- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The King’ & Sandy

After hawking Wheat Thins snack crackers and taking Emmy-nominated turns in the 1970s in her own sitcom, “Funny Face,” and later as a despicable Southern belle in “Roots,” the versatile Sandy Duncan is suiting up for a new role — that of governess Anna Leonowens in “The King & I.”

The classic musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II began touring June 15 and stops locally at Wolf Trap, where it runs through Sunday.

“In a way, I’ve come full circle,” the Texas native said in a phone interview from New Jersey while taking a break from the rigors of the road. “That was the very first professional show I did when I was 12.

“Just a few weeks ago, we were in that very same theater in Dallas where I was in ‘The King & I,’ and I got goose bumps. Back then, I was in the chorus. You always dream of having the starring role, but you never expect it to happen.”

Miss Duncan, of course, steps into some mighty big shoes, following such formidable Annas as stage legend Gertrude Lawrence — who played the governess in the original Broadway production in 1951 — and Deborah Kerr, who starred in the 1956 film adaptation.

Not to worry. She’s more than up for the task.

Always seeking a challenge, Miss Duncan, known best for her roles in musical theater (“Peter Pan,” “My One and Only” and a revival of “Chicago,” to name a few), recently morphed into 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson for William Luce’s one-woman play “The Belle of Amherst.”

“I kind of zigzag all over the place,” says Miss Duncan, 58. “I do things that are different.”

Emily Dickinson, a bit of a recluse, is a stark contrast to the real-life Mrs. Leonowens, whose Bangkok memoirs formed the basis for “The King & I.”

“She was a very strong woman, someone who lived by her own wits,” Miss Duncan says of Mrs. Leonowens.

The same could be said of the perky actress, an outspoken critic of the use of nonunion actors in Broadway shows.

“It’s immoral, and it tricks the public,” Miss Duncan says bluntly.

“If there’s a backlash, so be it,” she adds. “I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t tell the truth.”

Robyn-Denise Yourse

Black and ‘sheep’

Comedian Lewis Black wants George W. Bush out of the White House, but that doesn’t mean he’s thrilled with Sen. John Kerry and the Democratic Party.

The Silver Spring native said the party hasn’t done enough to differentiate itself from Republicans and that Democrats “lay down like sheep.”

“How did the Democrats come up with a candidate?” he asked, according to Associated Press. “You have a candidate who did everything to lose, and the Democrats can’t find anybody who can be five points ahead of him?”

Mr. Black was among the performers Monday night for a Planned Parenthood event at the Beacon Theater in New York.

Trouble in paradise

Madonna reportedly has had her first clash with leaders of the cabala Jewish movement, according to a British tabloid.

The pop star has demanded a detailed account of how her financial donations have been used since the start of her sell-out Re-Invention tour in May, the Sun newspaper reported.

Madonna also has refused an invitation to give a lecture at a private seminar held by Rabbi Yehuda Berg while she awaits an explanation.

The Sun quotes an unnamed source: “Madonna wants to know what projects her money is going to and why certain projects are chosen ahead of others. She’s as keen as ever to help but is treating it like a business plan — just like she does everything else.”

Compiled by Scott Galupo from staff and wire reports.

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