is that Burnett is an even stranger choice for "Putting It Together" than Kathie Lee. After all, "Together" --extensively reworked from the 1993 version starring Julie Andrews--features the songs of Stephen Sondheim, theater's poet laureate of regret and recrimination. In a show that's loosely about the disappointments of love and life, Burnett the un-diva seems to be in dire need of a bitchiness transfusion. But something remarkable happens in "Together." Instead of burying her funny bone, Burnett uses her comic signatures--the pratfall, smirk and all sorts of yelps--to shine a light on what could be a dark and stormy night. And just when she gets you giggling, she takes a classic Sondheim dirge like "The Ladies Who Lunch," chucks the Burnettisms altogether and simply melts your heart. "People who expect to see a review of the Burnett show are not going to get that," she says. "Face it: I've grown up. It's wonderful to be three-dimensional."

So what took her so long? "Together" is Burnett's first Broadway musical in 35 years, which must be some kind of record. She's actually been singing for years in Los Angeles, where she started in "Together" after producer Cameron Mackintosh recruited her. But she's also been busy. She won an Emmy for "Mad About You," and she's writing an autobiographical play with her daughter Carrie. She also made a splash in the Broadway show "Moon Over Buffalo" five years ago. The fact is, Burnett can't sit still. She's moved about a dozen times in the last 10 years, from L.A. to Hawaii, New York, New Mexico and all around California. "I have the wanderlust, I guess," says Burnett, who has a "to pack" list hard-wired to her computer. "I've had so many homes, people don't know where I am." For the next few months at least, Carol Burnett is finally back where she belongs.

Back To Broadway, Finally | News